I attended a meeting last night at our local police station. The chief had issued an invitation to about 35 community members who have invested in the youth of our town. The attendees were primarily the middle and high school administrators, representatives from the local non profit counseling agency, members of law enforcement, a couple of church leaders, several students from the high school, and a smattering of local business owners/service club members.
The stated purpose of this meeting? "To review, discuss, and seek solutions to issues facing our youth, including drug and alcohol use and other harmful behaviors, in order to better support the health and well being or our Sebastopol area youth and families".
Noble purpose, yes?
So why so cynical?
Three things: parents, environment, and money.
The first assignment that the group was given was to brainstorm what would be essential in order that a child could grow into a successful, healthy adult. My immediate response is that every child needs an intact, involved parental unit. My bias is that each child have two parents. I know from first hand experience how tough the job can be and you are stressing the system with single parent families. But, failing that, a parental unit in which the parents do not live together can work for the child IF (and this is huge) the parents have a respectful relationship and a relationship in which the child's needs come first. So my cynicism starts peeking out here because I know that there are way too many children who don't even have this and all the counseling and social services and educational programs are going to have a tough time filling the shoes of two responsible and INVOLVED parents.
Cynicism begins to chortle at me when I consider the social climate in this town. First, you need to know that Sebastopol is in the center of one of the finest wine producing regions in the world. Our town's economy is, in good part, fed by the growth of grapes and the production of wine. We are also a hot spot for breweries and becoming more and more of a foodie's paradise. Now, make no mistake about it. I do enjoy my glass of red wine. Yes, I do. I am simply aware that kids in town grow up with alcohol all over the place. Add to that the two medical marijuana dispensaries in town and you now have cynicism giggling hysterically. I have no problem with ADULTS using marijuana. I have a huge problem with kids interfering with their own brain development by escaping into marijuana nirvana. Thing is, there is a sense of permissiveness in this area. Parents share their weed and their alcohol with their kids. I know a family where dad grows weed and his kid buys it from him(for personal use). And these kids are supposed to not try this stuff? NO, everyone does not have to use it, kiddo. But kids in town have easy access. Those in the know say it is easier for a kid to get weed than to get booze.
And then there is the money thing. The truancy board for local districts was just cut from the budget last week. This is painful since this program is a powerful force in getting kids to school. It's one thing when the truant child is 16 or 17. The board can make lots of recommendations and suggestions but , by that time, it most often too late to save a kid. Our target the past few years has been the younger age truant - the 7, 8, 9 year old who is not going to school because the parent can't/won't deal with it. Every child deserves an education and it is wrong for parents to shortchange their child because it is inconvenient for them to get the child to school. Wrong. Sadly, this is just the most recent example of funding gone amuck. Services and opportunities for kids are gone. Forty years ago, CA schools provided kids with wonderful summer school programs (remedial and enrichment). The Parks and Recreation programs ran rich summer and after school programs FOR FREE. After school sports programs and art and music programs in the schools (and out of the schools) have disappeared.
Whatever. I'm just angry and tired. I'm angry about the strange priorities in our country today. I'm angry that people have children and simply step away from the hard work of parenting when something else comes along. I look at the media and the messages and I think it's hopeless for many of our kids.