Shortages in formula, school closure policies and a failure to act on gun violence all show how we are failing our children. (Photo courtesy of Free Fall Baltimore.)

We have failed our children over and over. 

For nearly five months from February to June, 43 percent of infant formulas were out of stock, leaving many parents desperate to feed their babies.  For infants with allergies, the solution was not so simple.  I personally knew dozens of mothers who were left empty-handed without the formula their infant with an allergy needed despite searching online and consulting their pediatrician.

The shortage of infant formula stemmed from a February closure of a production plant in  Michigan that has only recently re-opened.  Yes, February. Six months ago.  The question nobody seems to be asking is why the United States and manufacturers waited so long to provide viable solutions to the formula shortage?  Instead of a proactive strategy to address the issue in February, a reactionary approach resulted in sleepless nights for countless caregivers who had minimal options to feed their children.  Is this how the United States seeks to prioritize the interests of its youth?

Rewind a year, when more than 50 million U.S. public school students learned from their homes for 18 months due to social isolation measures from the COVID-19 pandemic.  According to CDC data, children aged 0-18 accounted for just 0.1% of all COVID-related deaths in the US and 17% of the total number of infections.  Should schools have been closed for 18 months when the risk of death to school age children was so low?

Data show the harm of in-person school closures.  Social skills for children, camaraderie between peers and instructors, and mental health have all deteriorated since the pandemic.  Many educators have reported increasing levels of violence, bullying, and aggression amongst students.

In February and March of this year, suicide attempts among girls aged 12-17 were 51% higher than the same time period right before the pandemic.  We still do not understand the long-term ramifications of the social isolation that the pandemic has caused in children, and only time will clarify future rates of panic attacks, mood disorders, and drug abuse directly related to the pandemic.

These social ramifications could have been mitigated if government officials and education officials made more data-driven decisions based on risk of harm and death from COVID infections in children. Schools may have opened earlier, possibly preventing much of the mental health scares surrounding our children.  Instead of proactively acting in the best interests of children, governing bodies seemed to react to the alarming number of COVID deaths and hospitalizations in the U.S. population, the majority of which did not even apply to school-aged children. 

Most recently, the devastating news of 19 elementary students being murdered in Uvalde, TX has shown how we fail our children. Since 2009, there have been 279 mass shootings in the US, with 1,576 individuals killed, of whom at least 362 were children.  What is most appalling about mass shootings is that they continue to occur, and have occurred for the last 13 years without any meaningful policy reform surrounding guns.  To put this into perspective, death from gun violence is six times higher in the United States than any other country in the world.   

The last school shooting in the United Kingdom occurred 26 years ago, and there have been zero shootings there since.  The reason –  reform of gun control sparked by concerned parents and government officials.  Here in the US, not only have we failed to provide proactive reform, we have not even been reactionary to 13 years of mass shootings that continue to kill our children. The tragedy of our inaction plays out on the streets of Baltimore daily.

At some point, we need to take a look into the mirror and ask ourselves if we have our kids’ best interests at heart?  The way we, as a country, treat our children reflect the priorities and ideals we hold towards our youth.  Our kids will be the future leaders of the world, so it’s time we start treating them accordingly.