1. Poverty amid plenty
2. Disturbing trends
3. Policies and problems
4. A vignette: Through the eyes of children
5. Some successful initiatives
6. Whither in the future?
Child neglect in rich nations describes how and why some of the wealthiest nations on earth have short-changed children. Poverty and abandonment are now commonplace experiences for children in the rich world. Over the last 15 years two approaches to child welfare have emerged: a neglect-filled ‘Anglo-American’ model, where market-driven public policies have slashed family benefits and gone a long way towards privatizing child rearing; and a much more supportive ‘European’ model, where governments have strengthened rather than weakened safety nets for families with children.
The swelling tide of child neglect has potentially disastrous consequences. Business leaders are beginning to be haunted by a widening gap between the supply of, and the demand for, skilled labour. Unless countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom invest in their children on a new and massive scale, a burgeoning human capital deficit will trigger an economic tailspin.
Much of this book focuses on what to do. The techniques and strategies exist. Throughout Western Europe there are policies and programmes that work. Government can step in and transform the financial incentives to reward rather than penalize families with children, and it can alter the rules of the game to make it harder to abandon a child.
This project could not have been completed without the support and encouragement of colleagues. Richard Jolly helped shape the bones of this book, and I thank him for encouraging me to take my ideas into the international arena. At an early stage I presented my work at the International Child Development Centre in Florence, and I am grateful to Andrea Cornia and James Himes for their comments and criticisms. Peter Bell, James Grant, Vicky Haeri, Patricia Hewitt, Jane Hill, Edgar Koh, Samuel Koo, David Miliband, Peggy Shiller, Ruth Spellman and John Williams also offered valuable help, and I thank them all. Some of the US analysis contained in this book appeared in an expanded form in my book When the Bough Breaks, which dealt, exclusively, with the American scene.
Sylvia Ann Hewlett
New York, September 1993