I was recently asked about the current state of the drug epidemic and its impact on Tuscarawas County families. In my opinion, the answer is twofold.
The drug epidemic continues to be a big issue for our community. Second, children in our community are being affected at an alarming rate. Both issues complement each other. Parent’s overdosing is all too familiar to our community. Parents using drugs often times lead to poor environments for their children. The children see and hear things that warp their sense of normalcy. Moreover, the parents using the drugs are unable to take care of themselves, let alone a child. The children are left without a positive role model. Many times the children ultimately end up in the custody of their grandparent, relative or adoptive family.
Every county and State agency continues to work vigorously in combating drug use and searching for resources for recovery. But what about the children? The children are sometimes referred to as the “forgotten generation.” Numerous children are displaced from their homes and are searching for a sense of stability and attention. I see these children regularly in the courtroom. There is more we all can be doing for these children.
Big Brothers and Big Sisters (BBBS) is one resource available to provide positive role models for these children. I met with the director of BBBS to inquire about their processes and resources available. During our meeting, I learned there are many children on a waiting list seeking a mentor. I further learned that some of the children have been waiting for years for a mentor. Finally, I was told that some children are on the waiting list so long that they turn 18 years old and never receive a mentor. I find that unfortunate and unacceptable.
In the course of my day, I have the opportunity to interact with many youth and their families. Our youth have an enormous amount of potential that requires some guidance along the way. It’s frustrating to hear that our community has children reaching out for a good role model and in many cases we fail to answer the call. The fact of the matter is all our youth are going to find role models. It should be a priority to ensure that we match these children with GOOD role models. Many of these children are simply looking for someone to offer three things and none of them require you to withdraw anything from your bank account. Time. Compassion. Encouragement. Those three things can change a child’s life dramatically. No matter what your socio-economic class you are able to provide a child those three things if you want to.
The applicants seeking a mentor come from a number of different circumstances. Some are raised by a single parent that works multiple jobs to support the family. As a result, they are unable to give their child the necessary time and attention the child needs and deserves. Sometimes a child’s parents are not good role models. Sometimes the child is being raised by their grandparents who are limited in their abilities.
This is the story of a child I’ll name “Johnny.” Johnny lives with his elderly grandmother due to his parent’s drug abuse. Johnny gets bullied at school and struggles to find the desire to attend school. Johnny applied for a mentor more than a year ago. However, mentors are not abundant and he has not been matched with a mentor. Meanwhile, Johnny’s attendance at school has plummeted along with his grades. He needs someone’s Time, Compassion and Encouragement.
Tuscarawas County has great people that are able to change these children’s course. When a child reaches out, we need those people to reach back. If the information in this article touches you as it has me, I hope you will take the next step to get involved. This problem is not going away on its own. Let’s not forget this generation of children. I’m available to further discuss opportunities to get involved with anyone that’s interested.
Magistrate Adam W. Wilgus
Tuscarawas County Juvenile/Probate Court
Board Member, Big Brothers Big Sisters of East Central Ohio