More Inaction – A Response to the Editorial on Glenara Bates

We shouldn’t be horrified by the singular death of Glenara Bates. We should be horrified that 17,000 children, in similar circumstances, each day are part of the caseloads of the JFS, an agency that also oversees 800 employees. Are more resources needed or better ones? Is more training needed? Is better training needed? Are more laws needed, or better laws? Is the system so inherently flawed that we are setting up our agencies for failure?

But we are no longer horrified at the frequency of these events. The regularity of child abuse and death leaves us anticipating more of the same. Like the Reds losing, a situation not planned for, but nevertheless, not unexpected.
We shouldn’t be horrified many children would rather return to the life of abuse because they cannot live without those maternal or paternal bonds. We should be horrified we have left adults, in agencies such as JFS, without the supports necessary to do their job.

We shouldn’t be horrified about this child, who lived in poverty, or those in the other recent Enquirer news story. We should be horrified that our politicians are too busy always running for office to address the real issues (Kasich), or trying to disassemble programs that are already in place, (universal healthcare), or so damned focus on LGBT issues which should be non-issues by now, that said politicians don’t have the time, skills, interest and wherewithal to attack the problem in the main.

We shouldn’t be horrified these children want to be in their parent’s home, where they are comfortable and away from the watchful eye of strangers. We should be horrified that laws require agencies, lawyers, and the court system to return the children to the home. Even the county prosecutor, at his wit’s end, drew the only conclusion available to a sound, general public. Some adults should not raise kids. We should be horrified that, with that level of education and experience, that is the only solution proposed.
Instead, we have more inaction. Why are we looking to change the people of JFS, and not the creation of an entirely new system? Where is legislation to raise minimum wages, to keep families whole? Where is the legislation to create jobs, and not give away the store to the next hot company who comes to town? Where is the training to cover the skills gaps? Who are the judges we need to vote out? Where, if those children were removed from family homes, would they go? In Ohio, there are 14,000 kids in foster care, 2,500 waiting for adoptive homes.

Daily, grant applications for non-profits to reach the demographic of faltering parents or abused children, fall into two categories: children/poverty/literacy and adults/poverty/jobs. Systems are so fragmented that it is difficult to grant funding, because non-profits themselves are so thin, with no ability to maintain funding. Agencies build these programs pebble by pebble, not brick by brick, and inevitably become unstable and unsustainable.

Band-aid solutions to children in impoverished situations, such as Home Depot building shelves in Millvale for donated snacks or firing a JFS case worker (assuming they resigned before they could legally be fired), is admirable but also, not sustainable.
Like any other tragedy that makes the headlines, this death is good for only one news cycle in terms of raising the issues. Then, policy makers, journalists and citizens return to their regularly scheduled programming. And JFS still will have 18,000 children in their sights.

Even the Enquirer, reduces the issue to such a simplistic declaration. “Feel your revulsion. Feel your shock.” This is not talk therapy. Last time I checked, Pulitzer Prize winners take the time for more than “feel your anger.”

We shouldn’t be horrified that these cases are put away on the shelf. We should be horrified that tomorrow the newspaper will put on the front page another misleading story about Downtown development, a recap of Shayna Huber’s trial, or even Bryan Price’s count of the “F” word, and forget all about Glenara Bates.

Read text of Enquirer Editorial here.

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