Deanna L. Szynd-rowski is chief executive officer of SCAN.
The old adage “children are our future” is not a cliché. In reality, children today will grow up to be the accountants, construction workers, doctors, musicians, artists and government officials of our tomorrow. There is no price on the importance of setting up our future for continued success, and today more than ever we need the “secret to success.”
But most recently that “price” is called into question on the topic of funding services to children: abuse and neglect, early childhood, affordable quality child care and the effect that the lack of funding in these areas will have on our economy and future communities.
Child abuse and neglect is a hidden problem, happening behind closed doors. Most people do not want to shed light on this topic. It is not the topic of conversations at dinner parties, among friends or in community circles unless you are in the field of treating children who are suffering. We hold true to the stigma; if it happens in the home, we don't talk about it.
I have dedicated my life to talking about the issues. Bringing this reality to focus is surely an unpopular topic. I have not been invited to many parties as I have a bright personality, but my work is a “downer.”
Cutting the much-needed funding to combat, address, and stop child abuse and neglect will indeed increase the incidence of thes social blights. We live in an immediate world and are making decisions that will affect the here and now without forethought for our future.
I challenge those making decisions on funding to interview a child with a bruised face, broken ribs, lack of appropriate clothing, lack of access to food for a full stomach. Perhaps the question would quickly turn to “how can I help this child?”
You see, each day I dedicate my life to those children, as do 229 other employees at SCAN, a number of partner agencies, and those employed at the Department of Child Services. We understand the negative effect that abuse and neglect have on the present and the future of our communities.
We receive funding from generous donors who are invested in our mission to protect children, prepare parents, strengthen families and educate the community on these issues. We are already operating our programs in a deficit – not enough funding to complete the necessary job and being asked to do more with fewer resources.
I struggle with slashing budgets and cost savings on the backs of the most vulnerable populations and the message that sends to those suffering.
Some of the messages I have heard are: “You're not important,” “Your work does not matter,” and “This was your calling, not the responsibility of the government.”
If not our responsibility, whose responsibility is it to support our children?
We learned our values, traditions, how to treat and interact with others, how to hold down a job, and the importance of community from our parents, family and the social environments that we grew up in – you see, we learn what we live.
Children in families that suffer under child abuse and neglect learn fear, learn to express anger with hitting and hurting, learn they will never be good enough to break out of this cycle, learn to numb the pain or solve problems by escaping with substance use, and may learn to sell their bodies to pay the light bill – you see, they too learn what they live.
The cycle of abuse will not end if we do not commit funding. I have a dream that one day I will close the doors of SCAN because my job is done, that we worked collectively to combat this issue and our services are no longer needed.
Instead, I worry that I may lose the necessary funding to keep our doors open and the cycle will continue.