USVI Kids Count: Children need strong parents to create better futures

The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) presents its annual Kids Count assessment of the state of children in the territory on Monday and Tuesday December 5th and 6th on St. Thomas and St. Croix, respectively. With the theme, “Setting the Agenda for VI Children: 2017 and Beyond” the interactive session invites stakeholders to not only collaborate on possible solutions, but to generate immediately attainable action items to create positive changes, starting now.

Kids Count is a nationwide project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, developed to provide legislators, public officials and child advocates with hard data, suggestions and resources that may be used for the advancement of public policy that benefits children and their families. CFVI has been generating its own Kids Count Data Book since the year 2000, with information now freely available online via the USVI Kids Count Data Center. There, it is possible to filter by multiple indicators, including demographics, ethnicity, family income levels, public assistance, employment status, children with disabilities, housing, family composition, and health and mortality statistics to formulate new directives, apply for grant funding, or support requests for additional resources.

Many parents have not grown up in an environment that fostered in them the ability to delay gratification, cope with stressful situations, be assertive, feel empathy, or develop emotional intelligence, for example. These deficits (which can occur across economic strata) coupled with the stresses of living in a world of not enough, constant monitoring, lack of opportunities and lowered self-esteem make it nearly impossible for all but the most resilient to feel satisfaction, happiness, contentment, hope or inspiration for a breakthrough. In a vicious cycle, behaviors which are reactions to ongoing frustration and lack of fulfillment, including poor anger management, self-medication or addictions, lack of confidence, and hopelessness build a virtual prison. This outlook may be passed on from generation to generation. Programs that provide child care, health care, feed, clothe and shelter those in need are only part of the solution.

Our main takeaway: With 35% of children in the USVI living in poverty, the need for creative means of providing support that will make a meaningful and lasting impact is clear. Providing children with parents who are mentally, physically and emotionally strong may be key to giving them the support that they need in order to succeed themselves.  Individuals can help simply by sharing access to educational opportunities, offering non-judgmental emotional support, and offering to assist parents with learning to care for self via centering activities such as meditation, to improve the lives of their children over time and in the long run.





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