Today we visited Marguerite’s Place in Nashua, New Hampshire. It’s a place where women who have escaped desperate situations can come with their children and receive help in starting over. To receive acceptance into the program a woman has to be homeless, between the age of 18 and 45, and with children under the age of 12.
Women who are struggling with violence, abuse, poverty and other challenging life circumstances are encouraged to apply. Their children are as beautiful, talented, and brilliant as any other children. At Marguerite’s Place, they receive a miracle.
I have met so many of these women and so many of these children. I met a high school principal in Nevada who said she has elementary school children on suicide watch, yet she cannot even get a social worker for her school because she’s told there is not enough funding.
Everywhere I go, throughout the country, I’m made more aware of America’s underbelly of desperate children. That is why I propose a cabinet level Department of Children and Youth. We need to coordinate information and solutions for the challenges facing millions of American children living with chronic trauma. Wraparound services, anti-trauma, restorative justice, education, conflict resolution, emotional health services, medical care. Mindfulness in schools. Yoga in schools.
There is so much we need to do to rescue these children. We should rescue them no differently than we would had they been affected by any natural disaster. We do not rescue them now; we have simply normalized their despair. For every child who makes it to Marguerite’s Place, there are thousands, even hundreds of thousands more, who do not get to experience that miracle. And if we do not give children what they need before the age of eight - if they have not learned to read, for instance - the chances of their graduating from high school are drastically diminished and their chances of incarceration are drastically increased.
To truly recognize the depth and breadth of the problem is emotionally overwhelming. But I will not be overwhelmed. I will do what’s in front of me. And I hope you will join me. We can do this. We can create massive change.