As father, grandfather, Hartford resident, and leader of an organization whose promise is “So every child believes in tomorrow,” I’ve been thinking a lot over the last few weeks about what we say to those children when they see and hear what’s been happening in Hartford neighborhoods and in a South Carolina church. I’m reminded of a quote from the movie, To Kill a Mockingbird, "There's a lot of ugly things in this world, son. I wish I could keep 'em all away from you. That's never possible." How do we help children – and parents – make sense of the violence in their communities and in sacred places? How do we help them to feel safe? How can we keep them on a path of healthy growth and development during crises and tumultuous times?
The Village Blog
Hear our views and news about our work with others to improve the quality of life for children and families in the state. Our blog features Village leaders and other experts. Join the conversation by sharing and commenting on the posts.
The recent news that over 1,200 children were suspended from kindergarten and first grade from CT schools last year was appalling. Worse is that number increased nearly 20 percent from two years ago. Success in the early grades paves the way for long-term academic success. But, when children fail early in life, it puts them at an extraordinary disadvantage – for their entire life. They just can't catch up, without significant – and costly – help. The problem – and the solutions – begin before kindergarten. With the right supports, vulnerable children can succeed. We need to act now to make sure that happens.
I understand the need to keep our State’s fiscal house in order, but does it have to be at the expense of our most vulnerable children? Yesterday’s announcement by the Governor’s office to cut $48 million from the State budget to ensure we don’t end the year with a deficit was not a surprise. What was dismaying was that the largest cuts – a total of $8.8 million – are to the Department of Children and Families, including programs at both ends of the spectrum, from prevention to crisis.
Voices are powerful. When they speak the truth – even when it’s painful or harsh – people listen. Personal experiences with child abuse and mental health conditions are not easy topics to discuss. But, the impact of sharing your perspective and your thoughts about how our health care system can help prevent abuse in the first place and how children and young adults can get the help they need to recover from or cope with mental illness, can be immensely rewarding.
Since arriving in Scotland for the 2014 World Infant Mental Health Congress, I've been struck at how much the improvement in services for children with mental health issues – and programs to prevent problems from occurring in the first place – are rooted in history, trial and perseverance. Our work at The Village to design and pilot a ‘mid-level developmental assessment’ for young children is an example of this blending of old and new.
Working in the social services field I see daily the many opportunities that exist to love thy neighbor. One of these opportunities is to provide a home for a child in need.
I’m thrilled that our legislators and Governor are showing a strong commitment to expand access to high-quality early childhood care and education. We at The Village know how critical it is to reach children early in life – to provide opportunities for children to develop in all areas: emotionally, socially and academically.