Kids in the System

I started this blog a few months ago, thinking that there wasn’t really anything quite like it among law blogs…and I don’t think there is.  There are, however, lots of amazingly great (non-”legal”) blogs out there that address issues of concern to those of us who care about marginalized kids.  A bunch are listed to the right in the blog roll.

One of my favorites is David Chura’s Kids in the System.  He says the following about himself:

For the last 40 years I’ve worked with at-risk kids, kids “in the system”–foster care, group homes, homeless shelters; psych hospitals, drug rehab; special education, alternative high schools. I am also a writer. Many times the young people I have met in my work become a part of my writing. I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup (Beacon Press) is a collection of sketches of some of the locked away teenagers I taught over my ten years working in an adult county prison.

I love this recent piece of his at the Huffington Post, as he uses his personal experience with a specific child to talk more globally about poverty, effectively putting a face on “the invisible poor.”  It begins like this:

I met Amber at a tutoring program for inner city children. It was 1966, my senior year in high school, and the war on poverty was on, a war we’ve failed to win.

At nine-years-old Amber looked like a scarecrow, an old scarecrow at that, bird-picked, weather beaten. She was stick thin. None of her clothes fit, hand-me-downs from her sister Bunny who quickly outgrew her clothes while her younger sister didn’t seem to grow at all. Her eyes were dark circled; her hair, straw and falling out.

Saturday mornings she was one of the first kids through the church basement doors. My friends and I weren’t naïve. We knew that that gaggle of children who showed up each week wasn’t there for the mandatory hour of instruction. They put up with our drilling them on the timestables or helping them parse a paragraph. They were really there for the cookies and milk, and the tables spread with art supplies and games. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that they may have been just as eager for our attention, our reliability, and perhaps even our youthful faith in the future as for those treats.

I worked with Amber all that year. She didn’t progress much. But that didn’t seem to matter. She was always there. Besides, there was something else going on: I was being tutored in what poverty was really all about.

Read the rest here.  Please check out his blog; it’s well worth your time.

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About Tamar Birckhead

School of Law
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3 Responses to Kids in the System

  1. Drew K says:

    Great link; thanks! Relatedly, I recently watched the following video from Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines program. There’s a powerful scene where a young man who spent time in Eager Street in Baltimore talks about his experience being locked up pre-trial with adults. (The show also notes that Baltimore’s solution to putting youth in adult lock-up is simply to build an adjacent, multi-million dollar lockup facility for 16 and 17 year olds.) All around great video, but an exceptional scene.

    http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/faultlines/2012/08/20128218333383106.html