Thanks to the Globe (Nov. 13), Joplin now has a new acronym to discuss. It is ACE — adverse childhood experiences — and several news articles, editorials and at least one Sunday column have been published to address that issue.
A year or more ago, President Donald Trump again ignited virulent opposition by suggesting bad countries exist, though he used something other than “bad” that I will not repeat. Guess what — if bad is used, he is absolutely right. In fact, he probably understated the scope of the problem. He could and should have said, “There are many bad countries around the world.”
The same applies to Joplin. Would most agree that there are bad, even many bad, homes in Joplin? I agree with all who have written thus far about ACE, that there are not just a few or several homes in Joplin in which children are not raised in the manner that most of us would consider right. It is a systemic problem, in Joplin, America and certainly around the globe.
Another point worth considering — all of us experienced some form of adversity growing up, in our homes, in school, on the playground. That is very much a part of growing up — to be so exposed, learn to deal with it and move on to adulthood with mental balance. The Globe and other writers did try to narrow the definition of “adverse” to homes with substance abuse problems, where children witness violence or suffer abuse and neglect.
That creates a dilemma for any community — to correctly define what, in fact, is adverse enough to demand, as a community, to call on law enforcement, family services or courts to take action. It is a very tough decision in terms of when to do something legally, is it not?
Even when a substantial majority agree that enough is enough and therefore collectively state that action must be taken, the next question arises — “Who, exactly, and to do what?” We need some degree of precision in terms of cost and availability of community services.
I, for one, read the various recent opinions on ACE and wondered to myself what should I do better or more. I read not a word in any articles other than “support the efforts of ...”
Well, guess what — I believe there are questionable, if not some bad organizations that are considered part of the solution. So, step one would be to find agreement on which organizations in Joplin need some cleaning up before we add more responsibilities on them.
If I wrote a column identifying such organizations or my opinion of such organizations, the roof would come down on my head. The essence of the objections would be that no one should criticize any group that tries to address ACE. And if I agreed that all social services groups should become more involved, I shudder to imagine the calls for more public funding to better support such involvement. Money immediately raises it head when it comes to doing more by publicly or privately funded organizations, and thus money — how much and to which organization — must be part of the discussion.
I close with a question: If your grandchildren (even children, I suppose) were being raised in an ACE situation, what would you do about it? What public service organization would you ask, even demand, take charge of your children/grandchildren, to remove ACE as a big impediment to their entry into adulthood?
If your answer is “none of them,” then is not a call to action to clean up some public services a needed call?
Anson Burlingame lives in Joplin.