Whitney Tucker, the policy and research associate at Children’s Trust, details why South Carolina struggled in the recent Council for a Strong America’s citizen-readiness index. As a fellow millennial, Tucker, 24, understands the obstacles her peers face in being prepared to grow into productive citizens and build a stronger state and country. She outlines the ways Children’s Trust programs can assist young people to become more ready in future years.

Whitney Tucker

Whitney Tucker

Let’s face it, growing up isn’t easy. As millennials like me make our way into adulthood, we’re discovering that “adulting” is even tougher for us than it was for our parents. Think I’m being overly dramatic? Well, recent data from the Council for a Strong America confirms what every millennial already knows. The council’s citizen-readiness index measures the preparedness of every state’s young people to contribute positively to society along three indicators:

  • Preparedness for the workforce – that percentage of young adults who aren’t employed or in school;
  • Involvement in crime – the number of arrests among young adults; and
  • Qualification for the military – the percentage of young adults ineligible for military service.

This year, on a scale from A (the kids are alright) to E (everything is awful), South Carolina received an E ranking, one of seven states nationally to receive the lowest grade. While our nation’s young people are better educated than previous generations, one in seven South Carolinians ages 16-24 is not in school or working, and 14 percent of them have an arrest record. Issues with obesity, lack of education, drug abuse, and crime would prohibit 74 percent of 17-24-year-olds from serving in military. Yikes. Plenty of work clearly needs to be done to improve those numbers. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to fix this issue. The Council for a Strong America has released policy priorities to improve citizen readiness, and Children’s Trust has a host of well-aligned programs and initiatives that support these recommendations.

Here’s a quick to-do list that will help our state turn things around for the next generation:

Early Childhood Common Agenda

The Early Childhood Common Agenda seeks to build a comprehensive early childhood system through effective policy.

Support strong families

The Council for a Strong America suggests that Congress and the next president support and reauthorize the voluntary Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program to improve young adults’ workforce productivity and reduce their involvement in crime. Research shows that high-quality home visiting programs encourage positive interactions and the formation of constructive relationships. Children’s Trust administers the MIECHV program in 39 of South Carolina’s 46 counties, empowering parents with knowledge of positive parenting practices, health information and educational resources to help build strong families. This year we also brought together nearly 300 South Carolina home visitors to collaborate and build capacity at our fourth Home Visiting Summit. Home visiting allows us to work with families to create circumstances that enable citizen-readiness. Help us to empower more citizen-ready South Carolinians by urging your U.S. legislators to reauthorize the MIECHV program in 2017.

Advance early education

Citizen readiness starts early in life. High-quality early education sets the foundation for future qualification for good jobs and military service and has been shown to reduce crime. Children’s Trust promotes the importance of early education in our state with advocacy activities around the Early Childhood Common Agenda (ECCA), a set of policy priorities crafted by early childhood experts statewide. The Council for a Strong America recommends investments in this area to give young children a strong start in life, and ECCA advocates agree. Increasing involvement in the state’s early care Quality Rating and Improvement System is a major ECCA initiative.

Learn more about our strategies to expand quality early care and education by emailing wtucker@scchildren.org to receive our ECCA E-Newsletter during the legislative session. It’s a quick, simple way to become an informed advocate for citizen-ready S.C. kids. While millennials have had circumstances that work against us, research has shown that effective policy can counter adverse circumstances for our state’s youth in the future. It will obviously take more than two steps to create a citizen-ready South Carolina, but crossing off this to-do list will generate opportunity for the next generation to enter the military or workforce ready for the challenges of adulthood.

Children’s Trust supports programs and policies that lead to brighter futures for our state’s children and families; show your support by donating, following us on social media, and volunteering with us to do your part in producing more ready citizens in the Palmetto State.