The Impact of One Caring Adult
By Glenda Mathis, Executive Director at YWCA of Lubbock
The YWCA is planning a big National Arbor Day Celebration for April 29. We’ll be dedicating a total of 75 trees. That’s also the day United Way Community Partners s as well as many corporate sponsors will be closing out a month of Go Blue Child Abuse Awareness activities. Those two dates are not designed to coincide, but I’ve realized there is an important thing we can take away… an important visual to keep the two linked. As we go into April and Child Abuse Awareness Month, many may wonder how we may have had more than 11,000 children identified for abuse or neglect in Lubbock County over the last decade. After all, from the moment we realize a baby is on the way, people get excited. There are gifts in anticipation of the baby’s arrival. Family members are excited about the legacy a child represents. Everyone is imagining a cherub face, bright eyes, and loving hugs. New parents are surrounded by people extolling joy.
No one truly prepares to welcome the colicky baby or the child with serious health or development issues. No one explains how to balance a job loss or serious financial strain with the needs of a child. Particularly in the case of young parents--no one explains the time it takes, the 24 hours on-call status of being a parent. No one prepares young parents for catastrophic accidents and how those needs can stretch a family to the breaking point. In those early days, we don’t think about how the child could be expected to thrive in a home where the marriage is not working or where one or more family members are struggling with substance abuse issues. No one expects the difficulty of a defiant, willful child or the trauma of world events that come crashing in on our individual lives and disrupt everything we know to be true. No one anticipates the complex needs of children and families and sometimes we forget how much we need each other to help us navigate the troubled waters.
United Way Community Partners are working to fill in the gaps of these specific family struggles. Whether it is interventions with family counseling, temporary financial help to remove economic strain; education to prepare young parents with the coping strategies needed, or child care that allows the family to work. United Way partner agencies are there, but it is just not enough. As you see the pinwheels spinning this month, the blue shirts everywhere, the activities designed to bring attention to this important issue--we hope it becomes clear that there is a role for all of us in taking care of the children in the South Plains. Involve yourself. Learn more about the issues and see where your talents could make a difference. Whether you choose to rock a baby, read a book to a preschooler, show kindness to a neighbor child, or just work more closely with the children in your own extended family--research proves that the impact of one caring adult in the life of a child is the single most important factor in giving children the boost they need to thrive and grow strong.
I wanted big, beautiful trees for April 29, but it turns out that baby trees need a lot of nurturing with water, and fertilizer. In some cases, the soil is completely inappropriate and has to be modified. Some of the trees are more fragile than others; some need stabilizing until they are strong enough to handle these West Texas winds. A few will get sick and need the help of experts. There will always be the need for pruning and shaping. So, I realized, my fledgling trees are like children. They take a lot of time and a lot of nurturing to be able to grow up strong and resilient. Trees demand patience and consistency just like the children we care for. If we are lucky and do everything we can, in about 20 years, both the children and the trees will be standing tall and strong.