Monday, February 19, 2018

Latham: 'Suffer little children, and forbid them not … '

By Phil Latham
Jan. 11, 2017 at 4 a.m.

This story begins in Texarkana and the details are sketchy at best because the state's privacy laws don't allow those who officially hold the information to tell anyone else. I'm not begrudging that law but there are some matters about which the public needs to know.

This is one of those.

Though "unofficial," the sources are good ones, people I know and who have a firsthand knowledge of the situation.

Here is what I am told:

'Twas the night before Christmas, or thereabout, and a Texarkana police officer saw a discomforting sight along the side of the road.

The officer probably had to shake his head and look twice, could it be that three young children — aged roughly 1, 2 and 3 — would be standing by the side of the road by themselves with no adult in sight?

That's exactly what it was. The children knew their first names but had no clue what their last names might be. They did not know where their mother was or why she might have abandoned them. My guess is that question will be with them for life and never fully answered.

The children had no clothes or diapers beyond what they wore and carried nothing else.

It is tempting at this point to excoriate the mother but we don't know what we don't know. In this case the mother might have been saving the children from an even worse fate; desperate people take desperate actions.

As Texarkana is located on Interstate 30 and within or not far from four states — Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma — the children could have come from a huge area. It would be a near miracle if much is ever discovered about their earlier lives.

Placing three children in foster care is not easy during the best of times; finding room for three at Christmas conjures up an image of Mary and Joseph looking for a room at the inn in Jerusalem.

But in our part of East Texas state workers knew of a possibility, even during the holiday, even though the couple were septuagenarians, even though five other foster children had already been placed in their home.

But when called upon the couple quickly told the state to bring the children. The 2- year-old was placed in a different home, but it still left the couple with seven small children to care for. Since then a newborn has also been added to the mix.

I'm told the couple did not complain but declared it a blessing. The wife called her son, who is a pastor at a small area church, and members went into action to provide some quick basics. Anyone who has reared children knows those "basics" change just about every week.

The state does provide some money for all this, but it is woefully inadequate. The couple is not doing this for the money, obviously. It is their personal ministry.

The two of them have little other help and, as such, are working almost all the time just to watch over the children.

Others in the small community where they live heard of the abandoned children and stepped forward to help. The volunteer fire department heard that the children had no Christmas presents and quickly brought them some. A few in the community were moved to donate more money.

That should take care of the first few months, anyway.

Eventually, though, other solutions will be needed. If nothing else, septuagenarians can take care of seven children, but octogenarians have a tougher time. Who might take the host couple's place?

I'm not suggesting that you give money or toys to this couple's children. They live a bit outside Longview, and there are plenty of children right here who need help.

I am suggesting you get involved, and there are plenty of opportunities for you to do just that. A good starting place is East Texas CASA at 501 Pine Tree Road. You can call the volunteer agency at (903) 753-8093.

Child abandonment in East Texas is not nearly the sort of problem it is in urban areas but it appears to be coming our way. Whether it is a ministry for you or just a passing concern, your assistance makes a difference.

— Phil Latham is editor emeritus of the News-Journal. His column appears Wednesday. Email



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