Issues of Equality and Equity in American Youth: the Role of Trauma

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The child experience in our society is heavily influenced by the concept of how we digest equality. The way we have seen equality shaped in adulthood is a direct influence on how children understand their own equality. Child welfare and child trauma are often addressed at later stages due to how we see the importance of these issues. The threats in childhood trauma run parallel to what we consider equal in our society.

Looking at equality on its own as a society, we address this through income levels, access to resources, and political power; But what does equality look like on an elementary level when it concerns kids. Our American value system as it pertains to egalitarianism is not fit as it pertains to adolescents. Equal opportunity is currently a hot topic, especially as it reflects the access that children have from varying socio-economic levels. Nadine Burke Harris, a healthcare practitioner, explains that the impact of childhood trauma can result in poor mental health and physical issues that are a result of their neglect as children. The trauma experienced by children in our society is counterintuitive to a society where everyone has equal rights and equal opportunities. To truly understand why childhood trauma, or simply the issues in child welfare, we must go to the source of it.

Oftentimes we simply overlook these traumatizing events as a part of the childhood experience. To truly see how critical this is, we need to look at moments in our society that cause hesitation to trials that children face and are not usually equipped for. The separation of children from their parents at the U.S-Mexico border has been met with hostility regarding the correct protocol for what is best for the child. When illegally entering the border, these children are seen as "unaccompanied alien children," according to PBS NewsHour. Since the border does have a "zero tolerance policy" when it comes to illegal immigration, the welfare of these children is thrown out the window. Taking out the political opinions concerning border control, these children are placed into an environment that they were never prepared for and are treated with a harsh regimen. The trauma associated with abandoning one's country at the side of their parents and the unknown laws and political culture of the one-time welfare check conducted on these children is nowhere close to what should be addressed as it pertains to positive mental health acumen. The gap between equality and child welfare seems to rest in the phases of child development. The rapid development of a child means that every moment that an adult may deem insignificant is actually a crutal moment in how their perspective will be shaped in the long run.

At as young as 12 months, babies understand emotions and safety with their guardians. At this age, babies understand the world around them through interaction, and this is an age where the emotional and physical equality amongst children seems to stray.

Access to information seems to also play a role in childhood trauma. The transparency of our society has negative impacts on what children hear and what is sometimes not addressed. This specifically pertains to the gender gap and racial inequality in America. Conversations pertaining to race for children of color are often avoided until an age where they are deemed fit, yet this conclusion leaves little room for the unknown.

The difference between equity and equality is extremely important as it relates to child welfare. If we as a society say that we need an equal social practice, we are stating that everyone should have the same exact chance regardless of gender and race, but how do we execute this? Instead, if we look at equity for children, we move closer to how we create these equal opportunities in the given circumstances. To reduce trauma in overlooked communities, we have to have concrete paths for what success will look like for each child. Suppose we give every child food that is not solving the problem. If we can take into account what allergies one has and what they need to be successful, we are creating a world where the details we are putting in lessen the overlooked aspects of child welfare.

The issue is where do these equitable resources and opportunities lie? The role of socio-economic status, gender, and race are barriers that need to be honed in on to achieve an overall change. These small experiences, from someone's skin tone being different to seeing the varying norms of males and females, shape a child's outlook on what is correct and what is incorrect. Traumatic incidents are overlooked due to a need for the child to grow up at some point, but instead, what we need is a safe space to explain the circumstances around what is occurring. By trying to protect children from these harsher topics, we actually open them up to the gray area of elements that significantly impact our society. The social well-being of our community rests on the openness to these conversations and understanding the moments that shape a child.

This issue of social equity plays out in our society asides from its role in child trauma and welfare. A prime example of this would be public administration. Awareness of problems is the first step, but access to the tools needed is what will dismantle these issues. In simplicity, the difference between two humans can show the issues of equality. Looking at government policy, we can see how a lack of access for minorities led to issues like a lack of financial literacy and advancements in the workplace. These issues are highlighted during the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Policy Making echoes our society revealing what is wrong and also what is right. The social and economic implications on our citizens will justly impact who they will be and what they will have accomplished. Comparing social equity to financial literacy may seem like a stretch, but a financially literate person will know where they stand in what they can afford and how taxes, refunds, and assets are impacted. Children are thrown information consistently with the current access to information anytime and anywhere.

Taking this concept one step further, if we look at digital access as a society, we can say everyone should know what is going on, but the issue is how they will know that. Children should be equipped with the skills and environments to foster positive mental health and communication, but how can this happen without acknowledging the childhood trauma that is a result of the family nucleus? Looking at PBS KIDS talk about: Race & Racism, we see two changes that need to happen, one is acknowledging the differences amongst our children, and the second is allowing for open communication on subject matter that we usually hide from children. Acknowledging these impactful aspects of society through the lens of children, we need to let them express their opinions on these issues in rooms that nurture their voices. Simply looking at skin color and letting a child tell you what the difference is allows children to be able to have a step on how race will impact them through interpreting race is a safe environment.

The role of youth advocacy organizations as it relates to equality is to help children understand who they are in society through their own lens. A Lot of the trauma seen in children seems to stem from a gray area that is filled with untapped curiosity. Youth advocacy groups allow for the incubation of these thoughts to happen in an environment that takes out the negative impact of "adult" topics influencing children in a negative way. The violence and negativity that comes from the unknown in our society do not have a place in conversations that pertain to "where do I fit in our world".

In conclusion, Youth Advocacy as it pertains to a more equitable world for children is the first step in understanding how little actions and moments truly shape a child's life. In order to reduce these outcomes, we need to have a voice in the room for these children and the ability to open up the conversation for children to examine how race, culture, socio-economic background, and gender influence them through their own words in a positive environment.



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Issues of Equality and Equity in American Youth: The Role of Trauma. (2023, Mar 07). Retrieved April 13, 2024 , from

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