Examples of the compelling true stories featured in OUR KIDS
- Andrew, from the upscale west side of Bend, Oregon, thrives in the emotional and material riches provided by his loving parents and is unembarrassed by their obvious affection for him, while in a tattered trailer in the poor part of town just across the river Kayla struggles with depression induced by her chaotically fractured family and lack of familial support. The lives and prospects of these two kids illustrate the effect on children of the rapidly growing class disparity in family structure. Increasingly, kids from college-educated homes live in stable, two-parent families, while a growing majority of kids from high-school educated homes live in fragile, one-parent families. These different launching pads powerfully determine their life trajectories.
- Isabella and Lola are second-generation Latinas who live fifteen minutes apart in Orange County, California. But Isabella, from an affluent family, attended one of America’s best high schools, with scores of AP classes and activities, while impoverished Lola, though “gifted and talented,” dropped out of high school, intimidated by daily violence and discouraged by indifferent teachers. Their stories illustrate that the opportunity gap between rich kids and poor kids is widening even among ethnic minorities. They also reveal, more subtly, that the difference between schools is less what the teachers and school districts are doing than what the kids themselves bring to school – resources, aspirations, and positive peer pressure in the case of Isabella and her classmates; gangs, family disruption, and anxiety in the case of Lola and her classmates.
- In Atlanta, Georgia three black families from different socioeconomic echelons use strikingly different styles of parenting. Desmond’s suburban parents, both professionals, have carefully groomed Desmond for confident success with steady, nurturing engagement. In an inner ring suburb, Stephanie (a single mom from the struggling working class) treats Michelle with tough love. She cares deeply for her kids, but to protect them in dangerous neighborhoods, she explains, “You gotta be a bully.” Raised in the heart of the ghetto, largely abandoned by his parents, Elijah witnessed three murders before he reached five and from an early age survived on his own through a life of street robbery and arson. His dim future illustrates the high costs of going without parenting. The latest research on brain science shows how these differing experiences get “under the skin” of infants and deeply constrain their life chances years before they enter school.
- In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania two white single moms grapple with similar challenges of drugs, sex, and mental health in raising their daughters, but for the family in the affluent Main Line unseen “airbags” automatically deploy to protect kids from serious damage—doctor friends who diagnose ADHD, funds to remodel the third floor for a distraction-free child’s suite, supportive mentors from a wide range of family friends. Meanwhile, in the formerly working class inner city neighborhood of Kensington, the drug plague is everywhere, and not even close family members serve as trustworthy guides or supporters. Growing economic segregation in America means that rich kids and poor kids are increasingly exposed to very different neighborhood environments.
- On the affluent shoreline of Port Clinton, Ohio, Chelsea’s stay-at-home mom (Wendy) focuses on her daughter’s success, reading to her from an early age, orchestrating regular family dinners, encouraging her to take leadership positions in yearbook and student government and to go to college, and repeatedly intervening at school to reverse adverse school decisions. In an impoverished slum only a few hundred yards inland, David is ignored by his drug-addled, absent mother, his recidivist dad (who bounces in and out of prison), and the half dozen other women who pass through his dad’s life. With no adult support at all—from his dysfunctional family or from community agencies—19-year-old David tries to care for his eight half-siblings, hampered by inadequate schooling and his own juvenile criminal record. We see just how important parental involvement and savvy is for ensuring that children succeed.