As Adults, We Should Be Advocates for All Children

There are many children who have adults as advocates in their lives. My grandson's mother is his advocate. When his kindergarten teacher told her at Parent Teacher Conference that her son's fine motor skills were too poor to do the work she was requiring she took steps. She met with the principal, she made the school's occupational therapist evaluate her son, she got him a 504 plan to ensure the school gave him 30 minutes of fine motor development every week. Then she signed him up for piano lessons. For many children, when they need help, the adults in their lives spring into action.

But not all children have advocates. Let me tell you about some of them:

Jacob and his little brother were raised by a single parent father who worked two jobs. Jacob became the caretaker for his little brother at the age of 3. Because they had limited modeling for speech, he and his brother made up their own language. When Jacob came to kindergarten, his Dad said. "I don't know what is wrong with him, he just speaks gibberish."

Emma spent the first four years of her life in a playpen with no adult interaction. She came to kindergarten only knowing three words: hungry, go, and no. At age 5, I was told by the speech teacher that her limited vocabulary would only slightly expand because the windows of language acquisition close completely by age 8.

Michael came to kindergarten with no regard for authority at all. He had been raised in an environment of doing whatever he wanted to because he was a boy. Because his mother was dominated by her husband, she had no control over him.

Elizabeth was in foster care. She had bright red hair and drew pictures of a smiling red haired woman on her papers, but she called her brunette foster parent "Mom". After three months, this foster mother asked for Elizabeth to be put in a different home because she was already overwhelmed with taking care of her own six children. She was shuffled off to a new family and a new school.

The causes that take away children's advocates are varied and personal, but the results of this gap in their lives are always devastating. As adults with the capability to do so, we need to stand in. When my daughter was in second grade there was a teacher in her school that bullied the children. When they didn't behave she would rap their heads with pencils or pull their hair. As my daughter's advocate, I made sure that this woman was not my child's classroom teacher, but she was still in the classroom occasionally during rotations. One day during these rotations, she pulled my daughter's hair. After hearing what had happened, I marched into the principals office and immediately demanded action be taken. His answer was that my daughter would never have to go into this teacher's room during rotations again. My child's rights had been addressed. For some, that would be enough. Not for me. And I told him so.

"There are children in that classroom whose parents are not in this office, and who will never come to this office," I told him, "but who still need an adult to stand up for them. I am not just here speaking for my daughter. I am speaking for all of them."

The teacher was reprimanded. The bullying stopped.

There are children who have advocates. Whose parents pay for private schools or drive their children to therapy or special brain development programs. Who start charter schools or put their children on special diets or show their babies vocabulary flashcards. Thank goodness for these parents. But sometimes, when these amazing people use their power to make their own children's lives better, those children without a support group are left behind. When there are problems around us, when others are suffering, it's not simply okay to walk away from it, taking our time, our resources, and our love with us. Our children need to see that as human beings, we take care of each other. We lift each other up. We climb the mountain together.

All children need someone.

They need you.