Recent violent events against children and adults in our country have disconcerted and frightened us. To think that we can send our children to school on any given day and experience the horror of them never coming home is incomprehensible. Yet, exactly that happened in Newtown, Connecticut.
Time to undo destructive family legacies
In this past year, 16 mass shootings killed 88 people.
We have heard much about guns, mental illness and issues in a perpetrator’s past. There are many reasons why certain individuals kill people. Within private worlds of these individuals, reasons may seem logical but are inaccurate and lead to mental chaos that erupts in shootings.
I think we will continue to see the nation struggling to bring some kind of order to these sets of chaotic circumstances.
Start with present systems and start to heal legacies
I have been writing a great deal about families and how important it is for children to be raised and disciplined in healthy ways. So much of what happens in the lives of mass- shooters stems from what went on within their family of origin. We certainly need a huge paradigm shift to undo our destructive family legacies if we are to offer our children emotional health.
However, we must look at the systems that are responsible for assisting our children who have problems and how those systems manage overwhelming odds. In the past two decades, we have witnessed a huge decline in funding. Our states and our country no longer offer funding to many valuable organizations that have supported and helped children and families. I know we at Lakeside have seen many transitions in funding to our juvenile justice system, our mental health system, our school districts and most of the organizations that provide services to children that are struggling.
Scapegoats don’t solve problems; they overwhelm.
It is easy to label, blame, shame and look for a scapegoat. People take it to a political level and argue differing priorities which stops progress. Rather than criticize our systems, I think it is more important that we begin to look differently at our whole world of caring for our children.
For years, we have been fragmented in our approach to helping children. It seems we have built silos of care where one system has no connection or communication to another even though both work towards the same goals: a safe and healthy environment in which our children can grow. At a time when countless systems are overwhelmed with growing needs, these systems are being asked to stretch to provide more services with less staff and resources.
How will less satisfy more?
We need some different ideas and approaches. Now.
Like others in our field, we recognize more than ever that the numbers of problems we are experiencing with children and teenagers have been rising while resources are being severely cut. Our country and our states also have serious economic issues that contribute to this serious set of circumstances that deprive our systems of being able to deal with these growing circumstances.
For example, in Pennsylvania, $800 million was cut from our educational systems. After severe cuts already occurred in all of our other systems, this one has resulted in a devastating blow to children and teenagers who need special help.
This is a time when we must rise to face these issues with courage, competency and compassion. We need a complete overhaul of systems that care for children. Further, it is vital that we be intentional about our next steps. If we do not, I fear more tragic shootings will happen.
The mass shooters have borne childhood issues that could have been diagnosed, treated with propery therapy, referred to a comprehensive program to help, or placed on a different path by capable professionals who truly care.
In our programs, I have seen so many students with significant potential to create violence, chaos and tragic events turn around. They did so because of the system supporting them that handled their needs appropriately.
It can be done!
We dare not ignore the devastating issues that are so prevalent among our children and teenagers.
In my next set of posts, I feel compelled to look at several ways I believe we can create a different world of care for our children.
Not only do we need to work harder to help caregivers, but also our systems of caregivers; we need to be aware, capable, efficient, equipped and empowered to provide the help that our children need. By no means is this an easy task. Nor do I propose to have all the answers.
Yet, I know of many amazing people who truly care and have the capability to use their gifts and strengths to assist our children and families. It is time to shift the paradigm and give them the tools to change our world. Let’s make our country a safe place for every child to grow and become a healthy adult. I look forward to exploring these issues with the readers of Lakeside Connect.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network