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Editorial: West Virginia’s children deserve better than adversity

From The Parkersburg News and Sentinel: 

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, there are several experiences for children that can contribute to high stress, sidetrack healthy development and increase the chances of risky behavior, including: having a parent or guardian die, serve time in jail or be divorced/separated; living in a household where there is violence; living in a household that often struggles financially; neighborhood violence; living with someone mentally ill, suicidal, depressed or addicted; and being often mistreated because of race or ethnicity.

According to a report by the foundation, a higher percentage of West Virginia children has experienced one or more of those to a degree that could impair their longterm welfare. In fact, 52 percent of Mountain State children are living under such conditions, far higher than the national average of 46 percent.

Most of us living here in West Virginia can point to any number of reasons our children are suffering through those experiences. There are plenty of excuses. Parents, relatives, teachers, church and community members … all of us, must do a better job of overcoming those excuses if our state is to have any future at all.

These kids — 52 percent of them dealing with stresses that are sending many of our adults into a crippling spiral of self-harm — will write the next chapters for West Virginia. As we work toward transitioning our economy, toward recovery and hope in healthier communities, toward better educations, better jobs and brighter opportunities, THEY must be our focus.

Many of us remember our childhoods in the Mountain State with great joy. If we do not do all we can to make sure more of these kids can do the same, we will all pay the price.

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