Writer searches for child advocate

Published 4:27 pm Wednesday, October 18, 2006

By Staff
In the last few months Ihave come to a startling conclusion that I can not and will not accept about the laws, rules and regulations governing our state and local agencies. This is not a pleasant or nice subject to talk about. It is something we hide and hope won't happen to our children and if or when it does, we don't discuss it in the open. Rather we just quietly take care of the problem and pray that it doesn't happen again.
Head lice - the scourge of children (and some adults). Could it be considered abuse or neglect for a child to have this parasitic disease? Certainly not if it happens only once or twice in a child. But, what if the infestation happens 5 or 6 times? How about 10 or 20 times or more?
What is considered abuse I ask you? Does the child have to have sores in their head? Does the child have to start losing their hair? Remember that this is a child of say seven or eight years old who cannot stand up and treat himself or herself. It is up to the parent or parents to help this child and stop the vicious cycle. And if they don't, who is there to speak for the child? Is it up to the school system, DHR or the Health Department?
From the research I have done I have the answer and the answer is, to me, nothing less than revolting! Nothing and no one is the answer! This is past the point of just being &#8220sad” and it points to one of the biggest holes in our system I have ever seen. Let us look at the facts. Adults can pretty much take care of themselves but a child is another story. If a parent refuses to accept the responsibility of taking care of their children there should be some form of punishment that can be enforced upon them. But what do we do? Instead of putting the blame on the adult, we, in our infinite wisdom, do the opposite. We instead, punish the child.
We send the child home as we do not wish others to be contaminated and this is understood. It is for the good of all. Now, we do this again, and again, and again - do we see a pattern here? What is the result of this - we force the child, who cannot take care of themselves, to miss school causing them to fall behind the rest of their class. Grades will eventually start to be effected, even in the children who are A &B students. There is also another form of abuse that we force these children to endure if the problem happens time and time again. This is possibly the worst form of abuse and it deals with the isolation and ridicule that happens when other children find out about this child's problem. We can't say that it doesn't happen because that would be a lie.
Where does this bring us in the quest for an answer to my question - Who speaks for the children? Who, within the bounds of our laws, is there to stand up and put an end to this kind of suffering for our children? The school nurse can only report the problem and then send the child home. The school guidance counselor can only check the reports and maybe try to get DHR or the Health Department involved. What if someone reports this to DHR and ask for help for the child? Well don't hold your breath my friends. Due to our current laws, rules and regulations this isn't considered a high priority due limited funds and resources. Yes - you've got it. It all boils down to money. We can spend billions of dollars in money to fight the war in Iraq but we don't have the funds available to help these innocent victims.
The bottom line is that currently this is not considered abuse or neglect no matter how many times a child is infested. I am informed that no one can be sent out to inspect the child's house or any o the other places that the child may be forced to go. Only when the problem becomes so severe that the child becomes ill or starts to lose their hair can any kind of legal process begin. No one can step in to intervene against this kind of abuse and neglect to help these children. If you do, you will be in violation of the law. In this case, in my humble opinion, the law is wrong. Shame on us.
On my job I try to be proactive and not reactive in solving problems. This means that I try not to wait until something is totally broke before I react. Unfortunately this is not the case in our society. Someone must be hurt or even die before we react to solve the problem. How many of our laws have names after them. Someone had to die before we took a stand to protect the people. I do not blame the school system, DHR or other agencies but rather the rules, regulations and laws that keep these people from doing their jobs. It is the same system that allows children to suffer while parents/guardians or custodial single parents go unpunished for abuse and neglect of the children that are supposed to protect (by law). I can only say that something is very broken in our system to allow this to happen.
We can not work convicted criminals in road or &#8220chain” gangs as this is considered to cruel and unusual punishment. If you don't consider an infestation of head lice cruel and unusual punishment, may I suggest you get a nice infestation and keep it a month or so - remember you have to depend on someone else to cure the problem. You may find that you change your mind. Ask our veterans if this is what they fought for? I think you already know the answer that most will give.
What can we do about this continued abuse of our children and they are our children. This can and does affect your children and grandchildren my friends. Don't think that it doesn't. What can we do as a society? I can only urge everyone to write letters to those who are responsible for the rules, regulations and laws that prevent agencies from helping our children. Use your power as a voter and make sure where people stand before you cast your vote. Until that time, the answer to my questions &#8220who stands for the children” in cases like this - The answer will remain &#8220No one!”
Dana Padgett is a resident of Brewton.