Children at Risk

On a malnourished 5-year-old, the facial fat is the last to go. Bundled against the Boston winter, he looks like a normal child, his plump little face peeking out from inside a discount store parka. But a doctor can tell he’s suffering.

“The children are so small, you underestimate their age,” says Deborah Frank, director of the Grow Clinic at Boston Medical Center. “If you don’t have a clue, you say, ‘What a cute little 3-year-old.’”

Frank is seeing 10 percent more of these children this year—an alarming, but not altogether surprising, statistic. Rental costs have soared in Boston and throughout the country. Housing programs have been cut. Wages remain flat even as the nation enters its fifth year of economic recovery. And, since 2000, another 1.3 million children have slipped into poverty, bringing the total to nearly 13 million.

The 5-year-old described above is an “at-risk” child—at risk of failure in school and in life. Before he ever sets foot in a public school, he is months, perhaps years, behind. Now it’s the school district’s job—your job—to give him the best possible chance at success. What are you going to do? 

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