The Power of One
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.
“When a child is born the world is altered in an instant.
A new voice is heard
New love comes into being
Years later we pause and say YES — that’s when it all began
— on that day — in that room — when I saw that face
Birth is the smallest of magnificent things and the greatest of little ones
For the midwives of Nonnatus House each one was as ordinary and magical as the sunrise - as familiar and different as a breaking day.”
We welcome back old characters and meet a new midwife, Barbara Gilbert, in the premiere episode of Season 4. Sister Evangelina finally resolves to get assistance for her pain. A young expectant mother faces the possibility of losing yet another baby due to prematurity. And Trixie revisits difficult memories as she helps a young boy named Gary as he tries to keep himself and his siblings safe from maternal abuse and neglect.
© Neal Street Productions This season premiere and the storyline with Gary and his siblings was poignant and powerful especially in light of the horrendous discovery of two children found dead in a freezer in the east side of Detroit, Michigan this past week. Their names were Stoni Ann Blair and Stephen Gage Berry and they were 13 and 9 years old. There is grief and guilt as people struggle with the abuse, trauma, and neglect which went unnoticed for years. Their mother has been charged and her other two children removed to protective custody.
Since 1985, April has been nationally recognized as Child Abuse Prevention Month so it is good to blog about this topic area as a Modern Day Midwife and also as the Director of the Detroit Nurse-Family Partnership (D-NFP) at Detroit Wayne County Health Authority (DWCHA). In Michigan there will be a Prevention Awareness Day and the theme is The Power of One. This statewide initiative asserts that the power of one person, one community, one dollar, one action, will help to protect children from abuse and neglect throughout Michigan. The initiative encourages every citizen to take responsibility for providing the support and assistance that all parents need.
© Neal Street Productions I have written in a previous blog about resilience – because we know that this is something that can be enhanced when they have at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult. We need the collective interaction of family, community, workplace, and government and that each in concert has a responsibility to promote the well-being of ALL of our nation’s young children. But it can all start with that Power of ONE! Midwives and the Detroit Nurse-Family Partnership reach out, connect with women and children and offer evidence based care, give support, assist with needed health and human resources, and make those needed connections. Our entire team currently go out to try to find and connect with ‘hard to reach’ women. We actually go into the neighborhoods and even leave information about our services in gas stations, nail salons, hair dressers, libraries, and churches—trying to be that one person they may let in. Just like Trixie went that extra mile to find and connect with Gary- we are trying to go that extra mile here in Detroit.
To put things in context 30, 953 children were abused or neglected in Michigan – that is 85 children every day. Detroit registered 3,309 confirmed cases of abuse or neglect of children age 0 to 17, a rate of 14.1 per 1,000 children (Michigan League for Human Services, Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2010). Nationally 1,520 children die each year from child abuse and neglect. Detroit families have had to navigate home foreclosures and job losses (unemployment is as high as 50%). Detroit residents live in poverty at an increased rate than those reported for the overall statewide residents, 36.4 percent vs 16.2 percent (US Census Bureau, Michigan and Detroit). The poverty rate for all children under 18 was 22.5 percent statewide and 50.8 percent in Detroit (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009 ACS, Subject Table S1701. Poverty Status in the Past 12 Months for Michigan and Detroit). And the percentage of African American children and youth under 18 in Detroit living in poverty jumped from 34.7 % to 50.4 % between the year 2000 to 2009 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009 ACS, Detailed Table B17001B ). These difficult and uncertain times can lead many families to experience toxic stress and this impacts our children.
Data Driven Detroit reports that the violent crime rate in Detroit is 4 ½ times the national, and 4x the Michigan rate. The rate of child abuse or neglect in Detroit just barely exceeded the state rate but Detroit children were placed in out-of-home care at twice the state rate. The death rate for Detroit children 1 to 14 years of age was nearly 6.5 times the state rate. For the 15 to 24 age cohort, Detroit’s death rate was 2.2 times the state rate. Males represented 80 percent of the deaths of Detroiters age 15 to 24.
In Detroit, just like character Gary, there are many children that are taking care of their siblings or struggling to take care of themselves. Children are in the care of their siblings 14-16% and the rate of children that care for themselves is 27-31 percent (Michigan after 3pm Report).
Child abuse is linked with a wide range of medical, emotional, psychological, and behavioral disorders. Children who have been maltreated may experience long-term effects. We are working hard but we need to work harder. Sister Monica Joan said “our tasks are too many and our pairs of hands too few”.
We hosted a pre-screening of Call the Midwife and over 113 people registered and came to watch the show—and hopefully the show began to inspire even more in the crowd! I had someone call me the other day — she had been interested in working for Doctors without Borders and her professor suggested she think about coming to work with us here in Detroit! It all starts with that Power of One and another pair of hands.
“It sometimes happens that new beginnings come not at once, but at last the wait is rewarded and the fresh start can commence; but we can never know how the story will conclude and perhaps that’s for the better…”
References and Links
Data Driven Detroit. State of the Detroit Child: 2010.
Michigan after 3pm Report
Michigan League for Human Services, Kids Count in Michigan Data Book 2010
US Census Bureau
Katie Moriarty (CNM, PhD, CAFCI, RN) is the Director of Nurse-Family Partnership at Detroit Wayne County Health Authority and currently serves on the regional board of directors for the American College of Nurse-Midwives. Prior to her current position, Katie served as the Associate Director of the Nurse-Midwifery Education Program at the University of Michigan.
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