God's Politics

It’s the week after Mother’s Day, and after being feted with handmade cards, sticky kisses, and a delicious meal I did not have to cook (or clean up after) I am back at work – surrounded by evidence that neither my city of Philadelphia nor my country are particularly hospitable places for us moms. Whether the news is about funding for the war, the dismal state of our local schools, the most recent homicide on our mean streets, or the “idols” being worshiped on TV, there are plenty of opportunities for a mom to become depressed about the world her children will inhabit. So it is with my mom hat on that I would like to propose three critical questions for the Democratic candidates that will speak at Pentecost 2007 next month.

1. Perhaps the single most important thing we can provide for all of our children are connections – connections to stable, loving families and communities, connections that last a lifetime, connections to parents, mentors, and teachers. Yet every night in our country, more than half a million children go to bed in a foster home, not knowing if they will sleep in the same bed tomorrow night, or attend the same school next week. Over a million children in America are homeless each year. Many more live at the fringes of our society, disconnected youth, living out their own personal terrors, and at times staving off their own loneliness and fear by creating terror on our streets and in our schools. Please describe your strategy for ensuring that all of our children can have the opportunity to grow up in safe, stable families and communities where they are securely connected to caring adults.

2. A good education is often seen as the great equalizer – a place where every child can feast at the great American opportunity table. And yet, we know that a child whose belly is rumbling with hunger, or who was awake all night hearing gunshots and sirens outside her window, or who attends a school with no textbooks cannot fully benefit from the American dream of a free and public education for all children. What is first thing you will do, if elected, to ensure that every child in America can have a fighting chance to succeed and achieve in school?

3. Like the mother of Seung-Hui Cho, I have a son with a mental illness. Like the mother of Emilio Gonzales, I have a son with severe disabilities requiring feeding tubes, multiple medications and round-the-clock care. Like Sherry Grace, I am the mother of an incarcerated son who struggled with drugs and addiction. What hope do you offer to mothers, like us, who live with children in pain, children struggling to cope with physical, mental, and emotional challenges every day? We go into our communities seeking help for our children and doors are closed in our faces – for lack of insurance, lack of access, lack of public will. When our children struggle, act-out, or “fail,” we are often vilified and blamed, rarely supported and helped. How will you ensure that all of our nation’s children have access to the health care, mental health services, dental care and other supports they need to grow up strong and healthy?

“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. ” (Mark 9:42)

Susan H. Badeau is the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Children’s Commission, a parent of 22 children by birth, foster care, and adoption, a life-long advocate and a Sojourners/Philadelphia volunteer. This article was part of the inspiration for this post.

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