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Be a positive voice on children’s issues, former legislator urges church wo

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–What are local, state and national leaders doing to address children’s issues? Not enough, according to a former majority leader for the Tennessee legislature.
Speaking to more than 650 preschool and children’s workers attending a conference at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn., Bill Purcell cited a recent survey which found more than 80 percent of Americans believe their leaders aren’t doing enough to help children. Purcell, now director of the Child and Family Policy Center at the Vanderbilt Institute of Public Policy Studies in Nashville, said one reason is that, until recently, government leaders “just didn’t have good information.”
But that’s beginning to change.
“This is a critical time in our dealings with government leaders regarding children’s issues because now they realize there is a problem,” Purcell said during a session at the Oct. 19-21 National Preschool-Children Convention. He cited a survey by a pediatrics organization which found that children’s issues were at the top of the list of concerns for the majority of Americans, including many who had no children of their own.
What kind of problems is America facing regarding its children? Answering that question, Purcell shared these disturbing statistics:
— The number of children born to unwed mothers has quadrupled in the last two decades;
— 64 percent of children born to unwed mothers live below the poverty line (compared to 12 percent of children born to married couples);
— More than 13 million children age 6 or younger spend some or all of their day being cared for by someone other than their parents;
— 10 percent of all child care is physically dangerous to children;
— 50 percent of all day care fails to positively influence the development of children;
— While the number of children born to teenage mothers ages 15 to 17 decreased from 39 to 34 births per thousand between 1991 and 1996, it still remains alarmingly high;
— Thousands of children in each state are not being immunized against diseases.
The government alone can’t solve these problems, but it has an appropriate role to play, Purcell said. And church leaders can help by making sure legislators have good information, facts and direction.
“Information is, in so many ways, the key to power and the key to change,” Purcell said. “And nothing in the world has changed to keep your legislators from doing the right thing if they want to.”
During his term as a legislator in Tennessee, Purcell said a second-grader brought a pistol to school, a fifth-grader gave birth to a baby “and children began killing children.” For lasting change in these and other troubling areas, he said churches and communities must look for ways to address problems together. In addition, church and lay leaders must constantly remind legislators that children’s issues are a priority.
But the biggest influence church leaders can have, Purcell said, is through education and ministry in their day-to-day contacts with parents and children.
“Ultimately, I think we have to be straightforward and say, ‘God was right about this, you know.'”

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  • Chip Alford