Left Is RightTM

There Is No Place Like Home

By Tommy Ates TAtes@hoovers.com

What do you do when you're on your own?

There are no easy answers to this question as there are no easy answers as to why this position develops in the first place. Currently, there are no accurate statistics for homeless youth beyond the reach of the 'American dream.' But, there is no doubt they exist and their plight remains the 'dream' unfulfilled.

Again, and again, from poor, heroin addicts in Portland and Seattle, to the vast, numbers of African-American youth in the foster care system, lower-middle class and poor American children are continuing to get the shaft in terms of accessing educational opportunities and state resources in order to improve social conditions.

The plight of lost youth also extends to Rilya Wilson, the missing 5-year-old Florida girl who was "lost" by the state's child-welfare agency. She had been missing more than a year before anyone in the Florida Department of Human Services noticed.

These kids are everywhere, but the media, as well as inundated and antiquated local child services systems, ignore the larger problem of these kids' prospects in a world, increasingly based on class and access to digital information. Even though the latest U.S. census statistics show that poor and upper-class people prospered during the 1990's, the underbelly of those statistics was the dearth of income between the 'digital' upper class and the 'analog' poor. And, no where is this 21st Century trend developing, than in the emerging electoral "super-states" (like California), especially in Texas, where whole microcosms of class division are present, but not seen.

One example of the fountain of lost youth, is examine the Rio Grande valley region of Texas, where that area (some of whose local economics have been declared 'fastest-growing' by Money and Fortune magazines) have been businesses based on cheap labor from Mexican migrants or poor, former-rural citizenry in the distribution and warehousing sectors, catering to products coming the maquiladora plants from northern Mexico. In this region, (where most of the state's 25% of residents living over below poverty line reside) there lies a town with the dubious distinction of being the "poorest town in the nation, " Cameron Park, a name which hides in its suburban twang, near third-world living conditions in a supposedly, 'premier' 1st world nation.

Some sobering statistics, in America it ranks last in median per-capita income ($4,103 per year), and amongst residents only about 19% have a high-school education or better.

And it that isn't bad enough, there are over 1,800 such colonia towns throughout the Rio Grande valley region.

And yet, Money, Fortune, and big business love it.

Welcome to a frightening new vision of our future where children languish, but the system 'works.'

Poverty, neglect, poor schools, along with the growing digital divide quickly is creating a social condition that no after-school or D.A.R.E. program can heal in the short term. The notion of a generation of adults unable to function, nor deal with the digital economy or its trickle-down support positions in the most basic, industrial sectors in troubling indeed (and raises disturbing questions).

Such as, how long will the shrinking middle-class wait for its tax dollars to improve the condition of the permanent underclass? Will the treatment of children as "adults" in the American prison system begin to show signs of influence in the over-whelmed, state child-support system due to a lack of available foster-parents? With the shrinking of the middle-class occurring unabated, how long can it afford to wait?

Alas, in order to save the lost children that the state has lost, neglected, or forgot about, the effort must belong with the committed, local child advocates. Making sure state child protection agencies are brought to task for how they take care of these children and the quality of social services which are provided to clients, regardless of age, ethnicity, or income.

Unlike the current war on terror, this battle is one which the Bush administration has never viewed as top priority or (certainty) beyond the gaze of black and white '50s version of cops and "future" robbers (in consideration of children). Lost American kids in this society are currently individuals the legal system will have deal with, not truly "the future" as Whitney Houston's famous hit poignantly phrase.

There is no sense of love, or pride, or laughter; rather, where are the social resources, estimated future prison space, or available funds for temporary foster housing. Overall, not a good way to give a good example to poor youth of their importance in Bush's war on terror or a viable deterrent to al Qaeda's brand of military Islam (i.e., Chicago's Jose Padilla).

One can only guess that the old adage of jaded social workers, sitting around the water cooler, saying that, with the poor, misery loves company.

Just imagine Rilya being Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz,' "There's no place like home...there's no place like home..."

Anyone listening?

Tommy Ates loves the left because the left is always right! Tommy Ates is a featured columnist of Left Is Right (http://www.leftisright.net) appearing in several publications, such as The Houston Chronicle, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, The Buffalo News, The Wichita Eagle, and The Macon Telegraph, among others.