A year ago June 2012 the Juvenile Judge informed us that there would be a profound dissolving of all Southern California Family Courts including and focusing primarily on Informal Juvenile Courts. All legal infractions for juveniles and their families from the smallest to the largest were being eliminated, overlooked and ignored. Basically our juvenile system was gutted.
What we knew then with the courts being ransacked and families being offered no help was that there would be a substantial movement in the mental health status of teenagers and their families. It has become a true story.
A year later what we are seeing is a huge societal dilemma. It seems that as a society we are constantly excluding mental health as a part of our human consciousness, social consciousness and heart consciousness. We are creating a community of families that aren't being heard and that aren't even being told that there is the option of help. A scary idea.
The Santa Monica Police Department initially gave us a quote but then retracted due to political ramifications. In the initial quote they indicated that kids were not just getting away with drug and alcohol infractions, but all infractions; they and their family were missing out on consequences and help they would have had in the past. According to a superior in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, (who does not want to be named) we are creating a whole new message and in turn a whole new child and family. With no help and no consequences, who knows what "new generation" is being born.
Are we in fact creating the beginnings of throwaway families? Radical? Yes. Everybody knows, even the Dictionary and Wikipedia about throwaway kids. It has been an acknowledged slogan for over 30 years. Huffington Post even has bloggers that talk about the throwaway kids syndrome. It may sound extreme but hey why not "throwaway families" because that is in fact what's happening. It's happening subtly before our eyes. We spend billions of dollars every year on cancer research, and we should, but we only spend low millions on mental health, yikes. What we know today is that it's not just throwing away kids; it's throwing away families and building even more fragile communities. When we already know as a country, society, and community that prevention education works, how can government authorities, school officials, parents and families let this happen?
Partnership at DrugFree.org cites leading author Richard Spoth in his comments about prevention:
Researchers know that substance abuse often leads to other problem behaviors, so prevention can have a ripple effect and cut down on problems in school and violent behaviors in general. The benefits are measured in economic terms as well as the overall health and outlook of the community.
Cited in the Iowa State University study, Woodruff, a parent involved in prevention, stated "Do it, not only for the one-on-one time with your child, but also to meet other like-minded parents," Woodruff said. "We're just trying to come together as a community to raise the best kids that we can possibly raise so that they're successful members of society as adults."
Our Angels at Risk Mission Statement has stabilized our goal of prevention for the past six years. "As a community the issue of drug alcohol use and abuse in teenagers and families is an epidemic crisis. We know that early education, prevention, intervention and treatment can change families' futures forever."
The services that seemed so stupid and small are in fact the most priceless systems and they're defined and designed to keep families' futures bright. They give families the opportunity to get closer and to develop a stronger base of health and love and in the end they become a stronghold for the integrity of what we all know matters the most: family and community. So we say, are we turning our backs?
It's one thing as a society to have limited resources for families to navigate through life given that mistakes happen, but it's another thing as a society to give nothing to families to navigate through life when mistakes happen.
"Faith in darkness is a tall order for young families lost in a crisis. Every positive step that each of us takes contributes to us all."