When the word America rolls off one’s lips the image of freedom and opportunity comes to mind. We are a powerful nation with a rich history of people overcoming obstacles to attain success. As the great nation we are, we cannot ignore the plight of citizens without basic needs.
School programs that allow children free breakfast and lunch reap many benefits. It allows a child to eat that would otherwise be hungry, malnourished, and unable to concentrate. Feeding the child impacts how they learn, behave, and retain. By getting their needs met the likelihood for success raises not only for that child, but the other children in the class also. A potential obstacle to education has been remedied.
The same way meals given to children in school enhances the opportunity for overall success within the school system, medical assistance enhances society as a whole. Those without access to medical care often impact emergency rooms with illnesses that could be prevented or minimalized with appropriate medical attention. When these conditions are only seen in a medical emergency, it impacts the whole system. Without prenatal care, child wellness checks, control of communicable diseases, monitoring of various mental health conditions, and preventative medical treatment, society carries the consequences.
Strategic, well thought out programs are necessary and beneficial to society as a whole. Programs that work with problem youth can minimize the predictive, growing numbers of future prisons. By creating mentor programs, youth internship programs, sports programs and other creative venues for children, the opportunity of success increases. A university study showed that when inner city children were told and treated like they were going to college on a continual basis from pre-school to high school; the percentage of those kids that went to college was significantly greater than children not conditioned to go to college. By looking at successful magnet programs and other projects created toward changing the existing dynamic of communities past educational statistics, we see that providing enhanced educational opportunities changes the potential future of a generation. Giving children opportunities and encouragement to engage in activities they might not have been afforded can make the difference between a child feeling worthwhile and striving for accomplishments, or feeling worthless, angry and disenchanted.
As a child that was in the foster care system, I am grounded in the belief that we must help the members in our society that need it. The help is not lost, but returned. I was assisted in the system and eventually was adopted by amazing, selfless parents that opened their beautiful home and lives to me. With this acknowledgement, I am also aware that there are problems with the delivery services in many of these programs. The purpose is well intended, but often, especially in larger, impacted cities like Los Angeles, the bog of system is slow, not sufficient, delivered without customer service, and draped in bureaucracy that results in a lack of aid or positive results.
As a foster child my foster parents were given an abundance of resources including clothes for us to wear and I remember receiving toys from well intending social services workers. In truth I did not wear all those clothes because I was very much neglected and abused in that foster home. The program intended to protect children is overwhelmed and overburdened often leaving children at greater risks than homes they came from.
This is true with the service given to those seeking assistance with food stamps, medical services and other types of aid. The delivery is often cold and sterile- and even rude. I have seen this treatment in medical facilities for those in social economic distress. I have often looked at the cattle calling of mass 7:30 a.m. doctors’ appointments when the facility opens at 8:00 a.m. and there is only one doctor present- a travesty. People waiting en mass to be seen as employees go to lunch all around them at 12:00 p.m., even though many that continue to wait were not able to have breakfast and will not have lunch for fear of losing their place or having to wait even longer (or getting yelled at for eating in the building).
As a volunteer at various organizations meant to deliver services to those in need, I have seen a common denominator. They are not run like successful businesses. There is no expectation that workers must treat individuals with respect and dignity and that the product given is superior or even worthwhile. The treatment is often less than professional if not rude, and delivered in a way that doesn’t offer any real help. I often think of the child that grows up with that institution mind set. No expectation that their time is valuable as they sit around county buildings waiting for their number to be called. They expect metal detectors in every building, rude treatment, and a lack of personalization- dehumanization.
While volunteering at a government funded battered women’s shelter, I watched the employee issue cold medication, toiletries, and laundry products to a program participant. I looked down and saw her child’s face looking up from behind the barred window that separated the mothers and children from the workers. I felt sorrow. With the delivery of services the mindset should be to irradiate the problem it is intending to help, whether it is homelessness, poverty, abuse, or hunger. The service delivery should not be a part of the cycle that perpetuates the problem.