Children at Risk works to break the cycle of teen violence

In our FOX in Focus series, "Breaking the Cycle", we're now shining the spotlight on a local group that has been working hard to help children succeed in Houston the past 35 years.

The non-profit Children at Risk walks us through some of the problems they've identified and how they truly fight for the rights of children to make a difference.

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Children at Risk is all about helping children at risk of being unable to eventually succeed in our community in a positive way.

"One of the things that we work hard on is to make sure that everyone really gets an equal opportunity to be successful, and we're not really seeing that for a lot of kids in the state of Texas, here in Houston, and so there's still a lot of work to be done," says Dr. Bob Sanborn, who is the president and CEO of the organization.

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Researchers at Children at Risk spend day in and day out studying everything they can about children in Texas. They've passed more than 100 pieces of legislation to make life better for kids. We'll look at five of the many key factors they're working on, including:

1. child poverty

2. hunger

3. under-achieving schools

4. under-insured in healthcare

5. human trafficking of children

"When we look at Texas as a whole, 65% of all of our children are growing up in low-income households. And as a researcher, one of the things you understand is that is one of the hardest things to overcome is growing up in that low-income household and so that becomes sort of the biggest thing," explains Dr. Sanborn.

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So, that means the majority of children here are fighting poverty and are from families of four making less than $30,000 per year. With poverty comes challenges for children, starting shortly after they're born.

"So, we want to make sure that when kids are at these foundational ages, of six weeks to four years old, that we're doing everything possible to give them that high quality environment for success. And what we find is that parents desperate to work, they want a safe, clean place, and what they need to want is a safe clean place that also has a lot of good learning going on and we need more of that in Houston," says Dr. Sanborn.

As these children get older, Children at Risk has passed laws to help them fight hunger. "Passing legislation to mandate that all public schools serve free breakfast to low-income kids. I remember when we passed that piece of legislation in one fell swoop a million more children every day, we're getting free breakfast, and that means that those kids are now going to be able to do better academically," says Dr. Sanborn.

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Children at Risk is also fighting under-achieving schools by ranking them on everything from student achievement, to how schools compare to schools with similar poverty, plus how they improve from year-to-year, and college readiness.

"We want parents to be demanding more as well, but we also want parents to have that knowledge of where are the good schools, and how can I make our school better," states Dr. Sanborn.

The organization is also fighting healthcare problems by closely monitoring what's happening to the health of kids. Houston is the most uninsured city in the developed world, and childhood obesity is a real problem here.

"It continues to be a struggle for us to make sure that whether it's quality dental care or eye care, or just sort of that pediatric care, we want to make sure that we're doing everything possible, so there's a lot of work to be done there," says Dr. Sanborn. That includes the fact that Texas falls to 49 out of 50 states in funding and access for mental health care for children.

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Finally, Children at Risk continues to fight against human trafficking, to protect kids from being sex trafficked in Houston, strengthening laws and policies, and improving the response to children who have been exploited.

"Everyone from the governor when he was the attorney general, sort of latched on to the work that we're doing at Children at Risk to make sure that we're doing everything possible, so that kids aren't sex trafficked in our state," says Dr. Sanborn.

The goal of all these issues is to fight for the rights of children, so they have a fighting chance to one day be hard-working and successful citizens, right here in the Houston area.

FOX 26 is on board the mission, not only to spread the word about ways to prevent youth violence, but also by sponsoring Children at Risk's golf tournament, hosted by anchor Melissa Wilson. It's one of the biggest fundraisers of the year for the group and helps fund the costs to make positive changes for children. This year it's on April 26 at the Clubs of Kingwood to drive change "fore" children.

For more information about the organization visit