I have been watching quite a few documentaries lately. Today I watched Prison Kids: A Crime Against America’s Children.

They looked at children getting arrested in Ohio, Louisiana, and Florida. Children are getting arrested for things like skipping school, breaking curfew, and cussing in the school parking lot. My heart broke for these children and teens; especially the ones that were found to have some type of mental illness.  One thing is evident and our system needs to be reformed.  Some children in juvenile detention centers were given medications that were too high and one has to wonder what is the consequences of that?  As a punishment they are put into solitary confinement for like 23 hours a day. There has been a three decade study on solitary confinement making the person’s behavior worse. None of this is working!

When looking at the cost of arresting, court time, and jail time wouldn’t that money be better served in a more positive treatment plan instead? What about teaching these children how to get out of trouble and supporting them? Honestly I don’t know how to implement something like this but these children are our future.

One thing that seems to happen often is when a minority child gets into trouble they are labeled as bad and criminalized. It may take years before the bad behavior is actually found out to be some type of mental illness. How sad is that? How many years does a person have to go through being labeled wrong? White people aren’t the only ones to have mental illness or different types of disabilities. However, I have seen white children even being wrongly labeled and pushed aside.

There was a teacher that thought a student in my class should be kicked out of the school because of her bad behavior. The little girl’s brother was in the school the previous year and the boy has some form of autism. The mother is overwhelmed and has no clue how to handle both children and has created bad behaviors in her children. My boss called an agency that sends a worker to observe my classroom and the child (with parent’s consent) and help with ways to support the child and give mom the resources needed. My middle child taught me how to think outside the box when it came to parenting and dealing with children. My boss, the case worker, and I met bi-weekly to discuss the little girl’s progress and what things we could try in the classroom. We were not going to give up on this girl without doing everything we could first. I’m happy to say that there has been some very good improvements. If we had the same attitude as the now ex teacher that mother would have felt terrible having her daughter kicked out of preschool and who knows what would happen to the girl.

Just like a woman said in the documentary, help needs to happen as young as possible. Florida has a program called Promise that judge Elijah Williams helped create. He saw day in and day out children coming into his courtroom that needed help and resources to turn their lives around. There is a gentleman in New Orleans that helped make reforms in the juvenile detention centers.

I have to wonder about when a child or teen gets out of treatment center or detention center what support does he or she have? They are going back to the same neighborhood, family, and situation. There has to be something that can help support them when they get out and stay in a positive mindset to stay on a good path.

What also broke my heart is how many children and teens go to the detention centers with PTSD because of the violent homes and neighborhoods they live in. I know first hand how that much stress on a child changes them and causes mental issues. How do we make changes that show hope and a better path?

Just because someone doesn’t live in the bad part of town doesn’t mean it won’t affect everyone. It does, what happens to one person has a domino affect. In America we have some pretty big problems; gangs, drugs, human trafficking, child abuse, sexual abuse….the list goes on and on. We have to address them and do our best to help in some type of way. I have three children of my own and have raised them to be good people. I have nieces and nephews that I have also been there to help love, guide, and teach. My children’s friends have adopted me because I respected and loved them. I remember telling one girl (who was having a sexual relationship with someone who was pretty much using her) how beautiful she is and deserved to be treated better by that boy and from herself. I explained how ugly low self esteem is but she didn’t have to stay that way. We had quite a few discussions about her character, dreams, goals in life, and ways she could better herself. It took her a few years but she finally got into counseling and is on a positive path.

I can only hope I am able to continue helping other people. Maybe when my life calms down a bit I can volunteer with the big brothers/big sister program. If we want our world to be better, we have to do something about it.







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