The Future and Children

There are many important things to think about and focus on in foresight practice: the future of politics and government, the environment, the future of work – and many others. But on balance – a focus on the future of children ranks among the most urgent. And this is especially true of those of us who study and work on social and community problems born of gross inequalities, racism and structural disadvantage.

My work is to urge and prepare social workers and other youth workers to be thoughtful, determined, visionary and foresightful about their practice in the months and years to come. We hold and utilize many tools to accomplish our goals. We provide and/or help create many essential services towards healing and restoration and we continually revise and reform our services – sometimes so much so, we feel it is important to take them down and reimagine them. We conduct advocacy and resist. We try to address our own shortcomings both personally and systemically – to assure that we ourselves are not part of the problem. But persistent questions – and questions of the future – continue to present themselves in our complicated practice ecosystem. What should shift most urgently, and in what ways, in our world on behalf of the well-being of children? What should not shift at all? What is shifting now in ways we are barely tracking? Who is making those decisions? What is their agenda? How can we better question and challenge our assumptions about what is and isn’t possible? How creative can we be in co-creating better immediate and long-term futures for children and youth around the world…and how ready are we to do just that?

In order to do this, not only do social workers benefit from getting good foresight training and preparation, but they need to look at current trends around us…and…just as important, imagine and engage in foresight to think through what is just around the corner from them. What is our preferred future? How can conceptualizing and building that vision be as democratically anchored as possible? I would suggest that there is almost no more important ethical imperative for social workers committed to the well-being of children, and to cultivate a futures eye and related skills. As the song says, we are already late. To love children, is to commit to a future in which they can flourish. Let’s get to work.

I’ve gathered an assortment of reports, articles and links to other resources that will spark your thinking and connect you to big ideas related to how many important facets there to this vital question “what is the future of children?” This is a tool kit for the future – use it well! One last point – I’d especially like to highlight below the section on youth activists. A quick review of the landscape of youth activism affirms how deeply their focus and impact is growing – and how much we as adults have to learn from them, with them.

Practicing foresight involves a variety of additional steps to imagine preferred futures, consider undesired ones and how to avoid them, and stay open to possibilities beyond what we might be able to consider at this moment in this rapidly changing practice landscape. The goal of foresight is to inform our actions in ways that have maximized our collective intelligence, imagination and agility. Learning and thinking across categories and levels (what Futurist Bob Johansen calls “Full Spectrum Thinking”) is required. This page is a start in that process — to stretch open our thinking with each other and imagine both intersections, options and pathways. Other information about foresight can be found throughout this blog and with a host of great organizations such as IFTF and others.

The first report listed below “A Future for the World’s Children” – co-sponsored by Lancet, WHO and UNICEF is perhaps the most important of them all. As covid-19 has disrupted so many things – the well-being of children of young people surely is one of the most dire.

Here’s a brief film about the report

This comprehensive and groundbreaking internationally focused document prioritizes the following steps to center children’s well-being in the future:

– Put children at the heart of our vision for a sustainable humanity

Stop predatory commercial advertising and marketing practices

Reduce carbon emissions that threaten the future of children and young people

Boost investment in the health and wellbeing of children and young people

Work across all sectors to deliver child-friendly policies

Ensure that the voices of children and young people are heard

I look forward to ongoing gathering with advocates, social workers, families, policy makers and children/youth themselves to engage with the essential work of future building. There has never been a more important time.

Multi-Issue Reports/Organizations

A future for the world’s children: A Lancet, WHO and UNICEF Commission report (2020)

Children’s Defense Fund

Climate Change

Climate change threatens the future of all children (2020)

Climate change poses a threat to children’s health worldwide (2019)

Children on the front line: The challenges of climate change (2014)

Anti-Racism

Diversity, Data, Kids announces the child opportunity index 2.0 (2020)

How to raise an anti-racist child (2020)

A guide to equity and antiracism for educators (2020)

Diversity, Data, Kids website – many good resources here (http://www.diversitydatakids.org/)

Equity

The Children’s Equity Project releases equity roadmap for early education (2020)

How racism harms children (2019)

The impact of racism on child and adolescent health (American Academy of Pediatrics – 2019)

Children’s understanding of equity in the context of inequality (2016)

Poverty

How economic equity and hope for the future could reduce child abuse and neglect in the US (2019)

Roadmap to reducing child poverty (2019)

Technology

Children and media tips for technology from the American Academy of Pediatrics (2018)

Parenting in the age of screens (2020)

EduTopia’s Digital Citizenship resources and web page

Jane McGonigal’s TED talk on gaming (2010) – thought this is ten years old now, it is a must watch for anyone interested in the well-being of youth and gaming. Still packs a wonderful punch and still very relevant.

Artificial Intelligence

Why kids need special protection from AI’s influence (2020)

Draft policy guidance for children and AI (2020)

Children and AI: Opportunities and Risks/UNICEF

Kids are surrounded by AI: They should know how it works (2019)

How will AI effect child development (2018)

Health

Overview of CHIP (Child Health Insurance Program) (2020)

The impact of disparities on children’s health (2020)

Designing the future of children’s mental health services (2020)

It’s time to focus on the future of children’s health insurance coverage (2019)

Establishing a Child Rights, Health Equity, and Social Justice-Based Practice of Pediatrics (2015)

The future of children: Policies to promote children’s health (2015)

Queer Youth

What do Queer youth want for their future? (2019)

Generating a revolution in prevention, wellness and care for LBGTQ youth (2014)

Covid-19 Impacts

After covid-19: A future for the world’s children? (2020)

Impact of covid-19 and lockdown on mental health of children and adolescents: A narrative review with recommendations (2020)

Evaluating 2019 US census child poverty data in the wake of covid-19 (2020)

Justice for families impacted by covid-19 – Children’s Defense Fund (2020)

When it comes to screens during lockdown, kids need a guide not a disciplinarian (2020)

Juggling Financial Stress And Caregiving, Parents Are ‘Very Not OK’ In The Pandemic (2020)

How burnout became the norm for American parents during covid-19 (2020)

The Future of Families

Families in Flux/IFTF (2020)

Parenting in a digital age – new hopes and fears (Webinar – 2020)

A future of work that compliments family life (2020)

A look at the future of the family (2019)

The future of working families: How we care for our children (2019)

9 different visions of what families will look like 50 years from now (2015)

Future of families to 2030: A synthesis report (2011)

Education

Schools of the future: Defining the new models of education for the fourth industrial revolution (2020)

How will covid-19 change our schools in the long run? (2020)

Upcoming tech trends that will shape the future of education for children (2019)

Will we make the future of education equitable (2019)

A model for the future of education (2018)

Children and Immigration

Looking at lasting effects of Trump’s family separation policy at the Southern border (2020)

Immigrant students: Our kids, our future (2018)

Youth Activism

6 youth-led political movements to inspire you to vote (2020)

Youth activism is on the rise around the globe (2019)

These 10 young activists are trying to move the needle on climate change, gun control, and other global issues (2019)

Youth in revolt: Five powerful movements fueled by young activists (2018)

Futures Programming and Education for Children/Teens

Into the future NYC

Teach the Future