As a family court judge in Flint, Michigan, I see poverty flood my courtroom in a vicious cycle of cases in dependency, delinquency, criminality, and then back to dependency. The mantra in family court is that no one should lose their kids because they’re poor. The sad reality is that this happens all too often when generational poverty creates what Nicholas Kristof calls a “broken class.”
Many times it falls to the courts to fix families. It would be nice if it were easy. But often courts lock up a juvenile or terminate a parent’s rights and the vicious cycle continues to turn unabated. I agree that there is no “silver bullet” to solve the problems facing the poorest Americans; instead we must use “silver buckshot.” This is what we are doing in Genesee County, which encompasses Flint.
Creating effective “silver buckshot” in family court starts with a recognition of three truths. First, early childhood experiences, both good and bad, have an outsized effect on lifelong well-being and functionality. Second, the single biggest threat is from trauma, so it is imperative to both prevent it and treat its impact. Finally, we get better results with collaborative wraparound models, when families trust and are invested in the process.
These truths, applicable in other poverty stricken communities, are especially evident in our experiences in Flint. Our system, based on trauma-informed practice with an emphasis on early childhood, has become a model in Michigan.
[For more of this story, written by David Newblatt, go to http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.c...mwrsm=Email&_r=2]