I will like to begin discussing this creed with the words of Gary Chapman in his book, The Four Seasons of Marriage: ‘I explored ethnographies compiled by various anthropologists. One conclusive finding of these studies was that marriage between a man and a woman is the central, social building block in every human society, without exception. It is also true that monogamous, lifelong marriage is the universal cultural norm.’
The foregoing corroborates this creed. I am here to submit today that any child who is not brought up under the environment painted in the second creed is a child being brought up under difficult circumstances.
Let me quickly submit that many children in Africa are being brought up on very difficult circumstances. Unfortunately a child being brought up under difficult circumstances is being brought up to live a difficult life.
It also most unfortunately that since the state of humanity is in the hands of the child as revealed by Abraham Lincoln, it is not only the child, who is being prepared for a difficult life, it is his/her entire area of influence, it is the entire humanity. Many are children, who are being brought up in troubled homes. By the standard of our society, these homes are not troubled.
I consider children being brought up in polygamous homes as children being brought under difficult circumstances. I consider children being brought up in broken homes as being brought up under difficult circumstances. I consider children being brought up by single parents as children being brought under difficult circumstances. I consider children being brought up under hostile step parents as children under difficult circumstances. I consider children being brought by warring parents as children being brought under difficult circumstances. I consider children being brought up by live-in lovers and same sex couples as children being brought up under difficult circumstances. I consider children being brought up by their grandparents as children being brought up under difficult circumstances. I consider children being raised in orphanages as children being brought up under difficult circumstances. I consider children being brought up under abject poverty as children being brought up under difficult circumstances. I consider children in conflict with the law as children being brought up under difficult circumstances. I consider children on the street as children being brought up under difficult circumstances. I consider child soldiers as children being brought up under difficult circumstances. I consider children who are labelled witches and are being persecuted by their own parents and communities as children being brought up under difficult circumstances. I consider children who are exposed to child sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse and abuse by neglect as children being brought up under difficult circumstances. I consider children, who have no access to quality education as children being brought up under difficult circumstances. I consider children who are left to fend for themselves as children being brought up under difficult circumstance. I consider children who are subjected to child labour as children being brought up under difficult circumstances.
You see, the list is endless. The foundation of all the circumstances I have outlined above is the dysfunctional family. A family the does not measure up to the universal definition of families as enumerated in my first creed and the definition given by Gary Chapman. I have in the last three years sat in a Family/Children Reconciliation Committee anchored by UNICEF and charged with the responsibilities of reconciling children on the street with their parents in Lagos State. I must say that family breakdown account for 99.9 percent of the cases of children on the street. Poverty plays a major role but family breakdown play a bigger role.
That many of our children are being brought up under difficult circumstances as a result of the failure of the family system is real. Let me take child labour for example. I hope we know that according to International Labour Organisation Study there are 15 million children under the age of 14 working in Nigerian. 64 percent are street vendors, 13 percent are beggars, 4 percent are shoe shiners, 6 percent are car watchers/washers, 5 percent are scavengers and 8 percent are feet washers. Another 24 percent are mechanic apprentice, mechanic and vulcanizer, 17 percent are bus conductors, iron metal workers are 6 percent, carpenters and tailors/weavers are 14 percent each, hairdresser/barber are 18 percent and caterers are 8 percent. Many whose numbers could not be identified are engaged as domestic servant/slaves and farm, factory and quarry workers.
What about children, who are being brought up in orphanages. Do you know that as at 2007 according to a study carried out by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development and support by UNICEF there are 3, 481 children being raised in orphanages all over the country. Please do not get me wrong, though many of the orphanages in Nigeria are not running according to international standard, there are very few who are doing very well and are genuinely committed to the cause of the children under their care. The truth however is this, no matter how committed the operators of orphanages are, it is difficult for them to meet the needs of the child. Children are not designed to be brought up in orphanages. Therefore the best run orphanages do not still have all that it takes to bring up complete children. Please note that I accept completely that orphanages are meeting critical needs in our country today and they must therefore not only be encouraged but also commended.
As the next phase of development I advocate adoption and foster parenting by informed families. I advocate the Charles Loring Brace Model, who removed children from the streets and placed them with willing families. I will like to end the discussion on this creed with the inspiring story of Charles Loring Brace: Brace’s mother died when he was 14, and he was raised by his father, a history teacher. He graduated from Yale in 1846 and then went on to study divinity and theology at Yale, but left to study at Union Theological Seminary, from which he graduated in 1849.
In 1853, Brace established the Children’s Aid Society. Brace witnessed many children in New York City who lived in poverty with parents who abused alcohol, engaged in criminal activity, and were unfit parents. These children were sent to beg for money and sell newspapers and matches in the streets. They became known as “street Arabs” or “the dangerous classes” due to the street violence and gangs they inevitably became a part of. In some cases, children as young as five years old would be sent to jails where adults were imprisoned as well. The police referred to these children as “street rats”.
According to an essay written by Brace in 1872, one crime and poverty ridden area around Tenth Avenue was referred to as “Misery Row”. Misery Row was considered to be a main breeding ground of crime and poverty, and an inevitable “fever nest” where disease spread easily. Other children who were orphans or runaways found themselves drifting into this destitute area, as well as the old sheds of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets. Such was the severity of child poverty in 1854 that the number of homeless children in New York City was estimated as high as 34,000.
Although orphanages existed, Brace did not believe they were worthwhile institutions because they merely served the purpose of feeding the poor and providing handouts. He felt that such institutions only deepened the dependence of the poor on charity. Brace was also influenced by the writings of Edward Livingstone, a pioneer in prison reform who believed that the best way to deal with crime and poverty was to prevent it. Brace focused on finding jobs and training for poor and destitute children so they could help themselves. His initial efforts in social reform included free kindergartens, free dental clinics, job placement, training programs, reading rooms, and lodging houses for boys.
Brace endeavoured to place children into farm families of northern New York State, the Midwest and, after the American Civil War, some southern and a few western states. From 1853 to 1864, 384 children were sent each year to families in New England states, the North Atlantic states and East North Central states. Nearly 1,000 children per year were sent from 1865 1874 to Michigan, Kansas, Iowa, and Missouri through Brace’s “Emigration Plan”, now known as “The Orphan Trains”. “In every American community, especially in a western one, there are many spare places at the table of life,” Brace wrote. “They have enough for themselves and the stranger too.” …Brace did away with the centuries-old custom of indenture so that the “placed” children were allowed to leave a home if they were uncomfortable with the placement. Brace’s vision of migrating children to live with the western Christian farming families was widely supported by wealthy New York families – the first $50 was given by Mrs. John Astor in 1853.
The Children’s Aid Society (CAS), the best-known organization finding homes for children, made efforts to screen the host families and follow up on the welfare of placed children. By 1909, at the first White House Conference on Dependent Children, the country’s top social reformers praised the CAS’ emigration movement, but argued that children should either be kept with their natal families or, if they were removed as a result of parental neglect or abuse, every effort should be made to place the child in a foster home nearby. In a report in 1910, the Children’s Aid Society estimated that 87 percent of children placed by the Orphan Train program had done well. While there was occasional abuse, most people agreed that over all, the children were generally better off than on the streets of big cities without proper food, clothing and shelter.
By 1920, the CAS and approximately 1500 other agencies and institutions had placed approximately 150,000 children in the largest migration or resettlement of children in American history. The CAS’ Orphan Train movement ended in 1929, 75 years after it had begun as a social experiment. To this day, Brace is honoured and revered for his compassionate work with the street children of New York City. He helped 400,000 children with the orphan train.
Hope you find this interesting.
Think the Child! Think Today! Think the Future!
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