By Veronica Golden
Erie County has passed its 2019 budget and it has given continued funding toward youth development programs and “Summer Primetime” programs. The increase in access to quality after-school and summer activities ensures that there is less risk for safety and character being compromised during those time periods.
Understanding the neurodevelopmental impact of the body is helpful to those who want to make a connection of how legislation impacts the individual citizen – in this case, a child. Early adolescence and adolescent exposure to violence at home or in the media can have a negative effect on the nervous system and thus, cognition and behavior. External influences such as images, relationships and habits influence the internal system such as neurons, blood pressure and metabolism. In addition, the meals and snacks received by children during these programs positively impacts the function of neurotransmitters, which impact serotonin, a hormone influencing mood.
During childhood, the brain is actively developing and can only become as great as the external stimuli pushes it to be. If a child has been heavily exposed to violence in the home and in the media, we are likely to see violent behavior from the same child. Low-income communities are more exposed to violence on a daily basis in the form of corporal punishment at home, homicides, gangs and schools that are not able to provide adequate prevention and intervention for bullying. Middle and upper class households are more likely to have their children involved in a concerted activity that contributes to a child’s development such as a piano or a dance class.
Low-income households often have parents who raise their child with the natural growth concept. Natural growth child rearing typically means that the child has “long stretches of leisure time” because the parent is working multiple jobs to provide the necessities of the household and does not have the resources to keep their child engaged in a constructive activity. The wealth in the United States is highly stratified, and those on the bottom, which are most often African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, have less access to higher-paying jobs and resources that would allow them to give their children a better environment.
When the Erie County legislators vote to continue funding for youth programming it ensures that children have access and opportunity to an environment that may be more structured and productive in their educational development. Thanks to Erie County, there will be more resources available to provide quality activities in a safe environment that will decrease the likelihood of a negative neurodevelopmental impact on the children in this area.
Veronica Golden is a board member of the Erie County Youth Bureau.