“I believe the children are our are future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be”
– George Benson song (1977), covered by Whitney Houston (1985)
music by Michael Masser, lyrics by Linda Creed
Children have been directing my life for three decades now as I have taught them daily. I have had the good fortune to instruct children in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia, and South America. I have worked with them in public schools, performing arts centers, private schools, my own studios, and even at Graham Windham, the orphanage that Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton founded (1806) and sings about in the finale of the current Broadway blockbuster Hamilton. And Celina and I have raised our own two boys (17 & 13) with the daily, deep commitment that home-schooling requires.
There is a righteous uproar today in the U.S. about the zero-tolerance policy of separating migrant families who come into this country illegally. The horrors of children being separated from their parents is terrible, traumatic, heart-breaking, and has lasting consequences. Even in the best of situations, when it is truly necessary to separate families because the parents cannot adequately care for their children, the consequences are long lasting and traumatic.
My mother was the executive director at Lutheran Social Services in Lansing in the 80’s and 90’s and I remember well her struggles with the courts and service agencies. My mother made very clear to me that she believed separating children from parents should only be used as a last resort. She believed that a home where there is neglect, yet the child is not in danger, is often a home where the family (and the community) is better served to stay intact and receive intervention and assistance rather than taking the child(ren) away from their parents. In short, she taught me how strong the bonds of children and parents are even when the parenting can be neglectful of the child’s needs.
It is America’s big heart that is holding policy makers to a higher standard than what we see today where migrant children are taken from their parents. We can do better. By speaking loudly, the American people are demanding a higher morality.
When this issue rolls over and is long gone let’s be sure to keep the flame of righteousness burning bright and bring that light to shine onto the problem we have here at home. Based on this article in the Atlantic (2014), it appears that tens of thousands of children are traumatically taken from their innocent parents each year in the U.S. (https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/07/in-a-year-child-protective-services-conducted-32-million-investigations/374809/) Our media ought to cover this issue and our hearts ought to break equally.
Sadly, it seems our fine state of Michigan is a leader in taking children from their parents, often when parents are innocent of neglect or abuse. See here: (http://stateofopportunity.michiganradio.org/post/when-government-steps-separate-parents-children-permanently) (2016)
Children are indeed the future; may we care for each child with the best of our humanity.