The current disaster in the U.S. and throughout the world occasioned by a stifling recession, a flood of home foreclosures, an avalanche of debt and a drought in the job market is hitting women and children the hardest. One in five children in the U.S. is hungry. In one of the richest nations on earth, a fifth of our kids go to bed hungry. Twenty percent of families in the U.S. live in poverty, many of which are single-parent families headed by mothers.
Who is putting women and children first?
April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Usually the focus on child abuse prevention centers on sexual or physical violence that happens at home and certainly we need to do everything we can to keep children safe in their own homes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has excellent resources for participating in awareness and prevention of child abuse and for strengthening community awareness of these issues. Every child should be safe from abuse and violence at home, at school, in organizations like Girl and Boy Scouts, at church, and on the sidewalks of their neighborhoods.
We can all agree on these things, and hopefully we can all agree that adults bear the responsibility for keeping our children free from abuse.
But who bears responsibility for that hungry child whose parents lost their jobs, their home, and their hope? Is not this a form of abuse, abuse by a system gone amuck at the hands of those whose moral compasses are sorely in need of recalibration, who used their power to manipulate an economy to line their own pockets?
Children don’t get to vote so we have to be the ones the ask candidates what they plan to do to stop this systemic abuse of children. Will they ensure that all children can access to quality health care? Will they ensure that every child benefits from early childhood educational programs and good, safe schools? Will they plan to develop new jobs for parents so that families will be stabilized and able to envision a future of hope?
At a recent ecumenical advocacy conference in Washington, DC, I heard the Rev. Gary Dorrien, a professor of social ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, say that the word “poverty” will never come out of the mouth of a politician. We do not want to acknowledge that there is real, endemic poverty in the United States. In every state in our union, there are many who are “down and out poor.” Children are among the poorest of the poor and it is time we say this out loud and hold our elected officials to account for allowing such poverty to be perpetuated.
We can prevent child abuse – when we put the children first.
The United Church of Christ has more than 5,277 churches throughout the United States. Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation. UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.