Letter: System fails children, families, communities

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 27, 2022

I remember days of reading news or seeing nightly stories from local and national headlines where youth were committing crimes ranging from small petty offenses to heinous and violent acts.

So many quickly shared the same question I had: where are the parents? I imagined they must be on drugs, not caring, making similar life choices or absent. Eighteen months ago, that all changed for me and my family. We went from naïve and ignorant — believing laws were set up to help and empower kids or their families and protect society — to realizing the truth: the system is broken and fails our youth, families and communities where they live.

I watch as officers refused or expressed “knowing better than to bother filing a petition” because more is invested in the ink, paper and printer than the thoughts of accountability and what we are teaching our children. Laws have been written to “protect children” from being buried in the system, but now it is nearly impossible to get any punitive action of any kind taken. Youth violence is only escalating.

We have parents who cannot discipline or parent children because we are all held to a different standard after 18. When a child attacks you, physically assaults you or endangers the life of others, we collectively have decided as a society to look the other way. No one with the ability will change laws, protect families or public, but everyone collectively asks where the parents are and why won’t they do anything.

As a mother who has worked in public service for over 20 years, served as a patient advocate and adopted children from the system only to have that system fail and continue to do so with no response or intention of change I ask, “Where are the services and officials my tax dollars provide?” My child has attempted to cause great bodily harm, broken out of secured facilities and violated court orders but continues to be allowed to skate past unscathed and told “one day this will change when you’re 18.”

Long after the system has failed him, it will then come back to break him. Those to lie in his wake will serve simply as an example of all the state is willing to wager.

Our systems show signs of how far they are willing to go and just how expendable our citizens are to those who are minors and unwilling to live by the rules of society: no consequences or complications for them until that 18th candle or they finally commit a heinous-enough act to ask “where the parents are, why they didn’t do more and gloss over their role in why this keeps happening.”

— Adrienne Hill 

China Grove