Our Founder, Michele L. Jackson, is a proud member of the Indiana Bicentennial Children’s Rights Chapter. This group is doing important work to serve the needs of Indiana’s children. Much of the work being done is focused on at-risk children and those in need of services; internationally adopted children who are struggling would also fall within the purview of this Chapter’s advocacy efforts. This work is needed in our state, as Hoosier infants have a higher mortality rate and lower preschool entrance rate than national averages. There are many children and families struggling in our state to provide nutritious food and educational opportunities for their children. The Chapter on which Michele serves, alongside other leaders in child welfare, has developed and is proposing child-centered guidelines to best serve Hoosier children and act as a model for other states to adopt.
The Chapter proposes the creation of a Children’s Bill of Rights based on the premise that children need more advocacy than adults; children cannot lobby for themselves, and children, especially those in need of services, can be easily overlooked during political discussions. The Children’s Bill of Rights could act as a reminder posted in highly trafficked areas where children are served (schools, hospitals, etc.) of the rights children should be afforded. Such rights may include the right to a safe place to live and the right to an education, among other rights yet to be fully drafted. This document may also serve as a guideline for those individuals and entities serving children, to build upon and incorporate the unique needs of the organization.
The Chapter has also proposed that Indiana increase the number of school counselors available to children and also increase their training. Often school counselors get involved with a child when there are behavioral issues to be addressed. However, the reality is that those behaviors are often the direct result of a problem or stressor in the home that needs to be addressed with a more holistic approach. In Indiana today, there is only one counselor per 620 students, which is not sufficient to meet the needs of Hoosier children. This ratio puts Indiana 44th in the nation. The Chapter proposes that Indiana can do better, and recommends a ratio of one counselor to 100 students.
One of the most innovative ideas suggested by this group is the idea of a “Universal Child Passport.” They propose that there should be a connection point for all data related to at-risk children. An at-risk child may have contact with medical professionals, mental health professionals, foster parents, school system and state social workers. It is likely the case that all of these individuals and entities are doing their best to serve this child, but if they are not communicating and collaborating, they are missing the opportunity to holistically care for the child. At its worst, this miscommunication can be dangerous, if a caregiver is not informed of special needs or necessary medications. Through this “passport” system, everyone involved in the child’s care could have access to see what others are doing for and with the child.
Another idea was proposed that MLJ Adoptions has been discussing for some time: that there should be a centralized resource list for all child services in Indiana. The resource list should be searchable by both service type and geographical location. It is often the case that struggling parents do not access to services available in their state simply because they were not aware that they existed. Our team is hopeful that this is one of the ideas that will be implemented soon.
We are grateful that Michele has been and will continue to be involved in the improvement of children’s services in our state. The future for Hoosier children looks brighter due to her involvement as well as other experts contributing to this initiative.