There have been many failed efforts to help save New Orleans children from crime.  Many dedicated people have initiated and funded programs to help solve the problems associated with children who drop out of school, or whose education level leaves them unable to find a job. For too many, the alternative is crime.

Unfortunately, there is a gross misunderstanding or refusal to acknowledge the root cause of the problem: failure of our community to provide the foundation that it takes to build a successful life.

Good care, good health and a good education—without those building blocks, few of us can make a success of our lives. And that’s as true of kids today as it was for my generation. Kids cry out for these basics. Listen to the guns; take note of the drop-outs, the drug dealing, the prostitution, the teen-aged pregnancies. If these are the only choices available to young people, those are the choices they make.

The alternative to those dead-end outcomes requires real services—not just adults wishing kids well or exhorting them to do better.

The Early Childhood & Family Learning Foundation tries to provide those services. The goal of our Coordinated Health Program, for example, is to assure that every public school child can see, can hear, is up to date on immunizations and, most importantly, has a professional health team to evaluate any other physical, mental or social roadblocks to learning.

Where our Foundation’s programs have been implemented, there is progress. The 200 children who needed glasses to see the LEAP test now have them – and have passed the test! The 150 children who couldn’t hear are now sitting in the front of the classroom and have hearing aids or other hearing treatments. Many of the children with behavioral problems in school are now being provided professional help to overcome them. And along the way, parents and teachers are guided toward a deeper understanding of the issues and become part of the solution.

It’s not brain surgery! But imagine a city in which every child came to school in good health and with social and emotional roadblocks to learning cleared away. Imagine a city in which kids graduated from school equipped for college or a decent job. New Orleans would move forward by leaps and bounds. The return on that kind of investment is immeasurable!

An earlier version of this editorial was removed and revamped at the author’s request.

Phyllis Landrieu is co-founder and chief executive officer of the Early Childhood & Family Learning Foundation, which hosts its annual fundraising gala on Saturday.