Sunday, March 17, 2013

Child Abandoned... I See You

One (or more) of the students in your classroom full of 12-year-old prepubescent, pubescent, or even post-pubescent darlings is flunking. Said child hasn’t turned in work since God was a boy and considers it a personal affront that you are even bringing it up. This after being suspended for a fistfight and spending time in ISS for throwing food in the cafeteria. You’ve already checked the grades, and this child has six F’s and a D+ in PE. Blazing eyes that look you up and down like you’re a leper, the smirk that pings off your patience like a rubber ball, and the words, “You don’t tell me what to do,” make you want to shove two fingers up those flared nostrils and drag that child by the head just to test whether or not you actually have the strength in your upper arm to chuck this impertinent, ill-mannered little biscuit clean over the balcony.

Instead you decide on a phone call home and while you’re looking up the student’s phone numbers, the situation you’ve seen a thousand times repeated, presents itself yet again: no parents listed.

Child abandoned.

I would say that 90% of the parents who send their kids to us every day are amazing. Their devotion to their children is appreciated as well as very evident. But in the 18 years that Sean-Martin and I have been teaching, we have seen countless children who are abandoned by their parents in some form or another. Kids whose parents are divorced and one is no longer present in their lives. Kids whose parents are divorced and neither wants to take the responsibility so they bounce the child back and forth. Kids who have had a parent commit suicide. Kids whose parents are incarcerated. Kids whose parents are more interested in their newest romantic relationship than they are in raising their own child. Kids whose parents are addicted to drugs and alcohol. Kids whose parents suffer from depression and can’t get out of bed. The scenarios are endless, and many parents lay somewhere on the spectrum between sympathy and blame.

And, yet, if we continue to pass judgment on those broken parents, nothing will change. This is a dicey one for me. I'm the first to jump up on my platform and scream, "PARENTS! DO YOUR JOB!" But the truth of the matter is, there are so many broken people out there, and those people have children, and those children often end up being broken too. I've been getting this sense of urgency lately that I need to put the blame and judgment aside for these broken parents and remember that they're broken and, no matter how angry and indignant I get, I have to lock it into my brain that all that anger and indignance and blame does nothing to fix anything. So, by continuing to be frustrated, I am perpetuating the problem and I, myself, get caught up in generational brokenness. It just has to be a decision—that the judgment can't enter into the equation.

Tough one, huh?

I’m going to start praying that God shows me how to move forward from here. It’s not like we, as teachers, can say to a parent, “Hey, your kid says you’re a raging alcoholic which is why you are completely absent at home… that’s not really an option you have as a parent. What can I do to help?”

But something needs to be done. The abandoned children we see don’t think they’re being seen at all. And sometimes all those fistfights and bad grades and smirks are just a whole lot of pain coming out in their last ditch efforts for somebody to take notice that they exist. Sometimes I think I’m running an ICU.

Which makes me want to say to those precious children… I see you.

* Daisy Rain Martin is the Author of Juxtaposed: Finding Sanctuary on the Outside, a comedic spiritual memoir. Please connect with Daisy on Facebook/Twitter and visit her website: If you have ever been the victim of abuse, contact her to receive her free book, If It's Happened to You.


Anonymous said...

I have come to the resolution that the 'parents' side of things is unreachable.....let me explain why. I have (in the past 6 months) sent in six reports to DCFS for abusive and neglective behavior that was severe enough to warrant an investigation. NONE of them have yielded any help for the children or help for the parents. As a matter of fact the only one real validation I received was the uncle who gave one of my girls a black eye because “he didn't like her sass” died of a heart attack two weeks ago. Sounds crass right?? YET, the child was being HIT, the uncle was NOT going to change and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it!! So I have changed my approach. I am now seeing to the needs of the child. The emotional and psychological needs (physical if it is necessary as well). I have one child whose father demands she give him all her money she gets from a little side job....she now brings ME her money to “hold” for her, then when her dad rummages through her room throwing things around, he can't find her stash. For the child whose main problem in the classroom is not having her homework done and yet not one person asks her why.....her parents are stoners, stay up late into the night having parties, she doesn't get enough sleep and she sure doesn't have any quiet areas to work in so she either comes to my classroom before school, after school or during lunch so she CAN get her work done. I am of the belief that the adults can't be changed, however, we can make a difference in the kids' who don't want to repeat their parents patterns. They see we believe in them, they see we will listen to them and not nark about what they say. They have a safe place to go, THIS is where I am focusing my “change” at this time. Someone did this for me when I was going through my abuse at the hands of my step-mom, it allowed me to feel safe enough to tell the real truth. Honestly, in today's society these parents can do just about anything and NOT have their children taken that being said, MY classroom is a respite for the kids that have no other alternative. Like you, I feel that I enter a war zone DAILY, my job is to combat it as much as possible with laughs, listening and food....always food :-) WHEN they need me to, when they ASK me to, I will do what they need to help their lives get better. We live in a culture where kids supposedly have control over their wants and needs.....I am hoping to use that cultural aspect to change these kids' lives into something they can see a future with.


Cody Stauffer said...

As I look at my own life, both before I was married and after I have started a family, I see times when I was facing challenges-- medical situations, money issues, etc.-- but I always had people to help me during those times. Sometimes if was with something physical, like money or transportation, but the most important thing I had was support and encouragement. What I am noticing in our context here at the church is that a lot of families don't have that same thing, for one reason or another. We've helped a lot of people with food and meals and things like that, but 9 times out of 10, what people are needing the most is someone in their corner who believes in them and encourages them. Some times, that does mean that we have to say something that they may not want to hear, but that's what family and community is about. We feel that this is something we can be to a lot of people, so to that end we try to make sure that we provide avenues for us to build relationships, whether that be a big free meal or helping people move in. It isn't to get people into church, really, at least not for us. It's to let people there is a support network available if they don't have one. I think that's what things like churches (and not just limited to churches-- I think Toastmaster's groups or civil clubs can do this too, and in some towns and cities, probably better than the churches that are there) can be and do. I would like to see groups like this work with teachers hand in hand, because teachers really are "on the front line" and see both the cross-section, as you mention, but also the effects and impact of this abandonment.

Anonymous said...

We have a young man whose mom (single mom but lives with new men every other month or so) has so damaged this boy that he was able to be seen by the licensed psychologist at our school. During these sessions he divulged some severe abuses that were occurring within the home. The psychologist (mandated reporter) called DCS and the end result is....the child is no longer "allowed" to see the psychologist, nothing happened within the home and a young man is SO depressed I begged for help today to get him to sit up and just talk, rather than laying his head down and just wanting to sleep. The issues I have at my school are beyond the need for food or supplies, I do agree with you Cody, in my young years as a mom with young kids....I was blessed enough to get help financially and emotionally when I needed it. The issues today I have in my classroom are tragic, I feel hopeless when it comes to the parents. I am very close with this young man's older sister (she is now a freshman in college. She openly talks to me about her mom's bad decisions, she worries about her little brother but knows that there is little that can be done. This young lady dropped out of high school to move in with a boy, she ended up getting her GED (which she RAN to my classroom to show me) and then after she enrolled at the community college, she made sure the first place she came was my classroom to show me that she WAS going to make something of her life, like she promised. I mean, she took the harder road but I am proud of her. It took me five years of constant contact with this child to help walk her through her mom's stupidity.....we have tried giving assistance, we have tried getting the services that are available through schools. In the end, I can only worry about the children....I was successful at helping the sister....just praying I can reach the boy. If I can't, I pray someone else can come along side him and belief in him.