When should society start caring about our children: age 4? age 0?

Just as kids went back to school in September, an interesting op-ed ran in The New York Times about how important the four years before pre-Kindergarten starts are. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had implemented his pre-K initiative, to uneven, though generally positive, response. The author says, though, that pre-K isn’t the first time society should start caring about children. We can’t forget, the op-ed says, about serving children and families right from the get-go, directly after birth. It’s harder than ever for families living in poverty to get ahead. So, more realistically, how about showing we care about families right when a woman first realizes she is pregnant? From the op-ed:

Our legal system, for example, destabilizes low-income, unmarried families, distracting them from parenting. Forty-one percentof children are born to unmarried parents. These parents are usually romantically involved when the child is born, but these relationships often end. Rather than help these ex-partners make the transition into co-parenting relationships, the legal system exacerbates acrimony between them. States impose child support orders that many low-income fathers are unable to pay, creating tremendous resentment for both parents. And courts are not a realistic resource for many unmarried parents, leaving them to work out problems on their own.

And more:

When parents are consumed by fractious relationships, it is harder to provide children with the one-on-one interactions that are the building blocks for brain development. When parents have to work multiple low-wage jobs with unpredictable schedules, satisfying the universal advice to read to children is remarkably difficult. When families don’t have access to safe playgrounds, they lack the space for casual play and the opportunity to meet other parents for the all-important kvetch.

Photo credit: An illustration in Joseph Jacobs’ English Fairy Tales via Wikimedia Commons.

Featured image photo credit: Eadweard Muybridge, via Wikimedia Commons

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