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If you are a child, this is supposed to be the most pleasant day of the year for you. For some young people, however, Children’s Day is just another day. Children in low-income families, young heads of households, children in foster care and runaway youths may not think much of this day, ignored as they are by adults.

According to research, the number of needy and at-risk children is rising amid the economic difficulties of the day. Families are breaking up at an alarming rate, making matters worse. Children from broken homes are more likely to become addicted to the Internet or fall into juvenile delinquency.

Children are valuable human resources on whose shoulders the future of Korea rests. Without children who are happy and healthy, a country’s future is bound to be gloomy. This is the very reason why the government must implement a full range of policies for children in need in the areas of education, social services and medical care.

In that light, the government’s recent announcement of its “youth in crisis” policy, which will strengthen the social safety net for young people in crisis, is a welcome measure. The government will provide funds to elementary, middle and high schools, thereby allowing schools to provide counseling for up to 320,000 young people in trouble. The government also plans to increase the number of educational institutions for students with problems. The government is also considering programs to help runaway youths.

That said, there are still many more things the government needs to do. As the family’s role as the social unit responsible for raising and educating children crumbles, the question is whether schools and local communities are equipped with a solid system for caring for young people.

Among other things, the government should expand the year-round school system, in which children are offered additional services after school and on holidays. The government plans to put the system in place at 378 schools in rural areas. But considering that many of the children in needy families reside in urban areas, the same kind of support should also be available in big cities.

In addition, more schools should hire counselors who can respond to the needs of young people in crisis. Currently, only 7.1 percent of all primary and secondary schools have such professionals on staff. With the help of a counselor trained to help them handle a variety of situations, children are less likely to drop out of the school system, which is geared toward getting students into elite universities rather than encouraging them to become well-rounded adults.

The “Human New Deal,” which aims to boost investment in human resources, should begin with something like this.
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