If it bleeds it leads, is the standard newsroom motto. Adults suffer the consequences of trial by media regularly and I don’t see that changing in my lifetime.
*We live in a time when newsrooms don’t have budgets to adequately follow complicated stories, like child protection, adoption, foster care & the other very serious issues that social workers, educators, parents & other service providers must study deeply to manage abused and neglected children.
A brief interview covering the death of a child in child protection leads to a short news story making a social worker look inadequate (or worse) bringing outrage from a community, and even less support for an already overburdened department of human services. Almost no attention is paid to the lack of resources, low salaries, and patchwork system that holds together the millions of children and workers across this nation.
When a baby is found in a dumpster, too many of us are not trained to dig down deep for compassion and understanding and ask ourselves what we could do to prevent this. Just where could we put more and better resources? Who could I call to show support for programs supporting pregnant preteen moms?
Our media response quite often drives us to an opposite response of quick anger and blaming, and even less compassion and support for our already overworked social workers, foster care providers, educators and everyone else in the system.
It is telling to note that we were in the top five as a nation in the quality of life indices for over twenty years among the 24 industrialized nations with 200 year democracies and now we don’t compare ourselves to them (but to the 90 or so “emerging nations”).
We desperately need to agree that children in need of services will receive them. The cost is minimal as compared to their expense in crime, prisons and jails over their lifetimes and is now well documented.
How to deal with a media that does not have resources to adequately report the details that lead to the baby in the dumpster, drowned in the bathtub, or 7 year old that hung himself?
My suggestion is to change the rule social workers are taught during their training from “never talk about your work outside of work” to “use your own judgement, be legally and personally discreet, but feel free to discuss the nature of child protection, the circumstance that are common to you in your work, and by all means, the needs you see not being met in the lives of abused and neglected children”.
As it is today, abused and neglected children have no voice in the terribly abusive homes they are raised in nor the court system once they are removed from those homes.
Some of us, preferably some of us educated in the study of the issues; social workers, health and mental health providers, and others close and sympathetic to abused and neglected children, needs to give these children a voice in their own lives other than a Media that has to sell itself with “if it bleeds it leads”.
*I’m not blaming anyone. Newspapers don’t have money to pay people, the system is what it is. There are many great reporters trying to do good work, but it is an uphill slog against terrific odds. This is a complicated topic that does not lend itself to the type of news we have prepared American citizens to comprehend.
Kids At Risk Action needs your support for its successful launch of televised public service announcements building awareness to the issues surrounding child abuse.
In collaboration with award winning Salo of Finland, KARA is working to create and place ads on national TV.
These ads will reach millions and create interest and understanding of this important and often misunderstood subject.
The KARA team.
ps… pass this on to those you think might appreciate the opportunity;