Author Viviana Zelizer persistently hammered these points in her work entitled: Pricing the Priceless Child: The Social Value of Children, the United States made sweeping changes in ensuring the safety of children at the dawn of the twentieth century. A child’s life became sacred. No longer would street car drivers run over unsuspecting children playing in the streets without retribution,  states had to revamp and enforce their child labor laws and the government made the staggering infant mortality rate a national focus (p.26-27).

America went from looking at children as a nuisance, one easily replaceable to feeling, the death of child was the greatest loss parents could experience. Early American parents did not mourn for their children when they died. The mother would  just pop another one out to replace him or her. Zelizer wrote, “The new sensitivity toward child loss was part of a broader transformation in the  cultural response to death.” She went on to say, ” The death of a young child was the worst loss of all…extreme  grief at the death of a child…was now a convention and a psychological reality” (p.26). She further added, “The establishment of the United States Children’s Bureau of 1912  officially certified the conservation of child life as a national concern” (p.29). As a result of these bold initiatives, the US health and hygiene department managed well or eradicated many communicable diseases, it decreased the infant mortality rate and saw the proper stewardship of the children’s welfare.

But of course, it seems nothing last forever; it didn’t take long before an anonymous and wise opportunist learned how to benefit from the country’s new-found fascination with children. The author argued that children were once ‘worthless’ and ‘useless’ in America. That dynamic changed after the American government abruptly tackled the low regard for kids and created a pseudo-child-worship-social-consciousness. Now we have a gigantic bureaucracy all over the country in every state ready to aid parents in raising their children. But if said parents should stumble, the same bureaucratic entities will sweep in and enact changes and programs to show they are better at raising their children. This action reeks with hubris because the government relies on its past efforts in championing the advancement of children but it has very little to show now.

Children in America were no longer a nuisance; they became priceless. Parents who deal with the government know it only sees dollar signs when it sees their children. Yes, America has come a long way. But we need to admit the government is far from the agent of change it once was. It is now the agent-of-sit-on-one’s-ass-and-do-nothing. One entity that comes to mind (to which I can say unequivocally) does not care nor value children is the respective child-welfare system across the nation. Anyone who deals directly with them does not have to wait too long before he hears this vile admission: “The system is broken.” I am sure those who are swift to say this, they don’t really value what they do nor do they value the children in their care.  I don’t cringe saying this. It’s my understanding that the word value  is not an abstract term. If the care of kids is of the greatest importance, then it ought to continue that way. Child-welfare workers who flippantly say, “The system is broken,” they are intellectual and moral sloths. They aren’t deserving of the awesome responsibility of taking care of our nation’s abused children.

We shouldn’t make excuses for them. If they aren’t saying the system is broken, you can bet the next nonsense they’d say is “We need more money.” I am more sympathetic to the latter. One cannot blame someone for wanting a decent wage and guarantees of career and economic upward mobility. Inflation and living conditions change over time so I am all about staying afloat financially. But what about this anecdotal reference? Many Christian missionaries changed societies with very little money or none at all. All they had, and still do, were an intense desire to fulfill their duties. They believed they were called to do their duty. They persisted despite numerous impediments because they hoped for a brighter tomorrow and their conscience reminded them they were doing good in the world.

After hearing about the grotesque abuses that go on within the system, the lackadaisical approach caseworkers bring to their work and the low retention rate among staffers. One can’t help but conclude, that our child-welfare system lacks discipline, vision, a tried-and-true mission, transparency and accountability. If a state (Like Florida) laboriously spends most of its tax  dollars to bolster its image in the media and to appease a skeptical public then something is wrong.

All I am asking for is someone to stop, think and then act. If the engineers and personnel who are tasked to oversee our nation’s nuclear arsenal, do their jobs effectively and flawlessly, why can’t the child-welfare system do the same? Oh I see! Nuclear weapons can annihilate folks so great care is a must. But the systematic ruining of the lives of already disadvantaged kids, though a tragic reality, we should just live with it, right? They are indirectly saying kids are disposable. I can’t fathom how the same  system that’s supposed to take care of  kids, it ends up transforming the majority of them into criminals.

We can’t keep overlooking the staggering reality: “Kids aging out of the foster-care system are more likely to be high-school dropouts, impoverished, imprisoned or homeless” (The Orlando Sentinel). And how can I forget accounts of kids given back to violent and unfit parents who end up killing or maiming them? And also the unscrupulous foster caregivers who use their ties with the governmental agencies to bully parents and the kids in their care.

I will stop having scathing remarks about the child-welfare system when states like Florida, seriously prevent the intentional killing of kids like the Barahona child. Florida’s child-welfare leadership team fumbled to pin point the people responsibility for allowing such a senseless murder to occur on their watch. Like I said in my title, They Don’t Value Us, the United States must admit to moral failure in taking care of abused, neglected and disadvantaged kids. The problem is not a state’s one. The federal government must intervene like it did back in the day. Until then, we’ll continue to hear horror stories.  If the federal government values children they’ve got to intervene.