Hello! Welcome to the inaugural blog post for Our Town Our Kids! The tagline for this edition is:
It takes a village…
Dr. Sue’s Corner (others may add to the corner list soon) is a place where we can meet informally to catch up on the latest happenings, plans, and ideas for Our Town Our Kids. If you have a specific topic or idea you would like to see discussed, please do let me know, and we’ll get ‘er done!
All of us have heard the adage It takes a village. Most commonly, the saying is attributed to an African proverb that refers to raising a child. In general, most agree that it is similar to other African proverbs. For example, in the Lunyoro society, they claim, “A child does not grow up only in a single home.” And in Kijita, the saying goes, Omwana ni wa bhome, translated: “Regardless of a child’s biological parents, its upbringing belongs to the community.” The exact origin, though, remains a mystery. Even National Public Radio, who researched it thoroughly, concluded it was unable to pinpoint its origins, claiming that “it takes a village to determine the origins of an African proverb.”
Of course, none of this negates the importance of family, friends, and close fellowship in a child’s life. These remain the bedrock of a child’s world. It is also true that a child, just like all of us, coexists within communities, states, nations, and the world. In a civilized society, we wear many hats. In a local community, especially where personal ties are relatively close, connections are tight and one moving part inevitably affects other moving parts.
But I digress. Regardless of origin, the phrase reflects at least one of the sentiments attached to Our Town Our Kids: We all care for our kids, and we’re in this together.
As we enter the first planning phase of this project, it’s good to remind ourselves of its primary goal: To increase local capacity in reducing the number of at-risk youth who enter the juvenile justice system. This mandate comes from the Kansas Department of Corrections in response to concerns that too many kids enter a system which, when taken to the extreme, may be deleterious to a child’s development. In turn, a downward spiral often results.
This short depiction is a serious overgeneralization, right? One of the reasons we are partnering with non-urban communities comes from stories, experiences, and first-hand observation that a one-size-fits-all proclamation (and system) often ignores the realities of rural places. You know, almost everything we know about crime, juvenile justice, and systems is based on studies of the city—I call it urban ethnocentrism. We need to change that.
Thus, one of our first jobs was simply to tour western Kansas and listen. So… we started out with our Listening Tour. I’ll insert a few photos throughout the blog to remind ourselves of the people and places that have taught us much throughout this journey.
A listening tour is a form of collaborative research. It comes through years of anthropological research and is a way for people to learn about specific communities. In simple terms, listening is the highest form of communication—and, sometimes, the most difficult one to accomplish. How many times do we simply stop listening because we are already thinking about how we want to respond?
So, we put on our listening hats and hit the road. Thus far, we’ve taken four tours around the western part of the state.
Here are just a few of the things we’ve learned:
As another community leader put it, “We have to work twice as hard to get services for our kids, and then sometimes we still can’t get to them. But that one kid is just as important as the rest of them. It’s heartbreaking when we can’t get to them.”
We are proud of our listening tour methodology and humbled by the caring people we met. We listened, but we need to do more. Each and every word you say, each story you share, and every light bulb that flashes on is taken into consideration.
What do we know for sure? When our kids succeed, we all succeed.
Stay tuned as we learn and grow together. In the spirit of teamwork,