Saturday, December 21, 2013

Where is Jeremiah Oliver? A Country's Responsibility

Is Jeremiah Oliver a "throw away child?"

Did his family's neglect or aggression lead to his disappearance?

Where is he?  What happened to him?

This is a story that stains our humanity.

What can we do to protect children who live with families that are unable to care for them? What can we do about devastating problems such as drug addiction, mental illness, and alcoholism that often lead to child neglect and abuse?

When a culture and families let children down, there's a problem.  Children have a right to a safe home, good education, and health care.  Children deserve time to play and grow with care.

First, I wonder how school systems can teach students about the care and responsibility needed when raising children. This is particularly important for teens who have not had the gift of warm, caring homes, yet all children can profit with regard to learning about the privilege and responsibility of parenting.

Next, I wonder how social service and community agencies can transform to better address today's needs and responsibilities.  How can we support those who want to do a good job by their children, and perhaps fine or remove those who are not committed to caring for their children.

After that, I wonder about the responsibility of businesses and organizations that profit from individual's hard work and the community's support--how can they reach out with funds, time, and efforts to strengthen communities which in turn strengthen children's chances at a positive childhood.

Where is Jeremiah Oliver?  What is the story related to his disappearance?  What secrets do his siblings, relatives, neighbors, and parents hold--secrets related to his whereabouts?  How many other children are lost, neglected, and in pain--children in our midst?

When children in your midst suffer, it is difficult to find the necessary support.  Children who struggle with poverty, violence, and neglect are typically clustered presenting what seem like impossible problems to solve.  Families that struggle with alcoholism, drug abuse, and poverty may not know how to access help, and it's possible that there is little help to access.  Then there's the case of privacy, and attitudes of "mind your own business"--when is that appropriate, and when is that not appropriate.  As teachers, we're mandated reporters, so when we see signs of abuse or neglect, it is our responsibility to report.

I believe the welfare of children is the most important barometer of a country's health and success--I don't know all the facts and statistics at this point, but I do want to take the time to pay greater attention to the children in my midst, and do what I can to improve their care, opportunities, and chance to have a healthy childhood.