Even in a nation founded on the tradition of independence and self-sufficiency, the greater community has always been needed for survival. The pilgrims needed the Native-Americans, the frontier people needed their neighbors, people of the Great Depression needed the New Deal programs, and America's children û especially poor children of all races and ethnicities ûneed more than just their primary caregivers; they need a "village."
The old African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child," became popular in the United States in 1996 when Hillary Rodham Clinton used it as the title of her book that contended children are not rugged individuals, but dependent on adults they know as well as those they don't know who make decisions affecting their well-being. Clinton stated that the proverb offers "a timeless reminder that children will thrive only if their families thrive and if the whole of society cares enough to provide for them" (Clinton, p. 7). There are forces in today's society that both encourage and discourage the concept expressed in the proverb.
The reality is û and historically has been û that the United States, the richest most powerful nation in the world, does not provide the policies and services that assure the well-being of its children. For example, 23 industrialized countries provide universal health insurance and health care as well as a family allowance and child dependency grants but not the United States (State of America's Children 2000, p. xiv). In addition, affordable, quality child-care is not provided that would enable parents to work and their children to be nurtured and taught in a safe environment. In today's society, aside from the very rich, two paychecks are needed to survive ûeven for middle-class families - and often the wellbeing of children is sacrificed to this need.
This is not to say that there are no programs to help raise children. The enactment of Medicare and the State...