If it is to be, it is up to me.
Those 10 two-letter words are the key to overcoming the seemingly insurmountable difficulties facing today's families.That was the message Denver District Attorney Norman S. Early Jr. brought to Utahns attending the 64th annual Utah Conference on Human Services at the University Park Hotel Wednesday, as he addressed the conference theme "Utah Families: Living on the Edge."
The diversity among American families is growing, Early said. The traditional family no longer exists as the United States enters a period of historic change in American family life.
"How do we meet that challenge," Early asked. "Do we do business as usual? Do we expect it to be the same tomorrow as it was yesterday?
"Or are we making plans, comprehensive plans to deal with this historic change?" Early continued.
Caring will the the key, Early said, caring enough to shake the system, to shake each other and to shake the bureaucratic structure.
"We must adopt an attitude that nothing can stop us and that we care," Early said.
Early said efforts must be made to watch for the signs of a deteriorating family and children who are in danger. Watching for those signs requires society adopt a new and different spirit. And, he said, the end of the family as we know it is not inevitable, society still retains the power to make change if it desires.
Children are the ones most vulnerable to the changes affecting families. Early said efforts must be made to protect the children, to guarantee equal opportunities and to ensure that they are reared in an atmosphere where they can thrive. Early said the world has reached the point where each generation is running at top speed with the baton and the question becomes: Who is going to drop it? Who is not going to make it?
The grim statistics are, Early said, that 2,795 teenagers become pregnant every day; 1,106 will eventually have abortions; 376 will experience miscarriages.
Every day, 1,027 children are born addicted to drugs or alcohol. Sixty-seven will die before the age of 1 month, another 105 will not see their first birthday alive.
Every day, 211 children are arrested on drug charges; 135,000 go to school with a firearm in their possession; 10 die from gunfire, 30 others are wounded.
Every day, 1,512 children drop out of school; 3,000 others are abused or neglected; six commit suicide; 2,288 run away from home.
Every day, 1,629 children spend time in adult jails.
"We are a penny-wise and pound-foolish society," Early said. "We never seem to get the message that we can either pay now (through education and preventive programs) or pay later (through welfare and law enforcement programs)."
Early said he believes early intervention can prevent many of the problems that threaten to destroy the family. He said this includes getting proper prenatal care for teenagers who become pregnant and developing intervention programs in the schools to prevent kids from becoming involved with drugs, alcohol and crime.
But the effort must start in the home, Early said. Between 85 and 90 percent of the kids lumped into the "worst of the worst" category, come from homes where violence is commonplace.
"It is amazing, but some families are grooming the criminals of tomorrow," Early said.