Search This Blog

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Violence Leaves a Damaging Imprint on New Orleans Children

From The New Orleans Times-Picayune

By The Times-Picayune Editorial Board
June 13, 2018

In the most violent city in one of the most violent states in the nation, children are suffering. They've witnessed death in their New Orleans neighborhoods, ducked bullets themselves and lost family members to homicide. And they and their families are essentially dealing with the after-effects alone.

The state of Louisiana, led by former Governor Bobby Jindal, has eviscerated mental health services for children over the past decade. New Orleans political leaders haven't really made those services a priority, either. And only a handful of the city's public schools are addressing, head-on and comprehensively, the needs of traumatized students.

Related

It's not just politicians who lack the commitment to helping children recover from violence. The people of New Orleans haven't demanded that it be a priority, either. Most of us don't truly understand the problem. When children scarred by violence act out, the first response is to lock them up.

We see the child who is misbehaving, not the child who was terrified by a shooting. And we essentially throw them away.

Earl Watson Jr., an A.L. Davis Park Panthers youth football player,
was 5 when he saw a man murdered. He hasn't been the same since,
his father says, and suffers from symptoms of PTSD.

In "The Children of Central City," a project launching Wednesday (June 13) online at NOLA.com and in print in The Times-Picayune, reporters Jonathan Bullington and Richard Webster, photographer Brett Duke and videographer Emma Scott document the devastating effects of violence on New Orleans children.

They will tell the stories of the A.L. Davis Park Panthers 9- and 10-year-old football team, explain the science of what trauma does to a child and examine the gaping holes in the safety net that should help New Orleans youngsters heal.

Violence has left a heartbreaking imprint on the Panthers. Twenty-eight former players were killed between 2003 and 2017, and some of the youngsters on this year's team already have experienced shocking violence.

One player was only 3 years old when he and his brother discovered his mother's body on the kitchen floor. She had been shot to death. Another teammate was 5 when he saw a man shot at a Church's Chicken. Both players have struggled with stress, anger and depression, their families said. Of course, they have.


Long-time Panthers coach Jerome Temple, who is better known as DJ Jubilee, started keeping the sad list of lost players after Hurricane Katrina. "My manager would call and say, 'Jube, you hear about your ballplayer who got killed?' I'd say, 'Who?' He'd say, 'Tyrone.' He'd say, 'Jerry.' He'd say, 'Lil' Nathan.' All of a sudden, I end up with a list of 10 of them, then 14, then 16, 17, 18. I'm like, something ain't right here," he told our reporters.

The benefits of being part of a team have borne out for many of his former players, who have built successful lives. But the loss of those 28 players highlights not only the level of violence in Central City, but the lack of help for children exposed to it.

After deep cuts during the Jindal administration's eight years and more budget cuts by Gov. John Bel Edwards in the past two years, there are few options for trauma treatment for poor children in New Orleans. Louisiana also has one of the lowest Medicaid reimbursement rates in the nation, which makes it hard for service providers to survive.

Jerome Temple, who started coaching the Panthers in 1997, still believes that youth sports is a positive force in children's lives. But he sees how much more support they need to deal with violence and escape it.

"My main thing is, we know the end result to everything that's going on. We know who's going to be killed, who's going to do the killing. It's just a matter of time," he says. "If we don't support these kids, do everything we can, we know what's going to happen. So why do we let it?"

Why do we? Why do we give up on so many children?

"The Children of Central City" documents the shame of our neglect. But it also should inspire us to finally give children traumatized by violence the life-saving support they need.

No comments:

Post a Comment