A NOTE FROM ALLISON LAKE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The traditional Masai greeting, Kasserianingera, means “how are the children?” It’s a way to frame what is most important — most essential. Today, the children are actually not so well.
Granted, we are still picking up the pieces of the last three years, adjusting and readjusting, but our children, they are having an especially hard time. WCA recently convened a mental health round table of local experts, and they told us that our youth are experiencing an alarming increase in:
- Anxiety and depression
- ‘Risky behaviors’ and maladaptive coping mechanisms
- Binge drinking, specifically among young girls
- School suspensions – as young as 1st and 2nd grade
My seat on the New York State Child Poverty Reduction Advisory Council (CPRAC) is keeping me busy, and gives me further insight into the devastating consequences of child poverty. It also gives me hope as we explore solutions. The upside of the pandemic is that policies such as the increased Child Tax Credit, Universal Free School Lunch, increased SNAP benefits and emergency housing assistance actually worked—to stabilize families– and help lift them out of poverty.
Child poverty is a choice we make as a society. We know what works. We simply need the political will to make it happen.
Part of WCA’s remedy is to follow the data.
I am excited about our new “Court Watchers” program — a pilot we are launching to better understand how Housing Court operates and how we can best support families as they go through a potential eviction process. As legislation like “good cause eviction” is debated in the legislature, we are looking at the actual consequences of the eviction numbers in Westchester and the ways to stem this tide and provide alternatives to families in the throes of this experience.
And yet while children need urgent support, at February’s Youth Justice Rally, I was proud of the positivity and enthusiasm of our youth, as they rightfully led the way. Together we “made some noise” for pending legislation in support of youth justice:
- Solutions not Suspensions
- Youth Justice and Opportunity Act
- Right 2 Remain Silent and…
- Clean Slate.
Our 20 year old Master of Ceremonies reminded us that youth justice is joyful and powerful. “What do we want?!” to which the crowd responded, “Youth Justice!” “When do we want it?” “NOW!” I left the event both tired and inspired.
So, as we begin the second quarter of the year re-charged, I am doubling down on my commitment to help all children thrive regardless of race or zip code.
This feels fitting with the renewal of Spring in the air.