[FOUNTAIN]‘Start’ policy for children needed hereSociety is prejudiced against the poor. People tend to think that a child from a lower-class background is more likely to be a juvenile delinquent than more privileged children. But no research has suggested a correlation between a poor upbringing and the crime rate.
In fact, a 1989 study conducted by the Korean Institute of Criminology concluded that youth from high-income households had higher rates of juvenile crime. The poor are often criticized to be needy because they have not worked hard enough. The claim is not always wrong, but the number of “working poor,” who remain destitute despite their continued efforts, is increasing all around the world.
There is a saying that even the state cannot cure poverty. But developed countries have established programs to serve the development needs of children from lower-income families. The United States has the Head Start program and Canada operates Fair Start to promote children’s development. Right after Tony Blair was inaugurated as the British prime minister in May 1997, he announced an ambitious children’s welfare program. He proclaimed that the program would reduce the population of the poor children by half in a decade, and the rate would fall to zero by 2017. His children’s policy gave birth to Sure Start, a program that would provide children from lower-income families a secure and safe beginning in their lives. The slogan was “help within pram-pushing distance of the home.”
The Blair government put the children’s welfare at the top of its agenda. Especially, the program considers that appropriate child care in the first three years of life is crucial for children to grow healthy, both physically and psychologically. So the administration came up with plans that focus on children’s health and education.
Korean society has more than a million children trapped in desperate poverty. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing, and the increasing divorce rate only adds to the pain of the children. Korea cannot afford to allot the kind of funds that the British government set aside for children, as the per-capita national income of the United Kingdom is $25,000. But it is about time we have our version of a “start” campaign, because a girl in your neighborhood might be panhandling on the subway, and the neighborhood boy might sleep in a container with other homeless people.
by Lee Kyu-youn
* The writer is a deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.