Wednesday, January 15, 2014

War on Poverty Helps the Youngest Children, But We Can Do More | First Focus

War on Poverty Helps the Youngest Children, But We Can Do More | First Focus:

War on Poverty Helps the Youngest Children, But We Can Do More

By Kevin Lindsey
January 15, 2014

This is the second in a series of First Focus blog posts commemorating the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty and offering modern ways to continue fighting child poverty. The first blog in the series can be found here.
Last week was the 50th anniversary of President Johnson declaring a War on Poverty. While we have made great strides in reducing poverty, today we are faced with 1 in 4 children – 25.5 percent – under age 5 live in poverty. That the youngest members of our country are also the most likely to live in poverty shows a profound failure to prioritize the well-being of this most vulnerable age group and a significant missed opportunity to invest in the future of this country.
Brain development research has found that a child’s first few years are essential for healthy development. During these years, a child is developing the brain circuitry they will have for the rest of their life. Adverse experiences before birth and in the early years negatively impactphysiological responses, such as the immune system, overall health, and brain architecture throughout childhood and into adulthood.
One of the reasons for these negative impacts is stress. Our response to stress typically includes increased heart rate, higher blood pressure, and the release of stress hormones such as cortisol, all a major shift from our body’s relaxed state. There are no negative effects when we experience stress for short amounts of time and return to our relaxed state. In fact, our body’s response to stress helps us deal with the situation that is causing stress. The same is true for young children, whose bodies have the same reaction to stress as adults. Short exposure to