Truancy, or since when did parents become the enemy?

I know, it's hardly Thanksgiving-y, but it (truancy) has been in the Chicago Tribune a lot and today's quote on the front page pushed me over the edge. (And I think I'm getting too predictable. J. can look at a newspaper and know ahead of time which things are going to make me mutter over my coffee.) I've already done a lot of thinking about truancy and this series of articles has brought all that to mind again.

But back to the quote. It is from a state representative (Linda Chapa LaVia) who chairs the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. She is creating a task force because, "Kids are dying on the streets because they are not at their desks reading and writing." Deep breath. Children are not dying because they are not at their desks. Children are being shot because of a complete breakdown of families. This is not a truancy issue.

In fact (and this may not surprise you), I have a whole lot of trouble with the notion of truancy. The idea of truancy pits the government/schools against the parent. It is in effect saying, we know better than you how to raise your children. It is far more important for your children to be under our care than under yours. You are incapable of making good decisions about your children, and you need to let us make them for you. And after enough years of this, everyone believes it. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I understand that there are dire family situations out there; that there are parents who do not do the things they should for their children. I know we live in a very broken world. People who travel in adoption circles probably know better than the general public just how true this is. Children do get hurt by those who should love them. But let's not kid ourselves that forcing a child to sit at a desk at school is the answer to these problems.

If everyone is so concerned about education, why are we not educating parents along with the children? Why does the system work so diligently to separate children from their parents? Why does it seem that everyone thinks parents are the problem instead of the beginning of a solution? Please don't get me wrong. This is not a problem caused by the teachers. The vast majority of teachers truly care about children and teaching, but they don't want to be the parent to every child in their classroom. The problem is the mindset that says the educational system is in charge of children, instead of being a resource that parents choose to make use of.

And it's not just low-income, people of color (though with truancy, that's really the population we're talking about), who fall into the school-in-charge trap. How many times have I heard of parents considering taking their family on a trip, but opt not to because the child will miss too much school? As if the worksheet will profit the child more than the experiences the child would have had with his or her family. It's a small example, but one the illustrates how the needs of the school come before the needs of the family. And it makes me wonder who, really, is in charge.

I realize I don't show my crazy-radical hand very often, and I promise to go back to keeping it under wraps again and talk about nice things, such as how I have enough dough ready to roll into 6 dozen crescent rolls.

This child is 10!  That is a crib she is in, now imagine any 10 year old you know in a crib. All day. Every day.
How can we live with ourselves?

Continuing to advocate for the children in Bulgaria. Their files were sent back which means that they cannot be advocated for on Reese's Rainbow or have any funds donated towards their adoptions. It means they are essentially invisible and unwanted. It tells the government and the agencies that yes, indeed, their initial assumptions were correct. No one wants a child like these. They are not worth it.

But they are! They are created by God in His image and we are called to care for them. They are truly the least of these. I cannot let them go; I think about them in nearly every free moment that I have. I'm going to post one of their pictures here at the bottom of each of my posts each day. Would you join me in praying for each of these children? Pray that a family would come forward who is willing to adopt them. Love them. Pray that they will know they are not forgotten. There is still hope for these little ones as their files can be specially asked for, it just adds time to the process.

This is Garnet. She is 10. Ten years old and lying in a crib. It's all she's ever known. How can we let this happen? How can we leave her there knowing now that she is there? Despite what she has lived through, she still looks as though she has life in her eyes. Imagine what she would look like with the love of a family.


LawMommy said…
I am 100% behind you on the issue of parents choosing not to go on a trip because of school. (And in our school district, we have a form that the child takes to school and gets signed by their teacher(s) so that the school understands that the child will be gone a trip.) I've never had a problem with this form, but I think there are some schools that make it more difficult.

Last year when Gabriel was having some intense stomach problems, he missed a lot of school. I think, 10 days. And we got a letter threatening us with the truancy officer, and I went into the school with my kid, and his grade card, and a list of the days I had taken him to the doctor, and I suddenly had no problem.

But I am an educated woman with a scary job and access to doctors who were willing to write notes to the school if necessary.

Not all parents are so lucky.

So I see your point.

On the other hand, I see kids in juvenile court whose parents have no control (and in some cases, no interest) in what their kids are doing, and there is no question in my mind that those kids would be better off sitting in school then wandering the streets getting into the trouble that landed them in juvenile court to begin with.

There are a lot of kids whose parents are totally useless when it comes to actually parenting their kids, and I do think that societies have an obligation to make sure children have a basic level of education, and that when parents are unable or unwilling to insure that their children are being's a problem.

I don't know how to fix it, though. So I guess this is a long rambling response which is, basically, I feel your frustration.

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