There are two nations (of the 196 nations in the world) that have not ratified the Universal Rights of the Child. Somalia and America.
Somalia, because it has no functioning government, and the U.S. because we will not stop training child soldiers*.
Americans are proud of and outspoken about spirituality, values, and freedom – making proclamations about human rights, women’s rights, and so on.
My twelve years in County child protection as a volunteer guardian ad-Litem (Court Appointed Special Advocate/CASA) has taught me hard lessons.
Beaten children, sexually abused children, starved and neglected children enter the child protection system every day. Three million children a year are reported to child protection services in America.
Their numbers and stories are staggering. It is so painful and so common.
We do not offer adequate help or protection to children that need it the most.
Worse, we don’t like to talk about it. There is nothing that brings cold hard silence to a conversation than talking about my experiences with child sexual abuse or otherwise traumatized children.
When there is no discussion by those in the know, few people outside the system can understand the issues which means the media and politicians that could draw attention don’t (or they are mixed up in their understanding and speaking which is actually worse).
So nothing changes. In fact, during these lean times, programs for abused and neglected children are disappearing all over our nation and things are getting worse. Our Voices Matter was powerful program that allowed foster and adoptive kids a voice has recently disappeared due to lack of support. Many truly useful organizations are disappearing today because we don’t support children that need help the most.
From the courts, social workers, CASA programs, & health and other resources, to the foster and adoptive parents that work so hard to make life bearable for traumatized youth, child protection systems throughout this country are overwhelmed and unable to provide the services these children need.
Until I became part of the system, I had no idea that that 90% of the youth in juvenile Justice came through child protection, or that over 50% of youth in juvenile justice suffered from mental health issues with fully half that number diagnosed with multiple and severe mental health problems (the same is most likely true of children in child protection).
Without professional help, how do you un-teach drug use or sex habits to a 9 year old that has been forced to practice these things at home?
My first visit to a four year old was at the suicide ward at Fairview hospital. I’ve written about a seven year old foster child that hung himself and left a note (he hated the Prozac). There is nothing like facing a very young self-hating, suicidal child to bring home the cold hard reality that the mental health services, consistent help from the county (her new parent) will not be there. Knowing that her chances of recovering to lead a normal life are very, very, slim. This has made me feel like I’m part of a crime.
As long as we don’t talk about it, no one can know about it. Social workers are trained to not talk about it. These children have NO Voice in the substance and direction of their own lives. They suffer every day all day and we don’t want to hear about it.
Whether you are an abused child, foster/adoptive parent/social or health worker; empower yourself to start this conversation (and tell your friends/family to vote for child friendly initiatives**).
LET’S START TALKING
*It has been suggested that this is why Minnesotan’s were willing to pay 24 Billion dollars as their share of the Iraq/Afghan war over this two year budget, but unwilling to pay 6 billion dollars for healthcare, childcare, education, & infrastructure over the same period.
**My last official act as an active CASA guardian ad-Litem was to remove four children from a father whose only fault was that he could not afford daycare. The state had defunded subsidized daycare & put the money back into the general fund (just like Indiana did with the money promised to parents that had adopted special needs children this year).
It was the state’s position that it would be cheaper, and the right thing to do, to tear these children from their hard working, honorable father, and put them in foster homes, than to fund subsidized daycare. In what universe could this be true?
If you are a reader of this blog, you know that the Federal Reserve Board studies, www. AVAHealth.org, and overwhelming data over thirty years clearly proves the extraordinary costs of letting children slip through the cracks into crime, prison, and more dysfunctional families. It’s way more efficient to save a child than to help a felon or preteen mom recover from a life of abuse and neglect and the behavior problems that follow.
What good are rights if there is no discussion or enforcement?