Community Issues

Children, I believe are facing an unprecedented spiritual assault in our time. Less than 50% of children born in the U.S. have married parents. Suicides are dramatically and tragically rising among our kids and young adults. Sexual immorality is rampant and is the expected norm for even children in early adolescence. Illicit drugs are readily available and entities are actively poisoning our kids. Sex trafficking is everywhere. Social media targets and pummels vulnerable kids. Neurological problems, such as autism and ADHD etc., are prevalent.


We, as the body of Christ, have the answers, and we can defeat the Enemy - as long as we engage in the battle. Our victory is guaranteed! The Bible tells us that,”The Lord will build His Church and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” I believe many of the problems kids face are hidden from most of the current Church in America. Therefore, the Church is largely not engaged in the fight.

For some who are aware, a typical response is that the problems are for parents, teachers, therapists, doctors, and law enforcement to deal with. But parents - even Christian ones - are largely unequipped for these battles and often can not win them alone. It is not the job of teachers, therapists, and law enforcement to deal with the spiritual warfare involved. Christian therapy is great, and I am grateful for it, but therapy can not cast out a demon. This is where the Church needs to become aware and get engaged in the war. Our children are getting slaughtered!


Isaiah 58:6 “No this is the kind of fasting that I want: …Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people…”

Currently, this is the typical route that troubled (and/or neurodiverse) children and their families take to get help:

Psychotherapy/counseling; behavioral medical services; and community interventions, such as: church groups, sports, extracurricular activities, special education (including therapy at school), and extended family & friends helps.

If all of these options fail, troubled children end up in these institutions:

  • Hospital Emergency Rooms

  • Psychiatric Hospitals

  • Dept of Juvenile Justice

  • Rehab Facilities

  • Medical Home-Bound Education or Alternative School

  • Government or Private Group Homes

There are three major problems/issues that almost all of these have in common

1) There is a huge shortage of them - both in terms of facilities and staff. This problem is only growing worse.

2) They are typically “anti” parents. Many of them view the parents as the problem and not part of the solution; or often do not listen to nor believe input from the parents about their own children. It is the rare facility that partners with parents to help the kids.

3) Most of them are basically “godless” and are very underserved by the church at large. With some of them, you can feel the heaviness and darkness on them from miles away!

Here are some issues specific to each institution:

Hospital Emergency Rooms

This is typically the first treatment option for children who become out of control - either suicidal or violent.

Issues:

A) These are basically “triage” services for the kids. While they do get medical treatment and basic psychological evaluations, that’s all they get. The staff will decide if they are stable enough to go home; need to go to an acute facility (3-7 days); or need longer term care.

B) The care they get is very inconsistent - typically changes at each shift change. (Ie. medications get missed, diagnoses change depending on who’s evaluating them, etc).

C) If they can’t get the child stable and can't find a facility to send them to (common), the ER becomes basically a “holding cell” for the child. Since ER’s are not equipped to truly treat troubled children, there are no education services, no social workers assigned to the kids, and no regular therapy. Kids can get stuck there for weeks, even months, at a time. This is extremely boring for the kids and sets them back educationally and psychologically.

Psychiatric Hospitals

Generally these fall in to 2 categories - acute and residential. (There are some that do what’s called “partial hospitalization program” (PHP), which is daily (sometimes just after school) care where the children go home at night. These are pretty rare (there are none in the greater Charlotte metro region, for example).

Acute Psychiatric Hospitals

Will typically hold a child for 3 to 7 days. Their purpose to is get the child “stable” when they are experiencing suicidal and/or homicidal ideation. They help them get calm and try to give them coping techniques (journaling, breathing control - things like that).

Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities (PRTF)

After a child has gone to an acute facility a few times without success (and not before then), the medical system will recommend a PRTF. (Note - many practitioners will recommend a PRTF way before then, but insurance will not allow it until acute stays have happened at least 2ce). Even for severely neurodiverse children, the road to a PRTF can be very long.

Acute

Residential (PRTF)

A) They are not meant to be “healing” facilities. They are very short term, most of the staff are overwhelmed, and they just try to teach the kids coping techniques and then get them out the door.

B) Insurance mostly will not allow longer than 7 days. This means even when it’s abundantly clear to staff and the parents that the child is

not stable, they will discharge them back into the home at 7 days anyway. This is not optional. (All of these facilities - including ER’s - will call DSS and have you charged with child abandonment if you don’t pick them up when they discharge them).

A) Because they are rare and in demand, parents (and the kids) are almost completely at the mercy of the facility.

B) These vary greatly in quality, with some being nothing more than warehousing for these kids (and sadly sometimes, emotionally and/or psychologically abusive to the children).

C) Parental communication (and visitation) with their child in a PRTF can be very limited and supervised.

D) Every facility (both acute and PRTF) says they do “family therapy” and include it in their care plans. They almost never actually do it, or only have very short, cursory meetings. (With rare exceptions).

Depts of Juvenile Justice

DJJ interaction involves probation, family court, and incarceration. There are many issues with DJJ’s and they vary from state to state, but there are several things nearly all of the states’ DJJs have in common:

Inadequate or no mental health/disabilities services for inmates at all. (SC has none, for instance - which is both illegal and unconstitutional but that's an entire additional article).

DJJ's have huge racial disparities.

The national average is that African American children are incarcerated 5 times more than caucasians (per capita). The only state where this is not true is Hawaii. In 5 northern states, a black child is at least 10 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white one.

https://www.sentencingproject.org/fact-sheet/black-disparities-in-youth-incarceration/

Higher rates of fatherlessness is a large factor, but it is not the only explanation for the differences.

DJJs have a philosophy of keeping kids OUT of juvenile detention as much as possible, even violent offenders (unless very violent). That might sound like a compassionate philosophy, but it is actually very dangerous. Often one of the safer places for violently out of control children is in confinement. They are much more likely to harm themselves, get harmed, or harm others out in the community where there is no firm structure. Of course, this also tends to wreck havoc on the communities as well. In Mecklenburg County (where Charlotte is located), the sheriff had to close the largest youth detention facility a couple of years ago due to lack of funding and staff. That caused the surrounding areas' youth detention facilities to become very overcrowded. Recently, riots broke out in a neighboring county's facilities. Reinforcements had to be called in, due to a large shortage of staff there. In Charlotte, juvenile crime is up 34%. The sheriff is trying to get funding from the State to reopen the youth detention facility.

Rehab Facilities

Again, there is a huge shortage of these, so even when children get sentenced to one, their stays there are far too short to really effect change.

Most families can not afford private facilities - if they can even find one. These kids often quickly end up back in custody (if they survive the continued drug use at all).

Home Bound Medical educational services Alternative School

In general, the main problem with public school systems when it comes to special needs children is that they try to provide as few resources to them as possible. There is an entire industry related to this (IEP advocates, lawyers, websites and groups, etc). That means that parents that are already overwhelmed with their children’s needs have to fight the school district to get the services their children need - often having to hire an “advocate” The unfortunate prevailing philosophy of many public school systems these days is to try to "mainstream" special needs children - even neurodiverse ones. It sounds compassionate and "inclusive", but what actually ends up happening is these kids fall behind academically. Socially, their peers (and teachers) become annoyed and impatient with their special needs.

For at-risk children who can't function well enough in a general classroom, Instead of putting them in a special needs classroom, some schools will put the child in alternative school OR medical home-bound education.

Alternative Schools - These schools are for children with behavior problems, and they are punitive. The school day is much shorter and only covers 4 core subjects. There are no extra curricular activities, nor arts or physical education. Students are not allowed to attend school activities. Mentally ill and/or neurodiverse children are not supposed to be put in alternative schools, as it amounts to punishing the children for having disabilities. Nevertheless, school districts often do this, and many parents are not aware of their rights (and even when they are, some districts continue to place their kids in the alternative schools). The obvious drawbacks are that these kids don't get the services they need, don't receive a full education, and lack social opportunities (including that they are not allowed to talk in class).

Medical Home-Bound Education. A teacher comes to the child’s home for approximately 5 hours a week and teaches the child the core subjects one on one. The child is expected to do all of the school work on their own, and naturally, the child has NO social interaction with peers. While this is a good option for children who have serious illnesses which prevent them from attending school in person, it is damaging to at-risk kids with mental or neurological disorders. Again, they are deprived of social interaction with peers, and they are only receiving a bare minimum of education.

Lack of options. Almost no private nor charter schools provide special needs education. This is typically due to the fact that it is very labor intensive and therefore expensive. That leaves parents with only the public school options or home-schooling. Because of the more intense needs of these children, home-schooling is often not an option for these parents. There are starting to be some specialized schools that only accept neurodiverse kids and some for youth with emotional disorders. They are rare, but hopefully this movement will increase and more options will become available. (Example - Project Hope school for kids with autism - state gives tuition credits. Another one is Hope Academy, accredited through SCISA - SC Independent School Assn).

For troubled children, education becomes a tragic casualty in their lives. The children frequently end up on a merry-go-round of services, bouncing between hospitals, incarceration, and home. Therefore, they receive no consistent education at all.

Group Homes

If no permanent homes can be found for kids in foster care - usually due to difficult behaviors or mental illnesses - but increasingly due to lack of foster parents - the kids can get sent to foster care group homes (either publicly or privately run). Because these are paid for through state funds, oftentimes they can not be openly or explicitly Christian facilities. Many do allow Christians to come minister in them, however (lead Bible studies or church services) if there are Christians available to do that.

The issues with foster care are well known, so I won’t expound on them, except to say that ever since the pandemic, there is an acute shortage of parents willing to foster/adopt. There was always a shortage of foster parents, but it became much much worse during the pandemic and has not recovered. Additionally, many states have become overwhelmed with having to care for unaccompanied immigrant children who are here illegally.

An Important Note


All of these issues are growing and negatively impact each other
. For example, because the juvenile justice system is incarcerating fewer kids, more dangerous kids are out in the community at large. For residential psych facilities (including group homes and hospitals), they are serving more dangerous children. This causes more harm to workers in the facilities. That causes fewer people willing to work in these places. It also causes increasing business insurance rates (one of my friends who runs psych group homes had her rates DOUBLED last year despite the fact that she did not have any claims). Increased expenses and staffing shortages are causing some of these facilities to close their doors altogether. This isn't hypothetical. Tragic recent news stories from the Greater Charlotte area include reports of a teenager beating a 57 year old group home worker to death, and a troubled foster child who went off to college and came back a few months later and murdered her foster mother. This also makes more people understandably afraid to foster/adopt, so increases the shortage of foster parents. Fewer facilities and fewer workers = more children going without needed care. It’s a very vicious cycle.


This is the harvest field, and the Lord will build His Church and the gates of Hades will NOT prevail against it! This is a mighty battle, but one the Church can WIN!