When people ask me about being a legislator and what it's like I often say it is very rewarding but can also be very frustrating. It is rewarding in that you can bring attention to problems but it can be frustrating when you can't make the needed change as fast as you want.
Yesterday and this morning were just such situations. I started yesterday morning at breakfast with a constituent. He is a social worker from Knoxville who works with physically and sexually abused children in Scott County.
I don't think I have to draw you a lot of pictures. It is bad. Things that make your stomach turn. Kids with drug addicted parents who sexually abuse and or physically abuse their children on a regular basis or just neglect them to the point of starvation. Only about 25% of the reported abuse cases are ever even investigated in Tennessee. Why? No money. No money for enough social workers who do investigations and no money to keep the children when abuse is found.
As a member of the children and family services committee I see the problem and the solution. The long term problem is a chain of abuse that that goes parent to child for generations. Kids growing up in filth and squalor with no one who cares about them and in many cases abuses them. They run away to get away and fall into the same trap. Drugs, prostitution, abuse, poverty and the cycle repeats.
While the goal to keep kids in a unified family is admirable, many times in abuse cases it is not realistic or helpful to the children. Unfortunately many times it is a forced situation. Children are forced back into situations where it is all but known the abuse will continue. Again, No money to continue care.
There are some places for these children that have given a good result. Children's homes (orphanages) have gotten a bad rap over the years, probably leftover from old b movies that painted them as terrible places, but in most cases they are way better then where these kids are coming from and they have a pretty good history of breaking the cycle. Churches used to do a lot of it, but the separation of church and state crowd have worked hard to kill that avenue.
We are now left with the state option. Why doesn't the state have more children's homes to help these abused children? Again, no money to build or staff them. That is why when I see things like the governor having a party for his 18 million dollar party bunker my blood about boils. The bunker is just one symptom of the problem. The problem is the confused priorities I see over and over that we don't quite have the votes to change yet. That to me is the bad part of the job. That, to me, is frustration.