Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Screech Screech Screeeech

That's the sound of me, dragging my soapbox back out into the light.

There was a horrible crime committed recently. A mother took her two baby boys, ages 1 and 2, to a motel where she smothered them to death with her bare hands, then strapped them in their car seats and rolled the car into the Edisto River.

I shall not engage in the usual unhelpful bleating that surrounds such crimes.

I shall instead, delve into something much colder, much crueler.

As horrible as the deaths of those two little babies was, they are now beyond pain and suffering. Whether you believe they are safe in the arms of Jesus or simply just gone from this life doesn't matter.

May I now call attention to the thousands and thousands of infants and young children who are in homes where they are subject to emotional and physical abuse or neglect?

Whether purposely on the part of the care taking adult out of what ever cause - lack of maternal attachment, drug/alcohol abuse, mental illness - or accidentally by simple ignorance.

Don't you wonder why so many young people from poverty stricken areas turn to crime and drugs? Why they drop out of school at higher rates? Why girls are bearing children out of wedlock? Why boys are fathering children out of wedlock? Why our eduction system is in shambles?

It is because if you are going to even begin to address the problems of crime, teen pregnancy, and poor educational outcomes, you must know and understand that what happens to babies from conception to age two or three are THE MOST important factors in their lives.

Prenatally, the fetus needs proper nutrients and a drug/alcohol/tobacco free environment if all its parts, especially the brain are to develop normally.

Postnatal, the infant is born with an unfinished brain. What happens, or more importantly, what does not happen in the first two years of life determines whether a child is ABLE to learn once they hit school.

Children born into poverty to parents with little to no support (or don't even know what support they need or have access to) are at high risk to have their little brains starved. Starved for the nutrition, stimulation, and emotional bonding they need to succeed at anything once they get to school.

And guess what? There is an established program that has been proven over and over to work. Families participating in this program have fewer babies, fewer drug/alcohol issues, fewer domestic violence incidents. The mothers use fewer social services, finish high school at a higher rate, have more jobs. The babies benefit also, the education and support given to the mothers gives the babies what they need in those critical two years of life so they enter school ready and able to learn. This program has been in place in several regions, some up to 20 years and the results are rock solid across all ethnic groups. Because the problem is poverty and lack of knowledge, not skin color.

I would love to spend my taxes for this program to be available for every new mother who wants it. Everywhere. It's called the ounce of prevention and we need to start looking at the overwhelming problems of crime, teen pregnancy and school drop outs from infancy.

Oh, the program? The Nurse-Family Partnership.

What if that mother in Orangeburg had had a trusted nurse coming to visit her and her little baby boys? Don't you think those boys would not only be alive now, but thriving?


jaz said...

If we actually wanted to work toward solutions to some of our most urgent problems, than yes, absolutely, this would be the way to go.

But, of course, the loudest voices in this country do not want solutions. They just want someone they can feel superior to.

Res ipsa loquitur.

JanetLee said...

If it isn't someone to feel superior to, it's someone to feel threatened by. We'd rather denounce and point fingers, scare up boogeymen and blame everyone else for everything. Problem solving is boring. Name calling gives us a little evil thrill. Denouncing others makes us feel secure and superior. Being afraid of some half understood something makes us feel alive in the same way horror movies do.

The solutions are there, but we are so busy blaming and finger pointing left/right that no one can get the solutions implemented.

Sharon said...

I'm just grateful there's a voice of reason (yours) in this country at all. And that the program you mention exists at all.

Maybe you should run for office, Janet.

JanetLee said...

Sharon - Thanks. I could never run for office. Or hey, hmmm. That Alvin Greene did it. I could hold a yard sale to raise money....dang girl you might be on to something.