Friday, October 30, 2009

GROUNDBREAKING FORUM ON LATINO CHILDREN OFFERS SOLUTIONS TO THE CHALLENGES FACED BY THIS GROWING COMMUNITY

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Sherria Cotton
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Oct 21, 2009


GROUNDBREAKING FORUM ON LATINO CHILDREN OFFERS SOLUTIONS TO THE CHALLENGES FACED BY THIS GROWING COMMUNITY

Washington, DC-NCLR (National Council of La Raza), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, today brought community leaders, academics, and practitioners together for a forum focused on America's future. The forum, the first of its kind, highlighted new research in the areas of education, health care, and juvenile justice that revealed the depth of challenges facing Latino children. Participants also focused on critical questions to contemporary problems such as how to mitigate the traumatic impact that foreclosures are having on the financial and mental health of Latino children, how to protect Latino children from being systematically stereotyped and unfairly targeted by law enforcement, and how to make public health programs more responsive to the unique health care needs of Hispanic children and parents.

Attendees at the forum, titled "Investing in Our Future: The State of Latino Children and Youth," heard from U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and President and Founder of the Children's Defense Fund Marian Wright Edelman, among other speakers. Also participating in the forum were representatives from NCLR's Affiliate Network, composed of nearly 300 community-based organizations, and students from NCLR's Líderes Initiative, a national program that advances opportunities for Latino youth.

"Latino children are the future of this country. If they succeed, we all succeed, and if they fail we all fail, so today we hope to help lay the foundation for a comprehensive agenda for Latino children and youth that will nurture their enormous potential and create a better future for them and, in turn, for our country," said Janet Murguía, NCLR President and CEO. "Our health, education, and juvenile justice systems are not serving Latino children and youth effectively, failing to adequately promote their health and well-being."

The 16 million Latino children in the U.S.-90% of whom are U.S.-born citizens-make up 22% of the total child population and are expected to represent nearly one-third of all children by 2030. The challenges that these children face are many, including a rising rate of obesity, attendance in under-resourced schools, and a lack of health insurance.

Key research points discussed at the forum include:

Poverty levels are unacceptably high among Latino children. While about one-third (32%) of children living in poverty in 2007 were Latino, it is projected that by 2030 that portion will rise to nearly half (44%) if the trend remains constant. In 2007, more than one-third of Latino children lived in high-poverty neighborhoods, making them socially and economically isolated from more affluent communities. One-fourth of Hispanic children live in linguistically isolated households, and 18% have difficulty speaking English.
Latino children are underrepresented in early childhood education programs, which are critical to putting children on the right path to succeed in school and adult life. In 2005-2006, 27% of Latino preschoolers lacked regular (nonparental) arrangements for child care, compared with 18% of White preschoolers and 16% of Black preschoolers. As high school students, Latinos are less likely than other groups to graduate, and those who drop out are at a severe disadvantage in terms of employment options and potential earnings. About 76% of Whites who enter ninth grade earn a high school diploma, compared with only 55% of Latino youth and 51% of Black youth.
Nearly 20% of Hispanic children lack health care, compared to 6% of White children. In 2007, 41% of Latino and Black children (compared with 27% of White children) were overweight or obese, putting them at high risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, hypertension, and other health problems.
Foreclosures had a significant impact on children's academic performance and behavior in school, as well as on families' plans to help children with future education. A new qualitative study by NCLR found that families went to dramatic lengths to try to save their homes, leaving them financially depleted and resulting in traumatic changes in living situations and schools for their children.
Murguía emphasized that the forum is intended to serve as the foundation of a comprehensive policy agenda that NCLR will lead on the legislative, political, and civic engagement fronts to continue building strategies to meet the needs of Latino children.

"By 2050, Latino adults-today's children-will constitute nearly one-third of the U.S. population. As tomorrow's leaders, workers, voters, taxpayers, and consumers, Latinos are vital to the future of our nation, and we must invest in their futures now," concluded Murguía.

The forum was co-sponsored by The Atlantic Philanthropies and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

For more information on NCLR's work on health care, education, juvenile justice, housing, and other issues, visit www.nclr.org | http://www.facebook.com/nationalcounciloflaraza | http://www.myspace.com/nclr2008 | http://twitter.com/nclr.

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