There is a staggering amount of chatter hitting each of us from all sides – social media, network news, community forums, Super PAC advertising – about how to improve the economy, guide policy, elect someone from the “home team.” But to a child, the talk must seem like a prolonged playground brawl with bullies. There is no end to the scuffle until someone wins, and that inevitably means the loser walks away with a black eye.
What is the message to our children who watch us brawl (um, debate) in Nebraska for example, and within the same political party, whether illegal immigrants should be offered the humanity of prenatal care? And in states like Missouri, where a poor economy is driving more children into the state’s foster care system and whether lawmakers should cut nearly $13.6 million from the foster care budget and eliminate dozens of child protection jobs? And in Georgia, where police took a kindergarten child away from school in handcuffs in a patrol car during an uncontrolled tantrum, and whether that is good practice for handling 6-year-old children. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that these are just a few of the many examples of how we are failing our youth. When did we stop caring about children?
In this year of elections and winning, we simply must drive a conversation that puts children and families first on the agenda and with information that is always drawn back to – what is best for children, particularly those most vulnerable – homeless, hungry, under-educated or abused. How can we assure a safe and thriving community that demands each child has a viable future in this country, no matter where or under what circumstances they are born? How can we insist that we raise our children, all children, in an environment of hope, rather than despair? What needs to happen to make this a nation that cherishes childhood?
Ask your local, state or national candidate, from school board to presidential, “When elected, what you will do for children?” And then ask them to be specific about programs and services that they will support with passion, commitment and cash. And keep asking. The more we ask, the better chance there is that the children watching us this year will believe that we do actually care about them.