Health Association in New York State, Inc.
Friday Fax from Albany
What Will Save Our Children: The cell phone rang at about 11:30 Tuesday morning. The Fox television affiliate in Albany was calling about the death of a four year-old boy, drowned in the bathtub. In the quiet little village of Hoosick Falls, New York, a middle-of-the-night 911 call from a mother, calling to report the incident, led to her arrest later that day.
"It appears to be a Paula Yates style murder," was the immediate take of the news media, although, to their credit, investigators are refusing to discuss the accused's past. With absolutely no knowledge of the facts in the matter, the media was searching for mental health experts, wanting to know what would lead a mother to kill their own child.
MHANYS took the position that we cannot assume anything, and we should not conclude anything without knowing more. "We must distinguish violence from mental illness," has become our mantra. We shared with the reporter the fact that drowning is the third leading cause of death for children under 5, and that many other things, including simple negligence, could lead to an arrest in the death. Yet, Fox News was quickly able to find a psychologist willing to state on camera that a mother must have some serious mental or emotional stresses for them to be capable of killing their own child. Apparently, as advocates, we have failed to educate our own.
A quick rundown of Tuesday news stories included reams of articles regarding pedophilia in the Catholic Church, while others covered stories of a child beaten to brain death, an unattended child falling from a window, and of course, death in Hoosick Falls.
It may in part be that as advocates, we become hypersensitive to the torrential rain of horrific child abuse and infanticide stories that pummel our sensibilities. At first blush, there appears no common thread among those stories, except for children as victims. There is no clear link between Andrea Yates and 40 years of buried pedophilia in the priesthood. Or is there?
The common link may be the one most painful. Our most hallowed, sacrosanct institutions - our religion, our families and our government, are failing to protect our children. Have we spent trillions of dollars and a thousand years building a values system and societal structure that might not really work. Or, are we somehow in decay?
The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle. For seven hundred years of the last millennia, change was glacial. For the last 300, society has evolved at an almost exponential rate. Our values, institutions and governance have not been able to keep up.
The time has come to rethink much of what we do to help our families and meet the needs of our children. We must recognize that only by humanely serving and co-existing with those who are vulnerable and living alongside us will we, including our children, be safe.
next time, we remain,