As a volunteer child protection worker, I pay attention to the negative attitude a growing number of our adult population are promoting toward issues impacting children.
When I listen to the political discussions that affect at risk children with neighbors, family, and friends, I often hear them blame the poor habits or behaviors of one of their own acquaintances as an example of why trying to help is wasteful. It’s as if people feel an accomplishment in blaming a child’s parents instead of offering constructive suggestion that might improve a child’s life.
A close relative explained to me how a nine year old child was fully capable of correcting and dealing with the drunken and dysfunctional behavior of an abusive parent (and therefore should not need community help). A neighbor speaks of someone with mental health issues as if that person should just “make better decisions”.
It is hard to argue with people that make ungrounded (completely false) statements and don’t care about the children they speak of or otherwise clearly misunderstand the issues.
My close relative had her own fetal alcohol baby and should have been the first to know that community involvement in prenatal care would have a positive impact on the 600,000 fetal alcohol babies born in the U.S. each year. America has the highest preteen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world & one in four U.S. teens has a sexually transmitted disease, the highest in the industrialized world – we’re number one.
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There is a definite American trend towards assuming that disturbed and very young children should be able to make adult decisions & make their own way without help (especially without help from their community).
All too common are the self righteous anecdotes about “I left home at fifteen and turned out pretty well” or some other attempt to minimize or ignore the serious issues of a three year old child living in violence, drug abuse, or deprivation.
The growing number of politicians that don’t think children deserve a safety net points to an uncharitable movement that is unsupportable economically and socially. It costs our communities money and safety to let children develop into preteen moms and adolescent felons. We now have 5% of the world’s population and 25% of the world’s prison population & more crime per capita than any other nation in the world. There were 13 million jail & prison releases in the U.S. last year.
The cost of crime, safety, and prisons is in the trillions of dollars each year in America. It will surely pay to approach these children as future citizens and taxpayers and not continue the chaos of neglect that is making our communities poverty stricken and unlivable.
This destructive attitude against children has no religious roots and is mostly being promoted by political seekers that understand the reptilian appeal of blaming and hating.
These politicians well understand how blaming and hating replaces the need to think through complex issues. It also allows them to misrepresent and ignore the real problems and denigrate the people trying to help while minimizing or ignoring the children that need the help.
They lead their constituents to believe that money is saved by ignoring the children and programs that could help them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Like the Minnesota 35W bridge that fell in the river because it was not maintained; it cost 500 times more to deal with than if it had been taken care of. At risk children become at risk adults and cost our communities a vast multiple of the difference between productive citizens and dysfunctional adults.
When one works with (and comes to know) the children of violent, mentally ill, abusive parents (who were generally abused children themselves), it is hard to imagine that we would not want this frightened three, five, or nine year old child to have a chance to climb out of the painful dysfunctional life they have been thrown into.
There is an abundance of proof that establishes the economic and social argument for saving children. Three million children are reported to child protection agencies in this nation each year (when the calls are taken – MN is screening out 2/3s of the calls this year). By not responding to these children we guarantee more crime, preteen moms, dropouts, and a continued cycle of failing schools and dangerous communities. Once the cycle is broken, these children go on to have normal healthy lives and families. Until this cycle is broken, our communities will continue to suffer the consequences of failing schools, poverty, violence and an out of control criminal justice system.
We have reached a spectacular momentum arresting and incarcerating poor people (a vast majority are minorities) into a hopeless cycle of poverty, drugs, and violence.
The vast majority of America’s crime and incarceration is fed by this cycle of children born to dysfunctional parents and harsh and unforgiving circumstances. This insures more at risk children unable to learn in school or cope adequately to live among us. They soon add themselves to the high crime rates, high STD rates, and early pregnancy rates that further fuel this cycle.
Development of skills sufficient to learn, and grow into a healthy child and citizen is not a mystery. Without these skills, children simply can’t cope within their community and they become a problem (either to social services or the criminal justice system), a burden instead of a productive citizen.
My twelve years as a guardian ad-Litem allowed me to watch fifty children (most I removed from their birth homes) that were cast into an underfunded and under-resourced child protection system with inadequate & disparate resources. This has given me a front row seat to see clearly how much help children need and the consequences they (and we) suffer when help does not arrive.
It is hard to comprehend a suicide bed at Fairview hospital for a four year old. I have experienced this. The seven year old foster child that hung himself in Florida left a note. The two year old foster child that disappeared in Nevada did not leave a note.
The average person can’t comprehend the self loathing sexually abused children feel and they can’t explain it to us. Mental health issues are best left to mental health experts (that should be available to abused and neglected children). The sex abuse and violence I observed committed against very young children in child protection is common and seriously under-reported and under-treated.
The good news is we have created workable models to heal terribly abused children. The bad news is our communities are shutting down services that would heal terribly abused children. This will cost us for generations to come.
We will only recover our place in the world as a productive first place nation, if we recapture our sense of humanity and concentrate on making children healthy enough to become productive citizens.
It is economically sound policy and caring about children is the right thing to do.
No adult should deny public policy that helps the very young future citizens of our nation get the help they need to become normal functioning children and students. We are a wealthy nation that can well afford the programs and education necessary for at risk children to become functioning citizens within our communities.
Send this to your local paper, your friends, & local politicians. Consider taking the time to personalize it with your own story or recent newspaper article about abused children or troubled schools.
Stand for children.
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