read the story)
I witnessed the thrill of 3 - 4 year-old toddlers learning the basics of agriculture from Farmer John who every year volunteers to come to First Place Kids Center to give these little ones the all-important lesson of how food gets to our mouths. They attentively knelt at his side near the raised bed plots behind First Place Center and listened, dug, planted and watered their choice of greens. They inspected the blueberry bushes together, excited about the soon-to-emerge succulent berries.
Sadder than a drought or blight, these love-planted crops will have no knee-high farmers to reap the produce of their efforts. Twenty or so little ones are being booted to the streets by cruel budget cuts. Their cutting-edge day care center that focuses so specially on unique needs of highly-mobile and homeless toddlers, an at-risk population growing like weeds in affluent America. will close their doors on June 3rd. (My 1-min. YouTube video)
Few have paid attention to the fact that homeless toddlers are the largest percentage of this nation's homeless population. This bumper-crop is being neglected in their period of vulnerable growth--when experts say vital developmental occurrences will happen or not--the groundwork for productive lives. We've tossed these little kids under the budget bus.
A combination of local funding cuts from a beleaguered United Way and federal/state support was the one-two punch for 1st Place Kids Center. Now Eugene's homeless families--who must cope with the summer closing of their church-based overnight shelter--now have no safe, nurturing place to plant their little ones while these parents go to work, look for jobs, comply with welfare-mandated appointments, seek housing, etc. They'll walk around town, toddler in tow, navigating weather, municipal codes, and societal restrictions and cope somehow with babies with colic and diaper rash, toddlers with flu and fits, and with every parent's need for time away from crying babies.
These "Littlest Nomads" will learn from the streets. They'll ask about their spinach plants, the blueberries and strawberries hanging on their stems, neglected as these little ones. How do you explain that no one is harvesting this hopeful crop? ACTION: Ask Eugene's Mayor Piercy to intervene before these families learn that their precious little children don't count. Sign this petition.
Seems to me someone has some explaining to do. Why do we pretend to care about nutrition and nurturing when we find it so easy to let these resources go to seed and weed? When will these kids matter? When will we care about spending our money on development--of potential and possibilities--instead of punitive poverty penalties that we've gotten so used to distributing?