We All Need to Be Asking, “And How Are the Children?”
I have always admired the African tribe the Masai – not for their fighting spirit or intelligence, but for their cultural values. Their traditional greeting, passed down through generations, is “Kasserian Ingera.” Simply translated, this means, “And how are the children?” The question would be asked until the answer, “All the children are well,” was given. This would mean that priorities for protecting the young and vulnerable were in place, that the Masai community was doing everything it could to ensure the safety and prosperity of its youngest generation.
When I was sworn in as CSAC President in December, I committed myself and the Association to two priorities: enhancing partnerships and focusing on what we can do for our children. Every day I ask the question, “How are the children?” And every day I keep that question in the back of my mind as I undertake my role as a local elected leader.
Now I am asking that question of you. I want this to be the Year of the Child in every county in 2013. We need to ask ourselves not only how our children are doing, but are we doing everything we can to help them? In every policy we develop, budgetary allocation made or decision reached, we should be asking how it will impact the children in our communities.
It is too easy to focus on the task at hand — to only see the direct impacts of our decisions in such areas as justice or transportation. But we must understand that every area for which we are responsible touches children’s lives in some facet. Our children cannot be ignored. They are our future. We must ensure they are our constant focus.
Through CSAC, I will be challenging all of our leaders to make children our top priority. Few would say they do not support efforts for our children – but actions are often harder to come by. In some ways, what I am advocating for would be a cultural change, begging the question, “And how are the children?”
We must also engage our community partners and ask the same of them. It is imperative for us to recognize, listen to and work with our local groups and organizations that focus on children – First 5 and Children and Families Commissions, child care councils, school boards, court appointed special advocates, foster parents, Little League and other recreational programs, church groups, the list goes on and on. Invite them to your board meetings to tell their story of how they are partnering to better the community for our children.
As county leaders, we also need to ask the same of the Governor and Legislature. Invite them to become partners in prioritizing the children. Insist that when they are discussing policy, proposed legislation or the state budget, they, too, ask the question, “How does this impact the children?” It is with these partnerships – on a local and statewide level – that we can begin crafting the success of the next form of realignment.
A sample resolution will be coming forth in the near future for each county to consider and also declaring 2013 as the Year of the Child.
And so I ask that you keep foremost in your mind the question, “How are the children?” We need to continue focusing on our children – their present and future – until we can truly and without reservation answer this question with, “All the children are well.”
David Finigan serves as President of the California State Association of Counties and is a Del Norte County Supervisor.
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