Breakthrough Near on Kids At Risk?

Exciting, potentially important things are happening in regard to the future of some West Virginia children who, as matters stand, don’t have much to which they can look forward.

Most of the time they’re lumped under the heading “at-risk children.” That encompasses many categories of kids who often have one thing – poverty – in common.

To date our primary approach to helping these children, both here in West Virginia and nationwide, has been to throw money at them through federal government “anti-poverty” programs.

That hasn’t worked. Yet we’ve stuck to that strategy for nearly half a century. No matter how much we spend, between 12-20 percent of American families continue to have incomes below the federal “poverty line.”

As I’ve pointed out, the best thing to do for many of these families is to stop allowing the government to suck up so many resources and leave them with the private sector, which creates jobs.

But, sadly, it appears that will be a long-term proposition. So what do we do about the “at risk” children now?

Every branch of state government seems to be giving the problem a fresh, unbiased look. Among initiatives under way or being planned in West Virginia:

— Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has proposed and legislators probably will enact a sweeping education reform package. The state Board of Education, sometimes in the past seen as a barrier to reform, is on board.

— The courts, including both the state Supreme Court and many circuit judges, are involved heavily in programs to battle truancy, juvenile delinquency and drug abuse. The “drug court” program deals primarily with adults – but it’s important because a stable home is critical to children.

— Many legislators are pursuing research on what places children at risk and what can be done to help them.

— A more coordinated approach to identifying factors common to at-risk children is on the horizon, linking government agencies with private groups, including charities.

During the next few months, we’ll tell you more about what really looks like a realistic, coordinated approach to at-risk kids. Let’s hope everyone involved maintains the same energy level that seems apparent now.

Myer can be reached at: