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When children die

Intervention is necessary when children die

October 12, 2015

IMG_3156While in Kansas City recently, I opened up the daily newspaper to a grim headline on the front page: Kids in the crossfire. If you know me, you know that I’m a sucker for babies and children so the article drew me right in. Since my last birthday in October, sixteen black children have suffered premature, violent deaths in my hometown. From six weeks old to 16 years old, these young victims never knew what hit them.

A short story about each one’s circumstances and the loved ones they left behind tugged at readers’ heartstrings. The fate of the 16 children came at the hands of their mothers, mothers’ boyfriends, stray bullets meant for others or in the case of teens, from their peers. A bullet is a bullet and when it goes into a small body, the consequences can only be catastrophic.

For some reason that remains unclear to many, the Kansas City Police Department has stopped identifying juvenile homicide victims. The KCPD claims it’s complying with a state statute that requires names be withheld but the state attorney general’s office says a 2003 decision by its office doesn’t apply to these cases. It would be a shame for these little lives to go unrecognized in the public domain. They are the unfortunate but powerful pricks of our national consciousness for the sanctity of life.

Roslyn Temple, founder of the Kansas City chapter of Mothers in Charge, provides the support for families of violence. In St. Louis, we are lucky to have Jeanette Culpepper and Families Advocating Safe Streets remind us each New Year’s Eve of the loved ones who were snatched from us during the year.

Often times when we hear about these senseless tragedies, we want to utter phrases like, “This violence gotta stop” or “That’s a damn shame”.  To act as if we are powerless bystanders is what’s shameful to me.

In the cases of the little ones who die at the hands of their own mom, there were people in their lives who saw trouble, or who witnessed their inability to deal with the normal behaviors of their own children. Child abuse can be deadly.

In the cases of teens with guns, it is rare that a family member or friend is unaware that the kid is toting a gun. And if a kid is carrying a firearm, at some point the trigger will get pulled. For many young, black youth, carrying a gun means they feel threatened and if those feelings of threat are accompanied by anger management or mental health issues, that’s a time bomb waiting to happen. The time bomb doesn’t go off in private; it’s usually very public and affects others.

The newspaper article I read underscored that in most of the homicides cases, parents were either the perpetrators of the deaths or the intended targets of gun violence. We know these parents; they are family members, friends, church members, etc. They are not strangers to us and in many cases, they have been crying out for support in various ways. Their cries for help are often ignored until it comes to our personal doorstep.

I’m not saying families and communities can stop all of the violence but we don’t need to throw up our hands at every tragedy. We can take some time to intervene, to refer loved ones to needed services, to get young people involved in safe and productive activities. These are all do-able interventions that can significant cut down our crying time and give kids a real jumpstart towards a long and meaningful life.



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