Focusing on the plight of at-risk children in South Carolina, the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children Thursday released its 2011 Annual Report at the State House.
The report is a first for the committee that includes three state senators, three House members, two gubernatorial appointees, and directors of child serving agencies. Committee Vice Chair Rep. Joan Brady (R-Richland) of Columbia says the committee uncovered some sobering statistics involving hunger, poverty, delinquency, and mental health issues.
The report shows that among the 1 million children in South Carolina, the dropout rate was 27 percent.
Brady says, as state government officials and lawmakers work to find ways to deal with the budget shortfall, they must keep in mind that an investment in at-risk children early can be a major step in preventing those youth from being permanent cogs in the criminal justice and penal systems when they become adults.
Committee Chair Sen. Mike Fair (R-Greenville) cites an example of a program of alternative sentencing developed by former Department of Juvenile Justice Director William Byars as an effective, cost conscious way to help at-risk youth. Byars worked with judges to have juveniles sentenced to “communities,” where community groups and individuals work with at-risk children and their families– rather than institutionalizing them with other juveniles.
Byars is now Director of the Department of Corrections.
Committee member Sen. Brad Hutto (D-Orangeburg) says the report will be a constant reminder to lawmakers and citizens alike that investing in South Carolina’s future begins with investing in the state’s children, including those who are at risk, especially in these tough economic times.