Suppose you had neighbors next door that did not adequately feed their children, and they did not provide adequate health care to them, and they did not provide their children with the economic support needed to have a decent life, and they did not provide them with reasonable family support.
And, suppose that these neighbors did this year after year. And, suppose that you regularly had a talk with your neighbors and showed them how they were not measuring up and told them there were resources available to them to do better.
Now suppose that from time to time, your neighbor did a few things to make the situation a little better but sometimes things got worse. And, suppose that in 27 years, overall things only got just a tiny bit better - and the kids were still worse off than over 80 percent of the other kids in the neighborhood.
Would you call this systematic "child abuse"? Well, thus is the status of children in South Carolina.
For the last 27 years, the Annie E. Casey Foundation has been issuing its authoritative Kids Count Report (KidsCount.org) that measures the well being of kids in all 50 states on a wide variety of indexes. From year to year, they crunch literally hundreds of thousands of data points that give a clear and accurate picture of what's happening from state to state and from year to year.
The good news is that South Carolina is at an all-time high. The bad news is we are ranked 41st of the 50 states.
And, when you dig a little deeper, the news is overall bad as South Carolina is not really getting better. Essentially, the rest of the states are getting worse. The summary numbers for the last five years tell a depressing story:
Economic Well Being - overall South Carolina ranks 37th. We are worse in the number of children in poverty (289,000 children) increasing from 22 to 27 percent. For children whose parents lack secure employment (356,000 children), we are worse, going from 30 to 33 percent. For children living in households with a high housing cost burden (346,000 children), the numbers have increased from 31 to 32 percent. And for teens not in school or not working (19,00 children), we have improved fractionally from 8 to 7 percent.
Education - overall South Carolina ranks 43rd. We are worse in the number of young children not in school (70,000), as it's up from 50 to 56 percent. The number of 4th-graders that are not proficient in reading has improved from 74 down to 67 percent. Eighth-graders not proficient in math have gone up from 68 to 74 percent. High school students not graduating on time have dropped from 38 to 26 percent.
Health - overall South Carolina ranks 37th. The number of low-birth-weight babies (5,435 babies) has dropped from 9.9 to 9.4 percent. The number of children without health insurance (60,000 children) is down from 13 to 6 percent. The number of child and teen deaths per 100,000 (357) has improved from 35 down to 31. The number of teens who abuse alcohol or drugs (18,000) is down from 7 to 5 percent.
Family and Community - overall South Carolina ranks 42nd. Children living in single-parent families (432,000 children) has gotten worse from 39 to 43 percent. The number of children living in families where the head of the household lacks a high school diploma (152,000 children) is unchanged at 14 percent. Children living in high-poverty areas (1,667,000 children) is worse, going from 12 up to 15 percent. And teen births per 1,000 (4,297 births) have improved substantially from 51 down to 28.
And in the category of actual cases of confirmed child abuse and neglect - we are a lot worse. In 2011, there were 6,803 cases - in 2015, this number had risen to 10,173 - a whopping 66.8 percent increase.
So, what does this blizzard of statistics mean? It means, yes, we are systematically abusing our children in South Carolina.
Now if you talk to the politicians at the Statehouse, they will give you all sorts of excuses and explain to you why this is so and none of it matters.
The Statehouse crowd have become skilled and practiced apologists for failure - about this and for so many other vital issues facing our state.
John Kennedy said it best, "Our problems are man-made; therefore, they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings."
The systematic child abuse in our state is unforgivable.
It does not have to be this way.
We can do better. We deserve better.
How big do we want to be in South Carolina?
Phil Noble runs a technology firm in Charleston, is founder of World Class Scholars and writes a weekly column for the S.C. Press Association. Contact him at email@example.com, and get his columns at www.PhilNoble.com.