Thank you: An Open Letter to Child Welfare Staff and Volunteers

I need to say thank you to each and every one of you for choosing to do this work.  Whether you are a foster parent, adoptive parent, case worker, intake staff, supervisor, support staff, administrative staff member, professional service provider, program director, company executive, volunteer, PRN, part-time, contract, etc . . . to our kids and to me, you are all Heroes.

Our nation, through an elementary school in Connecticut, experienced an unconscionable tragedy this past Friday.  Twenty young children were violently, horrifically murdered leaving their classmates, parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunties, teachers, neighbors, and the rest of us to contemplate the weight of our individual, community, State, and National responsibilities in protecting those who are unable to protect themselves.  Twenty kids, so many, such a heavy burden for a population of caregivers/parents to bear.

Our hearts, our prayers, our tears have gone out not only to the classmates, teachers, administrators, families, and neighbors but also to the police officers, medical staff, and other emergency responders who had to keep their eyes open and take in the vision of the carnage as they guided those surviving children and adults out of the trauma to the safety outside the school building, telling them, “Keep your eyes closed tightly and trust me to guide you out of this trauma”.  They accepted the weight and the burden of the images to protect those surviving children from further trauma.  They stood in the gap.

Today, marks the fourth day since that tragic event.  In those four days, additional tragedy has hit our nation, yet without the same level of National exposure.  As many as five children die each day in our Nation from abuse and neglect related injuries and experiences.   In the time span from the murders in Newtown to the end of today . . . another Twenty of our children will have died due to the actions or the lack of action of adults; but unlike the murders perpetrated by a stranger on the Newtown Children, the deaths of our abused and neglected kids is most commonly delivered to them by the hands of those charged with their protection, safety, and well being . . . a parent, a family friend, a neighbor, an uncle, an auntie, a brother, a sister, a grandparent.

Many of these deaths are no less violent, no less horrific, no less heavy than those of the Newtown twenty.  We all know stories of young children intentionally scalded, burned, beaten, cut, thrown, suffocated, broken, kicked, held under water, shaken, discarded, shamed, belittled and locked away by those they depended on to care for them.  As many as 80% of our abused and neglected kids who die from the impact of their abuse and neglect are younger than 4 years old.  Today, December 18th, marks the 352nd day of this year . . . and will mark the 1,760th abuse/neglect related child death in our Nation for this year.

Amidst the carnage of our daily tally of horrific child deaths stand Heroes; emergency responders.  Those who step into the trauma alongside our children and who say to the child survivors of abuse and neglect, “close your eyes tightly . . . trust me to guide you out of this trauma . . . “  You are that Hero.

As we head into the final weeks of this year, know that the sacrifices that you have made in choosing this work, in choosing to stand in the midst of the carnage and guide those who have suffered more than is conscionable out of their trauma, is recognized and that you are honored in the hearts and prayers of all the thousands of children and families that you will serve over the course of your time doing this work and by me.

You are the Hero; You are the Blessing; You are the Mercy that our children and families cry out to God for in prayer.

From me to you; Thank You . . .