The annual release of the Kids Count Data Book routinely is accompanied by hand-wringing alarms regarding the status of children in America, and the 2008 version released last week is no different.
Though Georgia's overall rank improved slightly - from 41st to 40th - the number of children living in poverty has increased, with Georgia's rate worsening from 2000 to 2006.
In addition to gloomy news about poverty, the report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation of Baltimore also laments the status of the country's juvenile justice system, with one foundation official calling it a "dumping ground for high-need, but low-risk, youth."
There are few bright spots in the report. And in all of the data about young people, there's an unmentioned elephant in the room responsible for many of those problems:
While one of every five children in Georgia lives in a household with an income below the federally designated poverty level, one in three children is in a single-parent family - the overwhelming majority of those with mothers only.
Though recent reforms in the welfare system help by setting limits on benefits, for too long the federal government has subsidized fatherless households - replacing Daddy with Uncle Sam. That ingrained cultural damage will take years to correct.
In the meantime, responsible fathers are much more than just the bumbling ne'er-do-wells portrayed in far too much pop culture. As the Columbia County Father of the Year nominations in today's News-Times highlight, dads are valuable commodities and deserve celebration - especially when they are in such short supply.
Happy Father's Day to all of them - and thanks for setting a badly needed good example.
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