I compile the police blotter for The Reporter each week and review reports from six towns. I see a wide variety of incidents, including traffic offenses, retail theft, burglaries and drunken driving.
But no report is more disturbing to me than “endangering the health or welfare of a child.” I don’t see them often, but when I do, the details are usually pretty disturbing.
Last week, for example, the blotter included a report about a 2-year-old boy who was riding his tricycle down the middle of a street and not wearing any pants or underwear. When police arrived, they found mom asleep on the couch in a disheveled home with dishes piled in the sink and garbage on the floor, according to reports.
What a fantastic environment in which to raise a child. Mom speculated to police that her son got on chair in order to reach the doorknob. Imagine knowing that was a possibility and not taking steps to prevent it.
Several months ago, the police reports included an incident about a young boy who was locked out of his apartment by his mother after the two argued. He was forced to endure the cold until he went to a neighbor for help.
These reports are horribly disturbing. Children should be able to count on parents for the basics—food, shelter and education. Of course, mom and dad should provide a lot more than that, but in many instances, I fear, we’re talking about people who have no business being parents. Simply making sure that their children are safe is too tall an order.
A horrible cycle is revolving in this country and unfortunately very little is said about it. Quite simply, too many children are born to moms and dads who have no business being moms and dads. There is no family structure, and a child is seen as a nuisance rather than a gift. The results affect us all.
Often, dad is not in the picture, and a young mother is none to thrilled having a baby change the course of her life. Gone are the parties, the time with friends, the freedom that is tough to give up. Then again, why let a baby get in the way? Maybe there’s a grandmother or other family around to do the “parenting” while mom continues the life to which she was accustomed before a child became her responsibility.
In other instances, a child becomes a pawn in a custody battle. Dad doesn’t truly want custody of his son or daughter, but he’s angry at mom and will do anything to push her buttons. That often leads to threats, orders of protection and domestic violence.
And so it goes. The child comes up in this dreadful environment and learns early on that no is particularly invested in him. Kids aren’t stupid. They know when they’re a bother instead of a blessing. Consequently, they do poorly in school and often cause trouble to garner the attention they don’t get at home. They turn to drugs, get suspended or drop out of school, tangle with police or become parents long before they’re ready. Many never acquire the social skills needed to survive much less hold down a job or care for a family. The dysfunctional cycle continues.
Think about any child or teenager you know that is doing well in school, hanging out with the right group of kids, taking on responsibilities, making smart choices. Chances are they come from a family with structure that emphasizes the value of education. That’s not to say good kids don’t get in trouble. It happens, but responsible families use the incident as a teaching moment. They make sure their children face consequences and don’t make the same mistake twice.
Further, a responsible parent—even those struggling to get by—makes every effort to ensure their kids are clean, safe and have the basic necessities such as clean clothes and school supplies.
Emphasis on family and education. It really is that simple. Sure, some sacrifices are required, but putting a child first is not that hard. The other option, of course, is to stop having kids. Quit bringing them into hideous environments they don’t deserve and putting them so far behind the eight ball that they’ll never have a real chance at a meaningful life. Children deserve the best we have to offer and in many cases they’re not getting anything close.