Charles L. Baker: We should not ignore plight of other people's children

August 4, 2014 

Charles L. Baker is president/CEO emeritus of the Buckhorn Children's Foundation in Buckhorn.

  • At issue: July 27 article by Cronkite News Service/McClatchy, "A northbound freight train delivers desperate minors to U.S. border, or kills them trying"

  • About the author: Charles L. Baker of Louisville is the retired CEO of the Presbyterian Child Welfare Agency.

  • At issue: July 13 Herald-Leader article, "Rich Schools, Poor Schools; Activity funds show growing economic divide in Fayette County"

A photo published in the Atlanta newspaper only shows the border agent from the shoulders down as he writes on his clipboard. The beautiful dark-haired girl, who looks to be about six years old, is clutching her doll, and is just tall enough to try to make out what he's writing.

Most of these youngsters come all the way from Honduras or El Salvador where violent drug gangs seem to make their parents feel even such a formidable bus ride is a safer option for their children.

Irony is piled on irony as scores of American parents and grandparents greet these children, not with the welcoming words from the Statue of Liberty, but with screams of protest.

In their countries of origin, the drug gangs flourish because of the increasing demand for illegal drugs here in this country. And President Barack Obama is saddled with the blame for caring for these kids because of a law signed by President George W. Bush.

These children are only the latest victims of our nation's ambivalence about "other people's children." Government budgets for education, day care, services for abused children, etc., have been cut recently as elected officials focus instead on reducing taxes and possible future deficits.

They may not actually represent their constituents in this regard, however. It was always my observation that most Americans actually were compassionate toward other people's children and strongly supported even more spending for their care and nurture. This is confirmed by a recent poll, in which 71 percent of Americans supported increased spending on early-childhood education, even if this resulted in a higher deficit.

In another irony, the great majority of us understand that our own children and those of others — even from another country — need nurture and education now, while they're still children. But somehow those with a focus on possible deficits distract us, and our elected representatives, with scare tactics and a short-term vision.

This isn't a simple issue. Balanced budgets, fair taxes, good government — these are easy phrases but complex issues.

But I can't get that little girl and her doll out of my head. I wonder where she is tonight; I know that she deserves better and that we are a better nation when we care for all our children.

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