15 November 2015
Welcome to our first issue that is focusing on at-risk youth. Our mission today in our topical section is to share stories and poems that cause us to think about youth in a different way. Who are at-risk youth? Where are they?
Often, they seem invisible to the world until they are splashed across the news in dramatic headlines. We can all remember the photos of dead children washing up on the seashore…refugees fleeing Syria. And in the US, just a few days ago, a young boy, age 8, killed a 1 year old. Why? Because he was the babysitter in charge and she would not stop crying. I am often appalled at the reactions we have to children with extreme behaviors. What skills do we expect an 8 year old to have?
And so, we, at The Bardo Group, have written of the children of the world that are marginalized and at-risk for a wide range of disasters. This is a special topic for me. I run the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition which provides chaplaincy and mentoring to incarcerated youth. I have included three pieces in this edition that are close to my heart. One, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani. This poem is the first one I wrote in reaction to the stories I heard in detention. I wanted to put the parents, and God, on trial. And so I did. I wasn’t happy with the answer I received! And yet, it gave me so much hope. The second piece, an essay titled Mentoring At-Risk Youth, tells you a little more directly about who I am and what I do. Last, is the poem, A True Story. You may guess that it is a true event and you would be correct! It happened this year and it made me very angry.
St. Augustine says, ““Hope has two beautiful daughters – their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”
Hope, anger and courage have driven me to move through the pain and challenge of working with these particular youth.
A small collection from people I work with that all explore what it is like to work with incarcerated youth. They are all new to the BeZine so let’s give them a resounding welcome! Justin Almeida offers an essay, Finding Life in Detention. Lisa Ashley, MDIV, has a poem, at risk youth, that names what is really at risk when you work with youth in detention—your heart is at risk! And Natasha Burrowes drops the mic in Untitled.
Closely related to Natasha’s discussion of who is really at risk is Charles Martin’s, at risk… It is a great question. Who is really at risk when we allow our children to be the victims of poverty, crime, and other forces? Is it really just the child? Or is there something larger?
Incarcerated youth, across the board, have increased rates of trauma when compared to other youth. The ACES test (Adverse Childhood Experiences) scores incarcerated youth as having a 92 out of 100. I think I would be a bowl of jello if I had that high of a trauma score. Christina Conroy explores living through a traumatic childhood in her autobiographical poem, Legacy. Also writing autobiographically is Kimberly Wilhelmina Floria in Validating Myself. It made my heart grow two more sizes! Also cracking my heart is Jamie Dedes’ Heading Home autobiographical poem regarding suicide. Sometimes, I wish I knew what that special something is that manages to give children resiliency. Heart breaking. Or I wish I had a magic wand that would right the world’s wrongs.
Also writing from experience is Trace Lara Hentz’s essay, Angel Turned Inside. Lara was introduced to us by Team Member Michael Watson and is new to these pages. Her essay explores the tragedy that was the movement westward in the US and the use of adoption as a weapon against American Indians and First Nations. I am aware of this tragic history because of my knowledge of church history which is horrifyingly replete with church support of taking children from their families and putting them into orphanages.
Knife Notes—a Poem, from Michael Dickel, explores the relationship between the past and the future for Joe. I am especially moved by the truthful reflection of how kids who are hurting treat each other.
“It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.” That is a quote from Washington state’s constitution. Unfortunately, we simply fail our children. John Antsie’s article, Education, Common Sense … and The Future, explores two simple things regarding education-one thing to change and one thing to hope for.
One thing that the youth I work with almost unanimously face is addiction issues. Jamie Dedes’ piece, scag dancing, explores in vivid, concise imagery the relationship between addiction and poverty.
With “Thinking Continually of Those at Risk,” by Priscilla Galasso, you will be surprised at where she starts and where she finishes! She speaks a truth that resonates, “We can so easily provide food, shelter, and opportunity to our youth with the systems we have devised, but those systems have become mine fields where kids are sabotaged on the journey.”
Sometimes we attempt to sabotage journeys with needless judgment regarding what makes a real parent. John Nooney explores his experience of adoption and the sometimes senseless absorption of people asking, “Have you found your birth-mother?” in his essay, Some Thoughts on Adoption.
In my research of how to interrupt the school to prison pipeline, I have found two interesting statistics. One, children who miss 24+ days of Pre-K or Kindergarten are more likely to become incarcerated. And two, children who personally own five books of their own have better life outcomes than those who do not. I have also recently run across an article pointing towards the importance of librarians in achievement for children. Corina Ravenscraft points out the importance of libraries in “These Hallowed Halls of Hope.” Libraries are, indeed, an oasis of peace in a concrete jungle.
One thing is trite but true, it does indeed, take a village to raise our children.
Thank you for moving through my rambling reflections with me. I hope that your heart is moved to consider how we support and work with those who are at-risk.
Shalom & Amen!
Theme: At-Risk Youth
Mentoring At-Risk Youth, Terri Stewart
Finding Life in Detention, Justin Almeida
Education, Common Sense … and The Future, John Antsie
These Hallowed Halls of Hope, Corina Ravenscraft
Thinking Continually of Those at Risk, Priscilla Galasso
A Teenager Who Fled Syria, NPR and World Vision
Rapid Re-Housing Best Available Crisis Intervention for Homeless Families and Youth, National Alliance to End Homelessness
Special Features: Adoption
November is National Adoption Month in the United States
Some Thoughts on Adoption and “real” parents v adoptive parents, John Nooney
Angel Turned Inside, The Fight for Native American Families, Trace Lara Hentz
The Secret Object I Keep Hidden in My Underwear Drawer, Naomi Baltick
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