American children are in crisis. Inner cities are filled with violence and massive drug problems; families are dysfunctional; illiteracy is rising; society's efforts to combat educational failure, poverty, crime, and disease have created an enormous economic debt for the future. In this compassionate and controversial book Irving Harris argues that the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, hopelessness, and violence is very early intervention: we must provide adequate caregiving to children from birth to age three and—to stop the cycle even sooner—we must discourage pregnancy among adolescents.
Harris, a successful businessman, has devoted himself to children's causes for the past forty years and has initiated and funded numerous programs geared to children and families. He presents data from research in pediatrics, social work, nursing psychology, and education showing that children who receive early nurturing and stimulation are far more likely to have success in school and in life. He urges that the government build more day-care centers and train more caregivers and public-health nurses for babies and small children; that schools offer instruction and counseling in prenatal care; and that there be easier access to contraceptives and abortions in order to reduce unwanted pregnancies.