We all love rags-to-riches stories. Oprah Winfrey was the child of an unwed teenage mother and rose from a hard-scrabble Mississippi farm to become one of the richest women in the world.
Andrew Carnegie began 12-hour shifts in a Pennsylvania cotton mill at age 13 and through tireless hard work built a steel empire. Eventually, he became one of the world’s great philanthropists, funding libraries across the country, including one in Huntington.
Those stories inspire us, and they give us hope that drive and determination can overcome any economic obstacle. It can happen, but most of the time it does not.
Too many people born in poverty never break through to success, and their children are caught in the same cycle. There are a host of issues involved, from opportunity to entitlement and from education to well-being. But whatever the factors, the outcome is at the root of many of society’s problems — drug abuse, crime, poor health — that drive up government costs and limit economic growth.
Changing that pattern will require more than just hoping for more Oprahs, and a group working to reduce child poverty in West Virginia is drilling into what specific strategies can help.
Our Children, Our Future is a statewide coalition of more than 160 groups, and Sunday social workers, law enforcement, educators, policy-makers, members of the faith community and others gathered at Enslow Park Presbyterian Church in Huntington to talk about objectives.
For example, the group has advocated for expansion of Medicaid to more families, funding more domestic violence prevention efforts, promoting healthy foods in school and addressing prison overcrowding. The good news is that important steps were taken in all of those areas last year.
The group is now working on its targets for the 2014 legislative year and presented 18 possible statewide proposals, covering issues affecting education, health, jobs, families and the justice system. The ideas range from more recess and physical activity in school to removing soft drinks from food stamp benefits to reforming foster care and more than a dozen other ideas.
While no one legislative change is going to eliminate child poverty, it is in everyone’s interest to look for tangible actions that can make a difference.
— The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington