q_children_101

Q: What is the role of each in the lives of children—family, community, and government?

(Topics: Children, Q&A | Back to Home)

A: Children are part of families first, their communities second, and citizens in their government third. That means that that any role that government has in the lives of children should be minimal and rare, because most of children's experiences should be among their families and communities.

Whitney Houston was right: the children are our future. And in order for children to have a future, they must start out in environments where they are safe, loved, and supported. Over the course of growing up, kids will have more and more experiences outside the home and interacting with larger society. They will encounter conflict and have to make difficult choices. And they will make mistakes, sometimes serious and life-altering mistakes. But that's what it means to transition into adulthood. It means finding your way in the world.

The idea that kids are raised by families is not unique to American culture or even human culture. It is universal across the entire animal world [1]. And of course, what families look like is different everywhere, even on the block where you live [2]. But family is where kids should start and spend the majority of their young lives.

After family, children are also brought up by their communities. Omwana ni wa bhone is one form of this proverb [3], more commonly expressed as “it takes a village to raise a child.” And the community that raises our children is not just the county or town or city that we live in. It's also the cultural and religious traditions that the family shares with other families. It's food and styles of dress and songs and beliefs.

But today, our community is even broader. Our community is the television shows we watch, the podcasts we enjoy, the sports teams we love. It is the websites and the apps we frequent. Children are raised, in part, by the TikTok creators they follow. And its why families try to be conscious about the communities in which they and their children participate; ensuring that each one is age-appropriate and supportive and shares their values.

Children are also citizens of their nation. And while government has a role in protecting and serving all citizens, in the case of children it should be long after families and communities have done their part. That's why services like Safe Haven Baby Boxes [4] are crucially important. Why there must be court systems in place to address domestic violence in homes and assess child custody. Why we need laws about minors and services for young people, even though in almost all situations the family and the community is doing their best and government does not need to be involved.

We were all children once. And long after we are gone, the children of today and the next generation will inherit this world and this nation. Our duty is make sure that the country into which they are born is even better. And that the families and communities that raise them have the capacity to do so.

Because yes, children are our future.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_care

[2] The technical term is alloparenting, which is care for children provided those other than the biological parent. This happens all the time, whether it's a babysitting, school, a religious youth group, or just a kid playing at a friend's home.

[3] Maybe, anyway.

[4] https://www.indystar.com/story/news/local/hamilton-county/2022/04/07/indiana-dcs-infant-carmel-fire-department-baby-box-surrendered/9495140002/


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