Last week’s column entitled, “Kid’s hunger trumps behavior of Taney County Commissioners…” started with an Ole Seagull’s prayer that “if you remember nothing else from this column that you would ask yourself what you would do if you were the teacher in the following scenario. It’s Monday morning, you look up from your desk into the distressed eyes of one of your first grade students who says, ‘My mommy forgot to cook for us this weekend.'” That prayer remains the same except to say, if you want to contribute to the Gift of Hope’s “Back Pack Club,” or want additional information, please contact Meghan Connell, the director of the Gift of Hope at 417.546.8062 or through their website www.GiftofHopeInc.org/.
In a nutshell, the column discussed the need for making sure that children didn’t go hungry over the weekend because they did not receive enough to eat between when they left school on Friday and came back Monday morning. Meghan Connell said, “Basically, the lowdown of the ‘Back Pack Club’ is in all of these schools there are teachers and counselors that have identified children, in particular on Monday morning, who have come in and they are starving. They are hungry.” The purpose of the Club is to make sure that those children get some nutrition over the weekend when there is no food available through the schools. To do that Back Packs are filled with food and given to the children each Friday. The child brings the empty Back Pack back on Monday morning and the cycle starts again. The Back Pack Club is, but one step in the process of mitigating the effect of the failure of “those responsible for the care, custody, and control of the child” to feed that child.
The complete column is available on line either at www.TheOleSeaGull.com or The Ole Seagull’s Forum on www.1Branson.com/forum in under the “Branson Living Section.” The vast majority of the discussion on the “Ole Seagull’s Forum, while being very supportive of the efforts of “Back Pack Club,” wanted more information on what else was being done to resolve the root cause of the problem.
The following comment made by one poster is representative of the way many felt about the situation. It said, “I think any parent who would allow their child to go all weekend without eating, is guilty of child abuse…plain & simple. There is no way anyone will ever convince me they have a good excuse for letting their child go hungry…not in this country, anyway. Personally, I understand the sentiment of wanting to make sure the child has food to eat. However, I think they should concentrate on getting the child out of the situation…”
This week the Ole Seagull had the opportunity to talk with a spokesperson for one of our local school systems. He was told that in addition to the Back Pack Club and other steps the school would take to try to mitigate the child’s hunger that in those situations where, in the opinion of the school’s professionals, child neglect is suspected they are mandated to report the situation to the “Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline” at 1-800-392-3738. Once that is done the Missouri Department of Social Services handles the investigation and mitigation of the situation through a private process. No information on the individual case is released to any other organization including the school or person making the report.
In response to the specific question “Would it be your opinion that if someone required to report child neglect, such as a teacher or someone else, believed that a child hadn’t received food from Friday to Monday morning that it would be a reportable occurrence?” Scott Rowson, the Director of Communications for the Missouri Department of Social Services (DSS) replied, “I’m a mandated reporter and if I knew there was a child out there that didn’t get fed for the entire weekend I would be calling the Hot Line.”
He pointed out that teachers are very good judges of what their kids are going through. Rowson went on to say that that typically after such a call is received the situation is investigated handled in the manner that that DSS believes is in the best interest of the child.