“Children in the United States are suffering in a number of ways, and it is we as a nation who are failing them.”
Nikolas Cruz, the 19 year old who confessed to killing 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, suffered from a number of behavioral issues and anxieties, many of them perhaps from birth. Despite all the signs that he was troubled, the 19 year old did not receive the help or services he needed.
The baby from Idaho, with a fractured skull and brain bleed, was a victim of shaken baby syndrome and was also severely malnourished, getting only enough calories to keep his heart beating.
In New Jersey, young girls are victims of human trafficking, as two men are arrested for running a prostitution ring which used underage victims as young as 12 years old, turning children into sex slaves.
12-year-old Katelyn Nicole Davis from Georgia who committed suicide, stating that she had suffered from physical and sexual abuse by a family member, streaming her suicide live as a cry for help on the site Live.Me.
Children in the United States are suffering; suffering from abuse, from neglect, from child sex trafficking, from behavioral issues, and often from those who supposedly love them the most; their parents or guardians.
Children in the United States are suffering in a number of ways, and it is we as a nation who are failing them.
As our nation continues to fight a losing battle against an opioid crisis, we fail the children who are often the hidden victims. This opioid crisis in America continues to claim more victims and, continues to destroy more families. Each day in the United States, an estimated 142 people die of fatal overdoses, 91 of these from opioids, totaling to a staggering to 52,000 drug overdose deaths in 2015. Public health officials call it the worst drug crisis in the nation’s history. Indeed, the deaths from heroin alone have surged and have claimed more lives in 2015 than homicides by guns. Yet, it is the children who are often left behind, are placed into a foster care system that struggles to keep up with the number of children needing homes.
Too many times, our failure to help the children in our lives leads them to suicide. Like Katelyn, suicide continues to claim countless lives of children in the United States each year. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds in the United States, with roughly 5,000 teens taking their lives each year. Furthermore, at least 25 suicides are attempted by teens for every complete suicide. A study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that the rate of suicides in teenage girls has reached a 40 year high, while suicides among teen boys has also increased.
At least 90% of teens who kill themselves, according to The American Academy of Pediatrics, have some type of mental health problem. This may include alcohol or drug abuse, anxiety, behavior problems, and depression. Indeed, these troubled youth also often have challenges and problems at school or with friends or family. For some, it is a combination of both. In addition, many of those teens that do commit suicide were victims of bullying, including cyberbullying, and of physical or sexual abuse. Along with this, there is often also a lack of a support network of some kind for the teen, as well as a poor relationship with parents and family members.
“ Through our words, through our smiles, through our actions, and through our hugs, may we all begin to show every child we meet our love.”
As one who has cared for over 50 children in my own home, as a foster and adoptive parent, I have seen these children time and time again. There have been those children who have come through my own home who have suffered from intense trauma; traumas that would bring your nightmares. Over the years, I have found that children need one thing. Now, to be sure, children need structure, they need stability, and they need educational opportunities. Yet, what they need the most is one simple thing; they need a parent or an adult in their life who will be there to love them enough, unconditionally, and in a consistent manner.
Sadly, far too many of our children today come from homes where violence reigns. Profanity, abuse, and harsh words fill the air that surrounded a child. Additionally, where love is to be a child’s cornerstone, it is neglected instead, as the basic needs of the child are not met, and where the emotion of love is instead substituted with just the opposite. Along with this, there are those children who have had poor examples of parental behavior in their lives.
In this world that seems to be falling apart at the very seams, it is especially important that we love our children at every opportunity, and in a variety of ways. Without this type of love, a child will not form necessary and healthy attachment with others, resulting in a number of attachment disorders. Emotional difficulties such as a of lack of self worth, trust, and the need to be in control often result in the lack of unconditional and healthy parental love. Violence, apathy, and a host of other emotional and physical problems are of the result. As anyone who has worked with troubled children will tell you, most of these children face an enormous amount of emotional issues, many times stemming from the lack of healthy love.
Let us, you and I, take up this mantle. Let us show love to every child that comes before us, and in our paths. Whether it is our own children in our family or the neighbor’s child down the street, the shy teenager at the grocery store check-out line or the rude child at the mall, the selfish child at our friend’s house or the child with learning disabilities in our own child’s classroom; each of these children need us to show them love. Through our words, through our smiles, through our actions, and through our hugs, may we all begin to show every child we meet our love. This is where change begins, and this is where love and compassion for others starts to spread.
Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 15 years, and he and his wife have had over 50 children come through their home. He is an international consultant to legal firms and foster care agencies, as well as an empowerment and transformational speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system. He is the author of several books, including The Foster Care Survival Guide, and writes for several publications. Dr. John has appeared on CNN HLN, Good Morning, America, ABC Freeform, and elsewhere, He and his wife have received many awards, including the Good Morning America Ultimate Hero Award. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.