mi amigos KARA(Kids At Risk Action),

The Children’s Defense Fund Leadership Training was a genuinely rewarding experience.

There was a power and a richness in the Alex Haley farm location (100 acres of beautiful trees and old buildings in Clinton Tennessee–20 miles from Knoxville).

The late Alex Haley’s story of developing as a struggling young Black author (his book “Roots”), travelling to Africa to trace his family, and his connections to slavery and the south, come alive as the CDF staff talk about Alex Haley’s life and Marion Wright Edelman discovering the farm and raising the money to buy it for the Children’s Defense Fund.

CDF trains allot of people there. It is a busy place with a committed group of presenters and staffers.

The training concentration was on:

A; being a more effective leader, and B; influencing lawmakers.

Item A was terrific (I appreciate that I to have work to do in this area) &,

Item B was important, but it hurts me that almost no time was spent on the concept of learning about how to impact our immediate circle of influence or growing support at a community level.

I really wanted to discuss building a grassroots support within our own communities and how each and every one of us can grow our awareness and understanding of the serious problems our schools, courts, and health systems are experiencing due to the neglect and abandonment of our most vulnerable population.

And most of all, how we can become comfortable being “the voice” for At Risk Children in our communities.

After ten years of working with abandoned children as a volunteer CASA guardian ad Litem in the child protection system, I’ve gained a tremendous amount of respect for the social workers, teachers and others working with abused children and their troubled families.  Unfortunately, most of the people doing the work of healing and protecting at risk youth are encouraged by the HIPPA laws and their employers (especially social workers) to not speak of the work they do or the circumstances they see.  This is part of the reason so little is known by the general public about the depth and scope of the problem of child abuse in America today.

I have delusions about how to be helpful to CDF for Item B. If we spoke of these events, data and sad stories more often, the media and general public would know more, legislators would be encouraged to support child friendly initiatives and life could improve for kids living in toxic hopes that can’t get daycare or crisis nursery help because there doesn’t seem to be a need for it.

If the thing remains unspoken, it does not appear to be a problem.  If it is not a problem, there is no need for a solution.  Hence, the pipeline to prison Marion Wright Edelman speaks of in America today.  Or as, Minnesota’s Supreme Court Chief Justice has stated, “the difference between that poor child and a felon, is about eight years”.

Half of the Children’s Defense Fund experience is meeting so many smart and committed people from every corner of the country. We can learn so much by just sitting next to someone from Missouri, Chicago, or Floodwood MN.

The nice lady from Missouri understood why her state was getting such terrific results from their Juvenile Justice system. She could have taught us some very important things (but she was not on the agenda). I was one of four men out of about 50 people, and also I think, the oldest.

They were kind to me (I did feel like a Geezer). My concentration on positioning for listening and closing doors to eliminate background noise really solidified my Geezerhood (although, I believe it was unplugging the noisey water cooler that sealed it).

Minnesota was one of several states that were well represented (five of us). It is troubling to ponder the future of children in states without child advocates.

I intend to stay connected to and network with the Children’s Defense Fund to be more effective in our work to find and promote programs that work for At Risk Children.

Stories/responses from CDF fellows about programs in different states consider using this websites for discussion and group functions.

The larger community needs a place to connect with child protection issues… let’s work together to do that.

the KARA team