Deadline Now: Lucas County Children Services
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Deadline Now: Lucas County Children Services

Friday, September 30, 2011

Dean Sparks is this week's guest. Mr. Sparks has been executive director for Lucas County Children Services for 14 years. His organization is charged with leading the community in the protection of children at risk. How difficult is that to do in an era of less money and more need?

On the web:

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of Deadline Now:

The philosopher Albert Camus once said, “Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children.

“And if you don’t help us, who else in the world can?”

More than thirty years ago, as a young reporter at The Blade, I covered the trial of two men who were charged with murdering a five-year-old Toledo boy named Matthew Catlett.

One of them was a boyfriend of Matthew’s mother, who apparently was more worried about losing her man than protecting her son. They beat and kicked and tortured him till he was finally rushed to the hospital dying. The killers were convicted.

I don’t know whether anyone remembers Matthew Catlett, who I never met in life, and only saw on an autopsy table.

But I will never forget him. And I’ll never stop thinking that whatever else we do, we need to make public policy decisions that will prevent as many tortured children as humanly possible.

That’s what Lucas County Children Services is trying to do -- and a lot more than that besides. They try to find forever homes and foster homes; try to help people become better parents.

That’s not work the newspapers and the bloggers write about every day. It does, however, probably happen to be the most important work there is. In Michigan, foster care issues mattered so much to State Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan that she left the court to take an appointment overseeing social welfare agencies.

She, by the way, is a conservative Republican -- but one who recognizes the importance of children. Yet there are other politicians who think that cutting children’s services is an appropriate response to times of economic hardship. Michigan is also about to permanently throw almost thirty thousand children off the welfare rolls because their parents have been getting assistance for four or more years.

I think depriving children makes less sense than eating your seed corn when you run out of food in the winter.

Today’s children are the seeds of the society we adults want to grow old in. If we neglect them, it’s not just their peril, but our own.