Black Children Tough Conditions

Posted on March 4, 2011 by


Black children face tough conditions, elders tell pollster

Submitted by SHNS on Tue, 01/18/2011 – 17:28

WASHINGTON – Black children in the United States face harsher conditions today than they did in 1994, according to most black adults surveyed for a new report. They cited bleak economic opportunities and disproportionately high black incarceration rates, among other things.

But black youths themselves are more optimistic, with 72 percent saying they have it easier today than did their parents’ generation.

The findings come from “The State of Black Children and Families,” a report sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund and released last week by the Washington-based advocacy group. The report, conducted by Hart Research Associates, is based on interviews in November and December of 801 black adults and 403 black youths ages 11 to 17. It updates the CDF’s 1994 survey of black opinions.

The black community should emphasize education, strong moral character and community organizations to improve the future of black children, leaders said at a news conference for the report.

“We need to create models that get students pumped up and excited about learning,” said Marian Wright-Edelman, CDF president. “We need to create strong children inside so they can withstand corrosive messages from the media.”

She was joined by Geoffrey Canada, president of the Harlem Children’s Zone, a nonprofit program that provides education, health and other social services to families in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. Its Harlem Success Academy was featured in the 2010 documentary, “Waiting for Superman.”

The Children’s Defense Fund sponsored the survey on behalf of the Black Community Crusade for Children. The CDF developed the network of black leaders in 1990 to improve children’s prospects. In December, Wright-Edelman, Canada and Angela Blackwell — founding president of Policy Link — led a gathering of 140 black leaders at a CDF retreat near Knoxville, Tenn., to rejuvenate the crusade.

In the current survey, about seven in 10 black parents, caregivers and leaders said they believed that black children face a “tough or really bad” climate.

The 1994 survey identified under performing schools, guns, weak family structure and negative media portrayal of black culture as major obstacles to success. Those issues resurfaced in the new report, amid rising concerns about poor economic prospects and high incarceration rates.

A separate study released in December by the Children’s Defense Fund and conducted by Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies illustrates the fears outlined in the new survey. From January to October 2010, only 13 percent of black teens living in households with annual incomes below $40,000 a year were employed during an average month. The study also reported that more than half of black teens come from families earning less than $40,000.

Two-thirds of black children come from low-income families, Columbia University’s National Center for Child Poverty reported in October. From 2008 to 2009, real median income declined by 4.4 percent in black households, compared with 1.6 percent for white households, a September report from the Census Bureau revealed.

While blacks represent about 13 percent of the total U.S. population, they constitute 37 percent of inmates, a 2009 Justice Department study found. The report, which analyzed data from January to June 2008, found that males outnumbered Hispanic and white males. Black men were about seven times more likely to be incarcerated than white men.

The new report said the black community believes black inmates live in a parallel and often more difficult universe than white inmates. Fifty-five percent of young blacks said police care some or just a little about black youth. Violence continues to be a major issue; of those surveyed, 46 percent of youth and 51 percent of adults live in areas where gun violence is an issue.

Wright-Edelman emphasized the need for continued federal support for programs aimed at aiding poor children: “We need to revive child care policy and create tax credits to invest in opportunities for children to help reverse the cradle to prison pipeline.”

Canada said it’s crucial to create communities black children want to live in as successful adults. The Harlem Children’s Zone has been credited with helping transform a challenging Harlem neighborhood. In September the U.S. Department of Education awarded $500,000 grants to two California nonprofit groups to create similar programs.

“We need to change the idea that success is defined as leaving your community that most people would never want to set foot in,” Canada said. “We need to make these communities magnets for talent.”

More than half of the adults recently surveyed were caregivers: parents, grandparents, guardians or other relatives. Four focus groups in Washington and three in Memphis, Tenn., were composed of children ages 11 to 14 and 15 to 17, middle-income parents and caregivers and low-income parents and caregivers. Two telephone focus groups of national black leaders were also conducted.

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,