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Florida Officer Arrests Children, Ages 6 and 8, at School | Time

I believe another world is possible – one where agents of the state do not have the power to terrorize black children simply because they are black children.

A police officer who arrested a 6- and 8-year-old children at an Orlando charter school on Thursday is facing an internal investigation.
— Read on

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“This” Is Who We Are But It’s Not Who We Have To Be

The Flight into Egypt - Matthew 2:13-18
The Flight Into Egypt (Jesus Mafa)

In speaking about the current administration’s interpretation of immigration and border control policies to mean that it is legal and appropriate to separate children from their parents, a woman said to me, “I don’t believe this. This is not who we are.”

I understood what she was saying, but I wholeheartedly disagreed.   This is who America is.  We have been “this” for the entire history of my ancestor’s presence in this country.  American slave holders  separated black children from parents and sold those children off in front of their parent’s eyes for over two centuries.  That’s just an example of who American has been.  Pay attention to the lived experienced of other marginalized people in this country.  They have stories that affirm this is who America is and has been for centuries.

Just because “this” is who America has been does not mean that “this” is what America will always be.  We don’t have to be this way.  America can grow up.

While I appreciate the many right-wing, right leaning and other religious leaders who have condemned this interpretation of policy, for some of them – not all – their condemnations ring hollow.  Some of them hailed the election that brought this president into office.  They championed this  administration’s dismantling of protections and safety nets programs for poor Americans. They were and are silent about this president’s global shenanigans.

Yet all of these issues are fundamentally connected.  You can’t condemn hatred and violence in one place while you ignore it or condone it in another.  You can’t say that separating children from their parents at the borders is “anti-family” while you close your eyes to the harassment experienced by children who speak against American gun policies. You can’t nuance child-harming policies because the real Jesus – the one whose family fled the massacre of children and escaped to Egypt because shoring up King Herod’s insecurities became domestic policy; the one who restored a son’s life to a widow; the one who warned of the consequences of thwarting the lives of children — that Jesus said so.

In a harkening back to the theologies that served to undergird the American institution of slavery, Attorney General Sessions has been quoting Paul. Quite frankly, ain’t nobody asked Paul nothing.  I agree with Howard Thurman’s formerly enslaved grandmother who believed that Paul was not to be consulted on some matters of liberation.  Listen to Jesus.

I’m heartened by the statements from religious leaders. I really am.  It’s something. At least.  More than statements – that the likes of AG Sessions is not reading — what is needed is for religious leaders to gather up the shards of lives scattered about in the wake of the tanks that came before this border evil.  Put your bodies on the line. Educate your members.  (If this is your conviction, put your canons where your mouth is.)  Do something. Or – shut up with your version of useless “thoughts and prayers.”

Some Statements:

“Catholic bishops rebuke Trump’s asylum changes, suggest ‘canonical penalties’

Southern Baptist Convention’s resolution calling for immigration reform that maintains “the priority of family unity:

“Franklin Graham Blasts Trump’s Immigrant Family Separations at Border”:

“AME Church condemns use of scripture by Attorney General Sessions to separate immigrant families”

U.S. Interfaith Leaders Urge Government to Keep Families Together:

And – Attorney General Sessions is a United Methodist.  Here’s a word from his bishops.

The history of America being America:

children DuBois persistence prayers

Today’s Petition for Persistence

“Give us grace, O God, to dare to do the deed that we all know cries to be done. 
Let us not hesitate because of ease, 
or the words of men’s mouths, 
or our own lives. 
Mighty causes are calling us – 
the freeing of women and men, 
the training of children,
the putting down of hate and murder and poverty – all these and more. 
But they call with voices that mean work and sacrifices 
and death to our own will and way. 
Mercifully grant us, O God, the spirit of Esther, that we say: 
I will go unto the King and if I perish, I perish.
The prayer of our souls this day is a petition for persistence; 
not for the one good deed, or single thought, 
but deed on deed, and thought on thought, 
until day calling unto day shall make a life worth living.
We want these young people to grow the grim grit of a people 
who would never believe they’re beaten and would never own defeat; 
May they snatch success and victory out of the teeth of failure
by keeping everlastingly at work, never giving up.
Give us, O God, to walk with the One who never turned His back
but marched breast forward, 
never doubting that the clouds would break. 
From “Prayers for a Dark People”
W.E.B. DuBois
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Children in the New York State 2011 – 2012 Budget: An Unfair Burden

Here is the letter that went to all New York State legislators from the Children’s Defense Fund – New York.  I’m including it here in its entirety on my personal blog because I think that how we spend our money is a moral issue.  Budgets are moral testimonies.  They are practical demonstrations of what we value, what we hold dear.  Unfortunately, New York’s 2011 – 2012 budget targets children, poor people and vulnerable families to bear enormous burdens, while at the same time, exempting the wealthiest of New Yorkers from the burden to “share the pain.”
So, I thought it important to share this letter and I hope that those who read it and the budget analysis that follows will call their elected officials.  It’s not too late.

February 22, 2011
The Governor of the State of New York
The New York State Senate
The New York State Assembly
The Children’s Defense Fund – New York (CDF-NY) is extremely concerned about the impact the Governor’s Executive Budget proposal will have on the children of New York and the future of our state.  While encouraged by efforts to reform the juvenile justice system, we are troubled by the level of reductions to preventive services, youth programs and education that will hurt the most vulnerable children and families.
We know that difficult decisions must be made to put New York on the path to economic recovery.  Bold actions are needed to ensure that the budget is balanced and that New Yorkers continue to have the opportunities that make our state strong. 
CDF-NY is working to promote critical systems change in the areas of juvenile justice, early childhood, children’s health and education.  To dismantle the cradle to prison pipeline that is funneling thousands of New York’s youth into the juvenile and criminal justice systems, we must ensure that every child has the appropriate and necessary support starting at birth. Our budget and legislative priorities reflect the principle of investing in programs that are effective and provide children and youth with the support they will need to be successful.  
Investments in early childhood, youth services and education not only lead to financial savings in the future, but these investments also produce more positive outcomes for all of us.  We cannot afford to make decisions that may reduce the budget in the short-term but create the need for more costly interventions in the future. 
Unfortunately, the Governor’s proposed budget includes significant cuts to programs that we know support families, prepare children to learn and succeed in school, and keep young people out of trouble. The proposed cuts to the home visiting, child care, after-school and summer employment programs are short-sighted actions that will prove to be more costly in succeeding budgets than the immediate savings achieved by these cuts for this budget year.  The budget proposal sends a dangerous message that New York will not invest in a child’s early development, keep them safe or prepare them for a successful future; New York would rather respond after a young person gets in trouble or falls behind in school. Even then, the response cannot be expected to meet the need. 
CDF-NY urges you to ensure that the final budget proposal is fair and does not eliminate programs that are proven to create more positive outcomes for our children.  A more detailed budget statement is attached.  Specifically we hope you will work to:
  • restore funding for home visiting and keep the program out of any block granted structure;
  • support the closure of youth prisons, the elimination of the 12-month notification requirement and support the investment in community-based alternative-to-detention and alternative-to-placement programs;
  • restore funding for subsidized child care programs to the current level;
  • reject the proposed reduction in school aid, that coupled with the loss of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, would seriously hamper school districts’ ability to serve children equitably and adequately.restore state funding for after-school programs and the summer youth employment programs;
  • oppose the creation of the Primary Preventive Investment Fund and restore full funding for the critical youth preventive programs; and
  • identify revenue options that will not hurt hard-working low- and middle-income New Yorkers. 
CDF-NY recognizes that states across the country are faced with incredible financial challenges.  Some have opted to allow this challenge to be borne on the backs of children, poor people and vulnerable families.  While everyone has a contribution to make to our becoming “whole,” not all cuts can be equal.  Some cuts leave no room for recovery and eat away at tomorrow’s promise. New York has an opportunity to show the way forward for our entire country.  Strong, inspired, principled leadership makes the difference for all of us in tough times because the temptation for too many will be to prioritize easy cuts for today’s bottom line over what New York’s children and families need now to ensure a bright tomorrow for all of us. 
Now is the time to end the legacy of investing in waste and inefficiency.  Now is time to transform those savings into resources that will make the difference in neglected communities. As you make the difficult decisions that must be made, I urge you to lead by protecting New York’s future – prioritize the needs of New York’s children and families.
Emma Jordan-Simpson
Executive Director
Children’s Defense Fund – New York Budget Priorities                  
2011-2012 Executive Budget
February 2011
The Executive Budget proposal for SFY 2011-2012 closes a $10 billion budget gap primarily through reductions in spending and shifts in state support to financially strapped counties and cities.  The $132.9 billion budget proposes an across-the-board reduction of 10 percent on all agencies and reduces state aid to localities by more than $3 billion, primarily through reductions in School Aid and Medicaid.  While encouraged by efforts to reform the juvenile justice system and some efforts to improve our education system, we are greatly concerned about the level of reductions to preventive services, youth programs and education, as well as the significant cost-shift to localities. 
Juvenile Justice
·         The budget proposes to eliminate the 12-month notification rule and close 376 beds.
  • The Governor has proposed a $13.5 million investment to improve services in OCFS (Office of Children and Family Services) facilities in the first year, and $24 million in the second.
·         The budget includes a cap on detention funding to localities.  Under this proposal, counties would only be reimbursed for youth deemed high risk by an OCFS validated Risk Assessment Instrument.  Counties would still be able to detain low and mid-risk youth but would have to cover the full costs themselves.
·         The Governor has proposed the creation of a Supervision and Treatment Services for Juveniles Program (STSJP) that will provide $31.4 million in 2011-12 growing to $48.3 million in 2012-13 for community-based alternatives to detention and placement.  (The budget also proposes to eliminate the existing $8.2 million for alternative programs, which will be consolidated into the new program.) A 62 percent funding stream is created for the STSJP. 
CDF-NY applauds Governor Cuomo’s commitment to closing under-utilized youth prisons and investing in community-based alternative-to-placement programs.  Currently, the law requires the state to provide 12-months notification prior to closing a youth prison.  This requirement prevents the state from achieving the savings that result from the significant decline in the number of youth placed with OCFS.  While this law has never made sense, it has now led to the cost of each state placement to be more than $300,000 per bed as we continue to pay staff to work in empty facilities.  Not only does this waste taxpayer dollars on an abusive and ineffective system, it prevents the state from making the necessary changes that would create better outcomes for youth and improve public safety by significantly reducing recidivism rates. 
We have strongly advocated for alternative programs because they are consistently successful at reducing recidivism, supporting youth and improving communities with a much smaller price tag.  Instead of spending more than $300,000 per bed in the state youth prisons and seeing more than 80 percent of the youth re-offend within three years, we should be investing in the more effective community-based programs, which cost between $5,000 and $17,000 per year and deliver significantly lower recidivism rates.  As the Governor said in his State of the State address: “Don’t put other people in juvenile justice facilities to give some people jobs.  That’s not what this state is all about and that has to end this session.”  We are hopeful that the legislature will support the Governor’s proposal and finally end the days of keeping empty facilities open and failing to provide youth with the services they need. 
The Governor has also proposed capping the funding for local detention in order to pay for these new alternative programs.  While, in principle, CDF-NY supports stopping local over-reliance on pre-trial detention (and the concurrent over spending), we urge you to ensure that the final budget does not punish struggling counties and lead them to make reductions in critical preventive services in order to pay for detention costs because funding for local detention has been capped.  A phased-in or staggered approach to the detention cap will allow counties the time to develop new programs that can safely keep youth out of detention.
Child Welfare and Youth Services
·         The Governor has proposed a change to the state reimbursement rate for the Adoption Subsidy program, decreasing the state share from 73 percent to 62 percent. 
·         The Governor proposes a reduction and cost-shift in Title XX funding. 
·         The budget proposes the creation of a new Primary Preventive Investment Fund (PPIF) at $35 million this year growing to $42 million next year.  This will be a competitive process for districts and is created by eliminating funding for home visiting, delinquency preventive programs, runaway and homeless youth programs, community optional preventive services, and settlement houses.  The new fund will invest 50 percent of the current funding for these programs. 
·         The budget eliminates TANF funding for programs including:
§  Summer Youth Employment
§  Advantage After-School
§  Home Visiting
§  SUNY and CUNY child care
·         The Budget eliminates $3 million for the creation of a long-term safe house for sexually-exploited youth under the Safe Harbor Act. 
CDF-NY is very concerned about the extent of the cost-shift to localities and elimination of successful programs that help keep children safe and on the path to success.  Counties and cities are already struggling with massive budget deficits.   By significantly decreasing state support and reducing overall funding for preventive programs, the Governor is creating an environment that will lead to devastating cuts for programs that are designed to protect children and support youth on a path to success. 
While we recognize the need for the state to reduce spending, the cuts proposed by the Governor will only increase the state’s need to invest in more punitive and expensive interventions.  The adoption subsidy is a successful and vital support to families who would otherwise not be able to care for the child financially.  It helps provide children with permanent caring families, and reduces state and local spending on foster care and administration.  Passing the state share to the counties will leave counties with no choice but to cut other programs that are designed to protect and support children. 
CDF-NY strongly opposes the creation of the new Primary Preventive Investment Fund (PPIF).  This action, while labeled as a positive approach to prevent foster care and juvenile justice placements, will drastically reduce the availability of preventive programs and most likely increase the need for more costly and restrictive services.  The creation of this fund lumps together critical programs and provides less than half of the existing funding.  By creating a competitive environment with significantly less money, and requiring a local match, it is likely that counties will not even have the ability to support a fraction of the existing programs. 
Most troubling of the cuts made through the PPIF and reduction in TANF funding is the loss of funds for the home visiting program, one of the most effective interventions to prevent child abuse and neglect and improve school readiness.  These programs provide much-needed support and intervention for at-risk families prior to a child’s birth or soon thereafter.  A recent study found that families enrolled in these programs are 50 percent less likely to be reported for abuse or neglect in the future and that this program decreases the chances of low birth weights for the children of African American and Hispanic women.  Studies on The Parent-Child Home Program have found that participants had higher rates of passing the 1st grade skills assessment and higher rates of high school graduation.  Providing these services up front to vulnerable families saves the state money on future child protective investigations, possible foster care placement, remedial education services and health-related costs associated with low birth weight children, while also improving the child’s growth and development as a result of growing up in a healthier and more supported environment.  We strongly urge you to ensure that home visiting remains fully funded and out of any block granted program. 
Early Childhood
  • The budget holds funding for universal pre-kindergarten at the same level as the current year.
  • The budget reduces funding for subsidized child care by approximately $55 million, including a loss of federal ARRA funds and reduction in TANF funds. 
  • The budget does not include any funding for Quality Stars NY, the new performance rating system that New York has begun to test and implement. 
  • The Governor has proposed increasing the fee for reviews of the state central register from $5 to $60. 
CDF-NY is extremely concerned about the loss of funding for vital early childhood programs at a time when they are even more critical to the stability of families and children.  While we are glad to see the continued commitment to fund the universal pre-kindergarten program, the other reductions in early childhood programs are troubling.  The subsidized child care system around New York State has continued to shrink despite the growing need for the services.  Rising costs combined with decreasing federal, state and local support are leading to the dismantling of this critical support for working families.  Subsidized child care is one of the most important supports for working families.  Child care is unaffordable for most lower-income working families.  Without subsidies, parents will either be unable to work or leave their children in environments that are not safe, reliable or preparing them for school.  Every dollar invested in early childhood services saves taxpayers $4 to $7 in the long run, and stimulates the local economy immediately. Cutting this service at a time of economic crisis does not make sense.  We urge you to ensure that at least $55 million is added back to the Child Care Block Grant in the final budget. 
  • The Governor has proposed reducing School Aid to $19.39 billion by implementing a $2.8 billion Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA).
  • The budget includes a delay of the full phase-in of Foundation Aid until 2016-2017.
  •  The Governor has proposed conducting a comprehensive review of school district mandates to identify and eliminate mandates that hamper school districts’ ability to provide services.
  •  The budget proposal will incorporate wealth as a factor when reimbursing districts’ summer school special education costs, for an anticipated cost-savings of $57 million in State Fiscal Year 2011-2012.
  •  The budget creates two $250 million competitive incentive programs to reward school districts that:
o   demonstrate significant improvements in student academic achievement and outcomes; and
o   make structural changes intended to create efficiencies. 
·         The budget proposal also includes another cost-shift from the state regarding special school placements.  The state is shifting its share of funding for residential schools to the local school districts – increasing the school district share from 20 percent to about 53 percent.
·         The budget maintains universal pre-kindergarten funding at its current level. 
The Governor has proposed many new cost-containing measures that would pass significant costs to local counties and cities.  CDF-NY is very concerned about this across-the-board approach to reducing education funding. Cumulatively, the property tax reduction, proposed GEA formula and the idea of delaying the phase-in of foundation aid would place already at-risk children throughout New York State in further risk of not receiving the support and services they need to succeed in school and in life. While we understand the need to rein in costs and applaud some of the initiatives proposed to create greater efficiency in our school systems, we are greatly concerned about the impact the proposed budget will have on already struggling school districts’ abilities to provide services and supports for their students in the near future.
Family Assistance
  • The Governor has proposed to implement full family sanctions upon the second violation of the public assistance requirements, saving $7 million in state funds.
  • The budget proposes to delay the 10 percent Public Assistance grant increase for one year, creating a $29 million state savings. 
The changes proposed by the Governor to the public assistance program are not worth the $36 million in savings that they will generate.  The new full family sanctions mean, in essence, that instead of just sanctioning the offender (the parent) they will now sanction the entire family (the children).  This proposed rule will end up punishing children who have no decision-making authority regarding compliance with the requirements.  It will also further destabilize struggling families. While CDF-NY encourages compliance, we recognize that the families receiving public assistance face many challenges and hardships.  Further destabilizing their economic stability will place many more children at risk of going hungry, living in unsafe conditions and experiencing negative influences.  In addition, the delay of the grant increase will continue to penalize the most vulnerable families in our state and leave families with 70 percent of the purchasing power the grant had in 1990.  This means less money being spent by these families in their local communities – hurting both the individual families and the local economy. 
  • The Governor has proposed letting a tax surcharge expire at the end of the calendar year for the top earners in the state.  The expiration of this surcharge on individuals earning over $200,000 and married couples earning over $300,000 will cost the state $1 billion in the 2011-2012 fiscal year and $4 – $5 billion the following year. 
 These surcharges were put in place to address the last fiscal challenge in New York three years ago.  At a time when we continue to face incredible budget deficits, devastating cuts to core services like education, and high unemployment rates, New York should not let this surcharge expire.  New York already has the most drastic income disparities in the country.  Since 1980, the richest 1 percent of New Yorkers has grown from representing 10 percent of all wealth to 35 percent of all wealth in the state.  Without this surcharge, New York will need to make even more crippling cuts in the next fiscal year. 

Black women children marriage self esteem unconditional love

Children Are Not Trophies

In the office of the doctor who performed the fertility treatments that resulted in the birth of eight babies to a mother who already had six were pictures of children — walls filled with pictures of children.

These pictures were referred to as “trophies.”

Children are not trophies. They are not accessories. Children are not to be “used”for the purpose of building one’s self esteem. It is foolhardy to bring children into the world so that we can “have someone who will love us unconditionally.”

I have heard this kind of thinking so often — from all kinds of women. Something else is going on in the mind of a person who believes, or whose experiences have led them to believe, that the only way they will get unconditional love is to give birth to someone they hope will give it them. That is an incredible indictment on society — and it is an indication of the deep wells of emptiness with which people are struggling (knowingly or unknowingly). I have heard this from young girls who believe that “this baby is going to love me, and I will finally have someone good to love.” I have heard this from adult women who believe “this baby is going to complete me.”

Children are more than self-esteem tools or companions. What an incredible burden for a child to carry! Mary Pender Greene, a brilliant psychotherapist, often provides free marriage and relationship workshops in our community. She has said often that people who are considering marriage must not go seeking for someone to “complete them.” It’s not the responsibility of a mate to make you a whole person. You are a whole person. When two people come together, it is not one half meets another one half. The ideal is that one whole person meets another whole person — and two whole people are joined together. Many marriages and relationships falter because people expect their mates to “complete” them. We can be wonderfully fulfilled by our relationships when we approach the development of those relationships as whole people — people with interests and passions…people who have done or are doing the necessary work to be emotionally healthy. We all need help to be emotionally healthy — and we should seek it when we need it!

If a marriage will falter because an adult mate is unable to make up for all of the emptiness that their mate feels — what do we expect will happen with children who cannot make up for all of the emptiness in their parent’s lives?

As a parent, I know that my children love me. But there are times when they don’t like me. I say “no” when they want me to say “yes.” I say “yes, you will” when they want me to say “no, you don’t have to.” Raising children is not about creating a group of people to surround and affirm me. Regardless of how they feel about me, my responsibility is to parent them with love. It is my adult responsibility to understand that I don’t parent them so that I can have someone to love me; I parent them because that is what they need. And I know that my parenting skills are weakest when I am slipping on my own commitments to myself.

Children are amazing, simple, easy, incredible, loving, gifted, funny and wonderful! They are also complex, exasperating, moody, selfish, childish, boorish, and stubborn! They should have the freedom to be all of that and to grow appropriately — and they can only if we don’t expect them to do something that not even another adult can do — be someone or something they were not intended to be, or perform a function that belongs to God only.

African American boys beloved community children peace

God Has Heard

14So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. 15When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. 16Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, “Do not let me look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 17And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” 19Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink. 20God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. 21He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

Genesis 21: 14 – 21 (NRSV)

Abraham, Sarah….and Hagar.

The names and stories we are most familiar with are the ones surrounding the legendary Abraham and Sarah. Abraham was faithful. Sarah gave birth well into her advanced years. Both were hospitable to traveling strangers.

But Hagar has a story, too. Out of her story comes her son — Ishmael. This is the Ishmael who was abandoned by his faithful father, Abraham and forced to flee with his mother because of the complaints of Sarah.

There is so much to unpack in the intertwining of the lives of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. I’ll leave that for another day because today, I’m thinking about Ishmael: boys who are just out there with the promise of death hovering so immanently over them that loved ones turn away. They can’t bear to stick around to witness “what the end will be.”

You can insert in this story the name of so many little boys and so many little girls — children who are caught up in the crazy drama of the lives of the adults around them. For the sake of our sanity and because of the truth of our faith, we know that God hears them.

The question here, however, is not about God — it is about us.

Do we hear?

Is there some cool refreshing “water” we can offer?

And, do we have the guts to transform the wildernesses into which the Ishmael’s of the world are thrust into beloved communities where no child is forced to walk alone, and where no child languishes under the bushes of a lonely tree?

This scripture haunts my sleep. I will return to it again and again, I suppose, until my ultimate questions are answered.

God was with Ishmael, the scripture says, and he became an expert with the bow. Granted, he needed a bow in the wilderness. Children still need “bows” today to fight for their survival. Their wilderness enemies are not Ishmael’s wild beasts, but the wild beasts of low aim, low expectations, poor health, educational disparities, institutional racism, poverty, hopelessness and adult hypocrisy.

How do we arm them with “bows” to fight these enemies?

And, how do we help them to see the difference between the kind of fighting that always produces victims — and the Isaiah 2:4 kind of fight: the fight for the justice that produces peace brought about by swords beaten into plowshares, spears turned into pruning hooks, and courage to put down the studies of war and pick up the hopeful work of peace and bridge-building?

God has heard, for sure.

God needs adults to stop stop pushing children under the trees of bureaucracy, apathy and lack of vision. God needs us to stop being so distant and emotionally removed.

We’ve got work to do — the work of arming our children with a different kind of bow because the wilderness of still ripe with beasts.

children community God prayer war youth

Do You See This? Are You Listening?

(High school students march around the James R. Thompson Center in downtown Chicago to denounce youth violence. Twenty-two Chicago Public Schools students have been killed since September, including 20 by gun violence. (Tribune photo by Tom Van Dyke / April 1, 2008)

In the last few weeks, school children in Chicago held a rally to call attention to the fact that twenty (22) students have been killed in the past school year alone. They carried signs reading “Don’t shoot. I want to grow up.” Did you see that?

This week, CNN published a story detailing how thousands of children in the United States are being sexually abused in juvenile detention and prisons. Children in the United States….did you hear that?

Today, a child in your own neighborhood –within your own range of sight — will be hurting and afraid to tell someone. There will be no parents around. There will be no trusted adults standing in the gap between them and a major mistake. Will you turn your face away from that?

Above the din of mindless cable television reporting on stuff that just does not matter and well beyond the noise of all the things that serve to distract us from really loving one another, seeing one another — beyond all of that there are these voices that we cannot ignore.

Children cry out by gang-banging, getting suspended, running away, cursing out adults, stealing. They cry out by withdrawing. They cry out by hurting themselves.

“Hurt people hurt people.”

We all are crying out in so many ways. These cries are evident in the statistics that shout the pathologies that are killing our communities. We get so worked up about the statistics, but we are doing nothing more about them wringing our hands in despair, blaming each other, blaming children….and while we are doing all of that, yet another generation falls away from us.

Adults are waging wars all across the world and children are the collateral damage. We are warring and children are dying in Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Mississippi, Florida, California, Bosnia, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Darfur, Palestine….and in our own neighborhoods. Even in our own families.

We are so busy warring, fighting and focused on our own adult navels that we don’t hear these voices.

I love the Dr. Seuss story, “Horton Hears a Who.” In this timeless and incredibly important little story, Horton teaches us that there are so many little souls who stand in danger every day because the big souls just don’t hear them, don’t see them, don’t recognize their person-hood. And as the big souls go on their merry way, living, sucking up life, warring with each other, the unseen and unheard suffer as collateral damage.

Today, take a moment to really listen to what is going on in this world. Open your eyes.

1. Tell the media that you don’t want anymore stories on mindless mess. No more stories about people’s sex lives. No more sensationalized accounts of adult obsessions. Demand to know what is going on in this world in the lives of children. The best way to judge a country is by how well it does by its children and its vulnerable populations. And no “the sky is falling reports” about how all young people are going to hell in a hand basket. They are not. Demand to know where young people are doing well. Demand to know the success stories.

2. Visit your local elected officials and ask them — “how are the children doing?” If their eyes are focused on children, then they will have to be creative about finding real solutions for housing, community violence, jobs creation, education, health…they will have to deal with the real issues of our lives. Tell them that you will be watching what they do to reduce the number of guns on our streets. And then, really watch them. For those who continue to do nothing, who cannot build bridges so that people come together to problem-solve, who cannot seem to focus on why they were elected — kick them out the next “go-round.”

3. Look around your church. Is it place of peace for children? Has your church learned how to advocate for funding for positive youth development programs in your community? Does your church speak out to support your local schools? Are young people welcomed? Is there a class offered on how to be a good parent?

4. Make your voice and your face known at the local police precinct. Enough said.

5. Talk to a young person. Really talk. Communication is a two way street, so when you have said what you want to say, close your mouth and listen. Listen to what children say and what they don’t say. And when they do share something with you, honor their courage and follow through on your word.

6. Educate yourself about the wars that are being fought all around the world. Figure out what the commonalities are. Open your eyes and see for yourself — in every case, we are losing a whole generation of children. In some places they are strapping bombs to their bodies. In other places, they are stepping on bombs as they play. Yet, still in other places, bombs are hurled at them as they sleep at night. The Chicago experience tells us that American youth obviously need a police escort just to go to school because our culture, in the words of Marian Wright Edelman has “a romance with guns.” But, mothers the world over know deeply that a bullet doesn’t love anybody. A bullet is no respecter of persons.

I don’t believe that adults just want to war and fight. Rather, I believe that adults just don’t know how to make peace anymore. We don’t know how to listen. Kurt Bestor wrote a most haunting song some years ago when he was in Yugoslavia. The Bosnians, Serbs and Croatians were killing each other, and beyond all of the violence Bestor searched the faces of children and saw terror. He saw children who just wanted to be children: to play across boundaries, to laugh…to grow up.

Listen: children still just want to be children. They just want to play across boundaries, to laugh and to grow up — in Yugoslavia, Newark, Darfur, New York, Afghanistan, Iraq, Your town, Your Family.

Is anybody searching their faces and listening but God?

The Prayers of the Children
by Kurt Bestor

Can you hear the prayer of the children
on bended knee, in the shadow of an unknown room?
Empty eyes with no more tears to cry
turning heavenward toward the light.

Cryin‘ Jesus help me
to see the mornin‘ light of one more day,
but if I should die before I wake,
I pray my soul to take.

Can you feel the hearts of the children
aching for home, for something of their very own.
Reaching hands with nothing to hold onto
but hope for a better day, a better day.

Cryin‘ Jesus help me
to feel the love again in my own land,
but if unknown roads lead away from home,
give me loving arms, ‘way from harm.

Can you hear the voice of the children
softly pleading for silence in their shattered world?
Angry guns preach a gospel full of hate,
blood of the innocent on their hands.

Cryin‘ Jesus help me
to feel the sun again upon my face?
For when darkness clears, I know you’re near,
bringing peace again.

Dali čǔje te sve dječje molitve?

Can you hear the prayer of the children?

children forsaken God Psalms

“I Belong To God”

When those to whom I belong forsake me,
then the Lord will take me up.
Psalm 27:10

I remember the day when I finally understood that I belonged to God.

It was the day when it was clear to me that I belonged to no one else. Not even myself.

To belong to God is an incredible responsibility. I tell my own children when they are expressing doubts about their abilities or when they are on the verge of inappropriate behavior — “Remember, you belong to this family.” It is enough to make us all think and straighten up — even if just for a moment.

When the children with whom you walk begin to doubt their abilities and their value, remind them that they belong to God. They will not get it at first, but hopefully, those words said often enough will become the tape playing in the back of their brains when they get older, when they face mountains…alone.

When they are discouraged.

When they look around and friends are few.

“I belong to God.”

When they have utterly failed at something – they still belong to God.

When they have experienced success…I belong to God.


children youth

But God…

But God knows the way I take
When he has tried me
I shall come forth as gold.
Job 23

For all the things we think we can predict, this much is true. We cannot predict what God will do with a child.

Jesus was born of a young mother. From before his birth, questions swirled about regarding his parentage. Though Joseph married Mary, people still considered Jesus to be a bastard child, an illegitimate child. How can a human being be “illegitimate”? That’s another question for another day.

But the point is — because of his parentage, the circumstances surrounding his birth, etc., not much was expected of Jesus. Yet, 2000 plus years later, people are still committing his words to heart. People are still inspired by his humility. People still believe…

Just goes to show you what God can do with a child. Any child. Anybody anywhere.

God does know the way we take. God knows the pitfalls, the difficulties, the joys, the sorrows. And, God knows how those circumstance serve to shape our personalities, character and potential.

God does try us. Like a mother who places a ball just out of the reach of a toddler so that the toddler will step out and walk, God stretches us and calls us forth. Sometimes, we go forth through painful territory, but…

You shall come forth as gold. Being gold does not mean being shiny and passing for “bling.” Being gold means being valuable. You are incredibly valuable. Your value is not determined by the standards of the world, but by the hope of God.

For those of you who are walking with children, here’s a message to press into their hearts: muster up the strength to walk through adversity because your walk is not solitary; your walk is not in vain. With each difficult step forward you will learn to drop more of the world’s shiny, heavy, burdensome, useless bling and own the courage to accept the value you have in God’s eyes.

Press that into their hearts by showing them how much they are valued.

Fight for all children to live in healthy, violence free communities.
Fight for all children to have comprehensive health and mental health coverage.
Fight for all children to have good schools and quality after school programs.
Fight for all children to have strong, loving and supportive families.

Fight for the gold.


child abuse children God

My God, My God, Why…..?

A friend sent a newspaper clipping to me last week and it utterly bowled me over. An 11 year old girl in the midwest has given birth to a baby. Apparently, she has been raped by her mother’s “boyfriend.” Family and friends knew of the abuse…and when the police did the DNA testing and determined who the father of the baby was, they did not have far to look: he was still in the mother’s house.

Incredible abandonment.

Incredible cruelty.


I have not yet been able to move from “My God, my God, why….” to “now that this has happened, here is what we shall do.” I’m working on that — but I’m not there yet.

My prayer is an old on…”Lord, I believe…help my unbelief.”

Anything I would write now would be driven by my doubts, my despair over what I read. My prayer is to be a help to people who will be called to walk with this little girl. Pray for those who must step into the gap for her — we all need to move through this moment but first — let’s just face the facts.

Incredible abandonment.

Incredible cruelty.

And it happens everyday to thousands of children in our own midst who often give up on the adults around them, give up on hoping that we will be adults and protect them from the edges.
We have given our children so many reasons to never trust us again. That they do is amazing and a gift from God.

Today — intentionally look into the faces of the children around you.

Look for the signs.

Look into their eyes.

Look at them.

And fix your face so that they will not be afraid to look at you, come to you, trust in you, tell you what’s going on.

My, God, my God….of course, God does know all about this. His own child hung on a cross screaming these exact same words.

The hope for this child, the hope for all of us is that we will come to know that these are not the last words. Despair does not have the last word. Because of what God’s child did on the cross, the last word has to be a word of word of triumph and hope.