Pierce County, a great place to live, work, play and raise a family. But what is it like to grow up in Pierce County? Is it a place where we value children … all children?
Most of the children in Pierce County are doing well but I want to focus on the challenges facing many kids in our community.
- We have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the State.
- Nearly 20% of children under the age of 5 live in poverty, nearly half of the children in Pierce County are on free and reduced lunch, and about 500 children and youth are homeless.
- Pierce County has the highest number of dependency rates in the State with children being removed from their homes at record numbers.
- Although improving, our truancy and graduation rates are still concerning resulting in our young adults not ready for there their next step after high school.
After years of failed levies, it is only this last election that will finally help schools in some of our most needy communities. Our kids are sometimes bullied; tempted with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs; experience depression, sometimes severe enough to lead to suicidal thoughts and sadly suicide.
So how do we make it better? I am proposing through an ordinance that the County Council establish a Prenatal- 25 (P-25) Commission tasked with providing recommendations on how Pierce County can more effectively create an environment where our children and young adults have the support they need to make healthy lifelong choices.
The commission will address children from prenatal through childhood, teens and young adults. Research on brain development has shown that a person’s brain is not fully developed until their mid-20’s, which is why young adults up to age of 25 will be included. This group will be made up of representatives from agencies that represent youth, early childhood, health, behavior health, physical health, education, juvenile justice, workforce development, housing and homelessness, pediatrics, the faith community, a young adult and parents.
The P-25 Commission may not be the sole answer that we need to address the challenges facing our children, but it is a start. Our kids need it and together we must take this step.