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The 1960’s were a time of continuing racial discrimination and oppression, which created unrest and discontent that led to rioting. However, there was support by President Kennedy to help the poor through the passage of the Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Offenses Control Act and the Mental Retardation Facilities and Community Mental Health Centers Act. The former provided services to inner city youth aimed at “preventing and treating delinquency” (Trattner, W. I., 1999, P. 320) which would have helped Anita’s son, Anthony. It would also likely have helped many other neighborhood youth and may have prevented much of the violence that the neighborhood residents were exposed to. The latter Act provided funding for community mental health centers, which could have helped Anita with supported employment, parenting education, assistance with food and finances, and help processing the loss and trauma that she experienced during her childhood, marriage, and as a single parent living in a poverty-stricken neighborhood. Anthony would also likely have benefitted from mental health counseling and trauma-informed care.
If I could enact additional policies, I would first enact legislation to provide funding for trauma-informed programs and services to be brought into all schools. All staff and teachers would be trained in trauma-informed practices and how to work collaboratively as a team to ensure that students have a safe environment in which to learn. Teaching methods and styles, as well as school policies and programs would ensure that every students’ physical, emotional and mental needs are taken care of. The trauma-informed framework would include regular collaboration with community partners, such as law enforcement, community mental health centers, the Department of Human Services, medical services, and others that are intricately involved in the lives of children and their families.
Another policy I would create is one that provides training and funding for community resource/crisis intervention teams that consist of a law enforcement officer and a mental health professional. These teams would are embedded within the community where they get to know the residents and build positive relationships and begin to identify and work with those who are most at risk of becoming involved with the legal and/or mental health systems. Such teams could provide a trusting relationship between law enforcement, mental health providers and the community, which could help prevent the violence that existed in Anita’s neighborhood, while providing a positive role models for the youth, and a stabilizing influence in the community.
Last, but not least, I would like to see programs such as Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Parks and Rec Programs, Teen Centers and Kids Club programs be funded on a priority basis in low-income neighborhoods to provide guidance, mentoring and positive role models, as well as safe places in which to participate in after-school activities and get kids off the streets and into positive and safe environments.
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