I believe in the advantage of a head start.

Christy - Sanford, Florida
Entered on January 8, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe the best way to judge someone’s character is to look at how good of a parent they are. Quite simply, do they put their needs ahead of the needs of their children? I believe this could also be said of a society. The best way to judge a society’s morality is by asking the question: “Does it value the welfare of its children above all other pursuits?”

Recently I heard a politician say something that actually made sense: If America wants to remain a world leader, it should begin by taking care of its children. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any plan for accomplishing this goal other than saying it was a good idea. I believe we can make that abstract statement a reality. How? By getting behind any policy, no matter how costly, which will ultimately benefit children.

For whatever reason: poverty, mental illness, a history of abuse, there are a lot of people who don’t have much of a chance at being successful at parenting. So what can we do to help the children who are living with these parents? We can put in place safeguards to protect them. I have a few ideas: We should start by making prenatal care free and accessible to every woman. This care should include free parenting classes that teach parents not only how to take care of their new child, but also how to get help if they become overwhelmed. We could reward future mothers by paying them to attend these classes, either in money or in coupons redeemable for childcare necessities like car seats. We should also encourage lawmakers to pass legislation which would make it easier for parents to relinquish their rights, if they feel they are unable to take care of their children. Another area that needs reevaluation is the Department of Children and Families. As a registered nurse in the emergency room, I have seen just how overtaxed DCF caseworkers are. We should sink as much money as possible into this organization, so that every child in need has a caseworker able to devote ample time into ensuring their well-being. We should also rewrite the laws which govern the foster care and adoption system in a way which gives the children and adoptive parents more rights.

The first time a child with a dire home situation makes contact with school officials and teachers who could possible intervene on thier behalf is usually around age five. That is about 4 ½ years too late to make an impact on a child’s most important formative years. Free high standard child care should be available to all American children from infancy. Government run child care centers could create thousands of worthwhile jobs. These centers could not only give stressed-out parents a needed break, but also monitor every child’s developmental progress, making early intervention possible, and giving the children with a less than perfect family life exposure to kindness and love they may miss out on at home.

I know that these ideas seem expensive and expansive, but if it meant giving every child a fighting chance, wouldn’t it be well worth it?

Dysfunctional adults by and large come from unhappy childhoods. The jails and mental hospitals are proof positive of this fact. But, good, even great adults can come away from less than perfect childhoods as well; they just need to be given a little encouragement, a little help. I believe if we watch over our children, all of our children, we can make our world a much better place.