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Thanksgiving is a Time to Reach Out to Children in Need

November 22, 2017 - Dallas Morning News

By Brent Christopher

This week, many of us will enjoy a Thanksgiving meal with our families and reflect on everything for which we're grateful. As you gather around your dinner table, I hope you will pause to think about how you can make a difference in the lives of those who are the future of our community: our children.

Many children in our community will not have a special meal this holiday season. In fact, decent food may be hard to come by. One in 4 children in North Texas is considered food-insecure and lacks regular access to enough food for an active, healthy life.

Some children will not have a bed to sleep in tonight; one in 10 homeless children in this country lives in Texas. And nearly 3,000 youths in North Texas are anxious for a temporary foster or permanent home after being removed from their own home due to abuse or neglect.

These children need our help. Together — through individual actions, community involvement and meaningful partnerships — we all can make a difference. One way we can start is through the findings and recommendations in the 2017 "Beyond ABC" report.

This November, Children's Health released the 15th edition of "Beyond ABC" after working closely with the Institute for Urban Policy Research at the University of Texas at Dallas and other key community leaders. The report addresses the overall well-being of children in six North Texas counties from the perspective of four main areas that impact a child's life:  health, education, safety and economic security.

Last week, I had the chance to join other community leaders and discuss these topics at the "Beyond ABC" symposium. While improvements have been made in recent years, there is still much work to be done. Every child should have a chance to thrive. Compelling statistics from the report shine a light on how much children in our community need help with the very basics in life:

  • The rate of uninsured children in Dallas, Cooke, Fannin and Grayson counties is twice the national average. More than 500,000 in Texas are uninsured.
  • One in 5 children in North Texas lives in poverty. Such children are seven times more likely to be in poor or fair health. Nearly 500,000 children in North Texas qualify for free or reduced-price lunches in school. However, many still miss meals on weekends or during school breaks.
  • Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among children ages 10 to 14 nationally, and youth suicide rates have remained steady across North Texas. An estimated 122,000 children in the region live with an emotional disturbance or disorder (including anxiety, bipolar, conduct, obsessive-compulsive and eating disorders), while nearly 30,000 have a serious emotional disturbance. Texas ranks last in the country in per-capita funding for people with mental illness.
  • Nearly 30,000 North Texas third-graders — more than half — are reading below their grade level, a powerful predictor of high school graduation and future opportunities for success.

In this season of giving, you can make a big difference for others through the ways you give. A strong community is good for everyone; a rising tide lifts all boats.

As you look at how you can give back to make North Texas stronger, the "Beyond ABC" report offers inspiration. Empowered with this data, you will see how every one of us can effect positive, tangible change in the life of a child. The report includes a list of community partners that are working hard to help kids. They need your time, your support and your ideas to continue making life better for children across North Texas. You can view the report at www.childrens.com/beyondabc.

Thank you for investing in a child. It will pay dividends for a lifetime.

Brent Christopher is president of Children's Medical Center Foundation, which is the fundraising arm for Children's Health. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Email: brent.christopher@childrens.com

 

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