All of my earlier excuses shrank away. Meara couldn’t protect herself, and didn’t have anyone to keep her safe from her own father. Lucian was supposed to take care of her, and he was going to kill her.
If we didn’t help her, if I didn’t help her, who would?
“I’ll go,” I said.
Four pairs of eyes swiveled to me.
I cleared my throat. “I’m going to get her back.” ~ Finding Meara
Child protection is the main theme of Finding Meara. It is the place where I started when I began brainstorming ideas for my first novel.
Working with children in a therapeutic capacity has given me quite a view of the horrors adults can perpetrate on children. Prior to my current job as a school social worker, I worked in a residential treatment facility for elementary aged children. Although the damage to children was greater, there also was the relief that the children in the facility had been removed from the abusive situations and people who hurt them. Still, my anger at the injustice and hurt these children had endured solely because they were children--sometimes (often) by the very people who were supposed to protect them and love them--began there.
Now I work in an environment where I may not see as severe of behaviors from abused children, but the children who are being hurt or abused remain with their abuser. It's up to the adults surrounding those children to step in and help them, and I don't mean just the teachers or school staff.
My first year in an elementary school I felt very insecure about calling the Department of Family services. I knew I would do it, because I am a mandatory reporter, but I still had some of those reservations about butting into other people's lives, worry that I'd call and create a mess (we've all heard the stories about DFS going into people's homes after false accusations were made and parents losing their children for an extended period of time), or that I'd make it worse for the kids.
Then two things happened. The first was that a five year old boy's parents were drinking, and getting
|Photo from www.kent.gov.uk|
It might be hard to understand, but my heart broke when I found that kitten, alone in the house, it's eyes not even open. It still makes me want to cry. It had obviously been trying to find its mom or siblings, because of how I found it. While I know that animals will often abandon sickly babies, it didn't matter. All of the helplessness surrounding the child at school transferred to that little kitten, and I grieved for it.
I also made a decision. I hadn't been able to help the kitten, but I could do my best to help children if I see something that makes me stop and think "that's not right."
Last year I called DFS more than I ever had before, unfortunately for very real, very serious issues. (Sadly, this year hasn't started off so good, either.) On one of the visits, I noticed the DFS worker had a pen that said "It's everyone's job to protect children." And I thought, "This. Exactly."
That one statement sums up the point I wanted to make in Finding Meara. We all have a responsibility to help children who are being hurt, whether that be sexually, physically, emotionally, by neglect, because of poverty, are starving or even just mistreated. We have to be concerned with all children's well-being, whether they live in our communities or in third-world countries. They are children. They hold the innocence and beauty of the world in tiny, fragile bodies. If we don't help them, then who will?
What are your thoughts?