It is imperative that I give more attention to children at-risk because of (1) a lack of understanding, (2) lack of direction, and (3) lack of competent leadership in solving their problems. By “at-risk”, I mean children in danger of falling through the cracks in the system.
Personally, I have undertaken several new responsibilities related to children and character-building. I have started teaching bible class for male high school children this quarter. I volunteered to join the Fort Worth ISD Communication Action Teams (CATs) and help to develop an effective school dropout prevention strategy. In addition, I continue my work serving on Congressman Michael C. Burgess Economic Summit Workforce-of-the-Future subcommittee, which looks at improving the workforce skills of the future generation and the vital role played by our educational systems.
All of these roles are directed at reaching young people and putting them on a productive course in life and society.
I also look at children at risk who fall through the system by examining factors related to the lives of juvenile delinquents caught up in the criminal justice system and to help the reintegrated back into society through Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks Reentry Council.
I am also take pride in the role of an international child’s rights advocate for the World’s Children’s Prize for the Right of the Child, and frequent advisor to legislators on children rights’ issues.
What draws my immediate attention back to the at-risk population was an editorial (“Mental health: Class Dismissed?”) by Star-Telegram Steve Jacob (25-Nov-07). What concerns me most is this statement:
An estimated 75 percent of children in the Texas juvenile system have behavioral health issues, and 30 percent of those in the juvenile system will end up in the adult system. An increase in the number of U.S. juvenile delinquents has been blamed in part on diagnosed and undiagnosed mental illness. Since 1991, there has been a 33 percent increase of children 7 to 12 years old appearing in juvenile court.
The problem here is not the observation, but the center of thinking of the observer.
First, it would be a leap of faith to assume that the observer is sane and completely neutral. For example, I have seen some of the most insane behavior accepted as normal behavior- a case example would be the way people drive on the highway. Nobody can say that playing arrogant bumper cars on the freeway is sane behavior- zipping in and out of traffic, at high rates of speed, chasing the fastest car on the road, and refusing to show common courtesy by yielding the right of way.
Second, sanity seems to be based on Cartoon World standards. We see a two dimensional world in our mind’s eye- my way or no way- my observation more valid than your observation- Homer Simpson people with Disney World ideations about the meanings of life and socialized behavior.
Why is it that only “75 percent of children in the Texas juvenile system have behavioral health issues”, when it seems that it is more like 199.9%? This is to say that 100% of the juveniles in the system have mental health issues and 99.9% of the rest of the population. In a word, we are all crazy. We notice only the extremes and so jaundice in our perception that we cannot properly diagnose the problem.
Anybody with a life after 9-to-5 has issues. But we are too busy exempting ourselves and stigmatizing others that we foolheartedly charge the “mentally ill” as being the cause of their own mental illness. We tend to forget that childhood is a retarded form of adulthood. This is why a 2-year old feels competent enough to walk across the street.
We tend to forget: When I was a child, I spoke, understood, and thought as a child. But then we never seemed to have put away our own childish things, such as our childish selfish behavior on the road.
Once we began to understand our own mass insanity, we might be able to see clearly enough to recognize children who are at risk and what they are at risk of.