Saving Everyone’s Baby

Tiny Caylee Anthony is dead, most likely murdered at the tender age of two years.  It appears no one will be convicted of killing her, and yesterday the nation erupted in a self-righteous outrage I haven’t seen since Orenthal J. Simpson was acquitted of killing his wife Nicole.

I’ve come a long way in my thinking about these kinds of cases, about what “justice” has a prayer of meaning, and what the relationship is and is not between what is right and what is legal.  The jury verdict in the case against Caylee’s mother Casey stirred again my own questions about whether or not such a verdict demonstrates the greatness or the abject failures of criminal trial in the United States of America.

But rather than subject readers to what I think about our legal system, I want to issue a challenge to you regarding what I think about justice.

Justice for this child was lost when she died.  No one being convicted of her murder could possibly generate any outcome that would change the terrible, unthinkable death she suffered.  We seem to need to believe that it could, but it cannot.  Caylee is dead, her brief life taken from her in what appears to be a premeditated act of violence capping tremendous resentment by her mother of the attention and care she — as do all children her age — required.

I have strong beliefs about the conditions that should exist before children are brought into this world, and if by some misfortune those conditions are not in place when the child is conceived then we as a society need to step up our game around our commitment to creating the best possible conditions in a bad situation.  I hear too much talk about what parents deserve or don’t deserve, and frankly I don’t give a damn.

When an at-risk child joins the human family, that is everyone’s baby.

That belief is why I am writing this post today.  If we carry on one more day about how outraged and angry we are about the jury verdict, about all the vengeful thoughts we have against Casey Anthony, about how God is going to bring down justice on the killer and on and on and on…………we are part of why this child is gone and we lose one more day to save children like her.  And if you do not know, you need to research and know and understand one thing:  There are thousands of Caylees in this country right now.

Thousands.

We need to turn off Nancy Grace (and the rest of those who profiteer on moral outrage and grief) and turn on our consciences.

What will you do today to honor the life of Caylee Anthony and of every child?

My challenge to all of us who are pained by the loss of this child is to think about what role we each play in making this world a safer, better place for children.

  • Do you speak out when someone makes a joke about hurting a child, or do you stay silent so as not to offend?
  • When you see a parent at the end of his or her rope, do you moralize about what a bad parent he or she is, or do you offer a kind word of support for what they are going through?
  • When you have an extra $15.00, do you buy a bottle of wine, or do you put it aside and make an end-of-year donation of $300 to your local child abuse prevention organization?
  • Are you giving your free time to something truly important to you, like helping a church gather toys or clothing for families in need, or do you do something just for yourself?
  • Do you think sexually active young people should have access to contraception and are you willing to speak out for that, or in your heart do you think they “get what they deserve” if they “get/get someone pregnant”?

Sadly, children often bear the burden of “getting” what their parents deserve.  I’m thinking today about how to turn that around, and to care less about things I can’t control and do more about the things I may be able to influence.

My answers to the above questions, if I am fully honest, do not make me proud.  For the sake of Caylee and every other child on the verge of her fate, I’m thinking today about how to change my answers.

I hope you will join me.

55 thoughts on “Saving Everyone’s Baby

  1. very nicely put. I think all kids should get the opportunity to have a White Knight in their lives–someone to believe in and that realy will protect them, You are one of those White Knights

    • Thanks, Jesse. Yes, I think we use “the stage for rage” thinking it makes any difference if we foam at the mouth about it. It doesn’t. I get the need for catharsis, esp. if one was expecting something different to be the trial outcome, but does anyone really think the trial outcome changes anything? It does not. Only changing our priorities changes things going forward.

    • So true. It makes me so sad how quickly we demonize stressed out parents. I think, not the ONLY answer, but part of the answer is to be kinder to parents, even the ones who are saying and doing things we think are wrong. It is important to get real about how these adults need help.

  2. Thanks for this post. Well said, timely and right on. My neighbor girl, Darisabel Baez, was murdered by her mother’s boyfriend Harve Johnson. Her mother was convicted as well for not doing anything to prevent it. I hope more and more people like yourself continue to see this issue at a street level. Prevention is possible. Not easy, but worth a hell of a lot more effort than we’re currently giving it.

    • Thank you for taking the time to share that comment, Rev. Anderson. So many people I think don’t understand this issue because they have not yet had a confrontation with how common it is, and how thin the line is that so many young children walk every day. One wrong thing can tip a situation from just plain unfortunate to deadly.

      I am sorry for the loss of Darisabel. Telling her story I truly believe is part of saving other children, and again I am so grateful to you for your comment, which I know could not be easy to type.

    • This woman to me is no different from Rush Limbaugh or any of those other types who live to upset people. They get up every day and their entire careers are predicated on the idea that driving listeners into a state of irrational hatred is their meal ticket.

      I once believed NG had some decent intent or purpose, but I no longer believe that. Sad but true. She is cog now in the machine that feeds on grief, suffering, and anger.

  3. Beautifully written! Echoes my own thoughts and worries of the hate and outrage we’re seeing and hearing. Kids are our greatest resources and we need to do all we can to help keep them safe.

  4. Debbie, I know that front-line people like Family Resource Network (FRN) directors understand this issue better than most. Thank you for your comment, and for all you do to devote yourself to the well being of children.

  5. “When an at-risk child joins the human family, that is everyone’s baby”

    This is the line that hit me the hardest in your post. It’s very close to a theme line a group of grad students at Michigan State University working on a Children’s Trust Fund project came up with. They wanted to characterize the ethic that would be required if we are to have any hope of making a dent in the tragedy of neglect and abuse in America. Their theme: Every Child is Yours. As they worked on this project, our international students seemed to wonder aloud why there is even a need in America to point out that every American should feel a sense of responsibility for considering every child as ours.

    • Wow, interesting perspective from the international students. I agree, we can learn so much about what we could do better by viewing ourselves through the lenses of other societies. It raises questions we may never have even thought to ask.

      Our national attraction to the idea of “personal responsibility” leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to the community of children. It often feels to me as if there is some sort of baked-in irony there, like “every man for himself” is somehow going to contribute to making us the greatest nation on earth, especially when we aren’t even talking about “men,” we are talking about babies and children.

      Who is responsible for them when those we assume are doing the job abdicate that role? I think nationally, even when we don’t say the words, we think those future citizens are someone else’s responsibility and if they are really “tough enough to make it” as an American they will survive on their own. I am 100% certain that anyone who believes this is living in a dark world of denial about child abuse.

      By turning our backs and obsessing about the wrong things, all we are doing is growing a nation of neglected kids who — if they survive — are tomorrow’s troubled adults.

      Thank you for your comment, and for all the work you do to change this dynamic.

  6. Well, Sweetie! You hit this one out of the park. I don’t know if you knew, but I work in the field of child abuse prevention. When the verdict came down yesterday I was convinced I needed to post something, but couldn’t find the words. Thank you for doing it for me and for doing it better than I would have.

    • Connie, I don’t think I’d have a blog if it were not for you. No, I didn’t know that about your work exactly, but I knew you know Jim McKay, so it makes sense.

      I woke up around 3 a.m. this morning and just lay there in the dark staring at nothing, thinking about the horror of all of this. All of it. As you know, for people like us, writing is exorcism and healing and activism and prayer.

      It’s great to see you here. And thank you so much.

  7. I agree our children are everyones children! I have advocated for many children in my life. Our children need to be participants in our communities and not viewed as the problem. We need to take all of our anger and frustration and put it to the greater good of realizing there are many more beautiful children like Caylee out their who need to be heard. Lets remember it takes a villiage to raise our children. I created a non-profit Hearts of Healing to assit our children to let there voices be heard. Thank you for speaking on behalf of all our amazing children who feel no one is listening. Sending love and light. Joan Van Eyll author “The Forgotten Child’

    • Thank YOU, Joan….I am glad to know of your book and your nonprofit. I do think as a society we live in an isolated adults-only world, as if what we carry on about and want is the most important thing in the world.

      There are cultures that revere children, not just in word but in deed. I am hopeful we can move toward being more like that.

  8. http://heartsofhealing.org/hearts-of-healing/post/1459316
    children are crying out to be heard
    The voices of our children are crying out to be heard

    Are you listening?

    Over the years, I’ve made it a point to teach my beautiful children to listen to their inner voice and to speak their truth from their heart. Compassion and love were part of our daily life.

    Most children in their formative years bring home lost pets; my children brought home lost children. Many children who needed a safe place to hide found solace in our home.

    Last evening my daughter received a distress call from one of her friend’s; in a freighted voice she shared with my daughter she was in trouble and needed a place to stay. Elise knowing how our home works quickly shared with me her friend’s plight. I immediately stated “of course she can come.” As her friend found her way to our home with a look of resignation in her eyes, she immediately shared how she can not handle the abuse in her home anymore. She went in to great detail of how over the years she has talked with several counselors, but once they become to close to the situation their mother made them quit as to not draw any more attention to what is going on behind closed doors. The several police officers who have been called to their home, never truly understanding the enormity of what the family is trying to convey dismisses them and leaves them to deal with their dark secrets. The current social worker not wanting to believe this family’s torment believes the children to be fabricating their mothers violence.

    As I listen to her story unfold I find myself yet again amazed and more importantly sad for I question why “The voices of our children are not being heard.” The adults in charge the ones we have taught them to go too and keep them safe are not protecting them.

    It is a deep reminder of why I have shared my very heartfelt memoir “The Forgotten Child” to be the voice for those who have felt voiceless. As I see the pain in our brilliant children’s eyes as they keep speaking out of the atrocities that they are being faced with, and trying to understand their purpose in what they see.

    We need to honor this brilliant generation, as you look into their eyes they are revealing the depth and truth of their soul. They are the ones who are reflecting back the truth of who we are, we are the ones who are not honoring our truth.

    It is time to step up and out of the violence and anger we have held on to. Our children here are perfect, bright souls to show us unconditional love, that is their birth right. It is who we all really are underneath our stories and pain. This generation is here to teach us about our own divine worth. Please honor our children, for they hold the key to our own love and light.

    With love and light,
    Joanie

  9. Thanks so much for so eloquently expressing the thoughts shared by so many of us at Prevent Child Abuse WV and around the country who are working to support the healthy development and well being of all children by preventing child abuse and neglect. The good news is a national movement for America’s children is awakening. Your blog post is another spark in what we all hope will be a transformation where our society values all children. Thank you!

  10. I honor your writing this, Elizabeth, and thank you for all the children whose lives might be saved by your thoughts. And one more thought … encourage parents who are naive about what children need to get parent coaching or parent education. It’s nothing against them if they don’t have the background to raise a child, but they must get good information about how to raise one once they have one. Parent coaching (personalized parent education) can prevent child abuse, both emotional and physical. Child death comes from frustration with normal child behavior, frustration that wouldn’t exist if people just got what children were about. As a village, we can make a difference by coaching parents on who kids are, how they behave, and why they do what they do. Kids should never die or be injured because someone was ill-informed in this, the most important job in the world.

    • Tina, you are absolutely right about this. I completely agree with you, this kind of supportive parent coaching can really make a difference.

      I will also say, I read a blog post today by an incest survivor, and it was absolutely chilling. I will post it at the end of my comments here, with a strong warning to anyone who reads it that it pulls no punches about a grim scenario that may have killed Caylee.

      In situations like that, which surely exist all over the world if not in this particular case, where is our right course of action? If a mother is herself a survivor and watching her child be victimized, can you imagine how she would shut down and run from anyone offering her parenting classes or coaching? Please know, I do agree with you, and I think it can help a great deal, the dynamic of reaching out rather than blaming and judging. But what if there is a secret so awful we don’t even suspect it?

      This has been a very rewarding day for me as a child advocate and as a writer. This post has spread around the country and people are responding with a chorus of “YES, we must focus on children.” At the same time, I have had to swim in some pretty dark water from dawn to dusk, and my poor brain is in a bit of shock. I know I need the entire child advocacy community to pull together for kids, and for parents, and for each other, because this is a monster with a thousand heads and a taste for blood.

      We can never give up. Thank you for your comment, and with fair warning, here is the post I mentioned: http://thisfrenzy.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/on-casey-anthony-and-incest-statistics/

  11. I linked back from my blog to your post, and I really love it. In the crazy violent media storm, whipping up what could easily be an attempt on Casey Anthony’s life, your honest grief and soul searching was so amazing and necessary.

    Thanks so much,
    Elliott
    thisfrenzy.wordpress.com

  12. Thank you for such thoughtful and productive writing. My belief throughout my life is that we have a deep, undeniable, shared responsibility for the innocent among us. What should be a quiet moment when we each look into the eyes of our own children and mentally commit that we will love, cherish and protect them – and every child we can touch in some manner – has become a circus spectacle with millions tuning in. Do people really have such a skewed sense of reality that this is entertainment? That is where my outrage rests. Turn off the Nancy Graces of the world and get involved in your community.

    • Amen, Elizabeth.

      I think what we are seeing here does not bode well for our nation. We have sold our collective soul to the adrenaline and dopamine of televised/web-ivised crime. If we can loop in sex and killing, the frenzy is off the charts. It’s really, really not good. I’m not sure most people even realize how they are being played for the profit of an industry and to the great disservice of community and the system of justice that has held this country together for over 200 years.

  13. I appreciate and agree with the majority of the sentiments of your article, HOWEVER without justice another child could die at the hands of this woman. We all know a conviction would not bring this beautiful girl back, but a conviction could be the prevention we need to provide justice to the next child. Look at the Natalie Holloway case, where the killer was set free only to kill again.

    • Thank you, Renee. I think the difference we have is I do not see convictions as prevention. True prevention is systemic change in the dynamics that lead to child abuse. When a child is dead and people are on trial for murder, prevention is long abandoned. We are at the punishment stage.

      I don’t disagree with you that it is important to hold people accountable for what they do, and a society that made no effort to do that would flame out pretty fast. Me, I have no idea if Casey Anthony did this or not, and I think if you are honest about it, neither do you. You have a gut feeling, and we do not in the country smile upon sending people to prison on gut feeling. Thank God.

      I can imagine all kinds of scenarios other than that she killed her own child, and apparently so could the jury. Thank you for commenting, and for caring about children. That bridge, and that focus on the well being of children, is how I am trying to refocus the conversation.

  14. Well-said, Elizabeth. Thanks for reminding us it takes a village to raise a child. Americans seem to have forgotten that ideal.

  15. Thank you, Elizabeth, for reminding us that dwelling on this trial is not the way to help children at risk. In my experience, the best thing we can do for children is educate parents about parenting. I am not talking about education for parents who are necessarily “at risk,” I am talking about education for all parentsand potential parents about children’s behavior, development and motives. When a parent has this kind of information, it is easier to parent. Parents need to support one another as well. Every child can be wonderful, and creative, and funny, and every child will also be crabby, and stubborn, and irrational. That’s all part of the package and it’s all okay. There isn’t a parent out there who hasn’t been frustrated beyond belief at some point, but knowing that you’ll get through it is essential and life-affirming. I hope you will use your voice to encourage your many readers to discover as much as they can about children! Thank you again. Lila Snow, early childhood educator and parent educator

    • Lila, thank you so much for pointing directly to this issue. I started to write about it and have been focusing mostly on responding to other issues, but you are right on the money.

      I fell in love with child development in college. I was that far along in life before I learned the fundamentals of how children grow and develop, and how that dramatic process has to inform the way we interact with kids. I do think many parents truly do not know that their kids are not little adults. Sounds crazy, but I’ve seen total amazement on parents’ faces when they learn how a child’s brain develops.

      Thank you so much for bringing this up in this conversation!

  16. What amazes me is how only now are you speaking out about these horrible things that happen to our children. For years these kinds of things have been happening to children of all races, yet, these strong emotions are expressed beneath the photo of a white child. Its sad most everything comes back to race, however, it plays a bigger part in life than what most are willing to admit. Yes, what happened to Caylee is horrible, but its just as horrible when it happens to a black child, an asian child, a hispanic child…. I can already hear the fallout from this. All I will say is that until we stop seeing and hearing outrage when it happens to white children and see it when it happens to ANY children, your “Everybody’s Baby” will fall on the same deaf ears that it falls on when its one of “Our Babies”. The sad and repeated reality is that until the horror trickles into the white or wealthy communities, its not recognized or addressed as the horror it truly is.

    • I could not agree with you more. I see this not only with child abuse, but with all people. White women are “more valuable,” white men “more valuable,” heterosexuals “more valuable.” The human family has a major problem in our caring about one another. I can’t really say anything else that would say more than you have articulated so well. Thank you for your honesty.

      And not that it will help now, but I do think about this. All the time. If we can use this case to highlight the larger issues, that may be a good thing. I will reach out to you by email, maybe we can collaborate on a follow up post to this one that will dig into this more deeply. Thank you for taking the time to comment on this larger and more troubling issue.

      • I commend you on the work you do daily and the specialness and compassion/strength that it takes to do it each day. I look forward to hearing from you and agree that if this can help us focus on the larger issues, it is a good thing!

    • Elizabeth is too modest to say so, but she has been a strong ally for our work at Prevent Child Abuse WV long before this trial ever began. She has joined us and helped conduct training on issues of public policy and advocacy on behalf of ALL children. I agree that the media’s attention tends to follow cases of affluent and attractive white women more than others and that is troubling. Nonetheless, Elizabeth has been speaking out in big and small ways for years. We appreciate her support greatly.

  17. why can’t people feel “righteous indignation” ???
    i think each person’s reaction is personal. don’t judge the whole country based on a few drama queens on tv and a handful of nutjobs outside the courthouse. those who are peacefully protesting with signs and duck tape feel the same right to express “self-righteous outrage” as do those who protest for Gay Rights or Animal Rights or the latest topic du jour. people’s anger about the verdict is perfectly understandable, given that the media has aired videos of Caylee to the point that, people identify that child with EVERYCHILD. i walked down the street yesterday without seeing a toddler and thinking of little Caylee, of how precious all children are. you’re damn i feel righteous indignation. i’m not outside the courthouse with a sign, i’m not even contributing to any facebook pages… i merely feel what i feel, and later share my feelings with my husband or mother. the only difference between me and those people peacefully protesting is that i’m not publicaly expressing my “self-righteous outrage” …would you sit in judgement of me for merely feeling what i feel?????
    it’s not a Sanctimonious Platitude, it’s simply humanity.
    when people FAIL to get upset, THEN i will start to question America’s Moral Compass.

    • Tracy, anyone can feel whatever they want to feel. Including me. I feel your original comment contained inflammatory language and that would not be part of a constructive dialogue in this setting, I used the prerogative I have as this is my blog to tone it down.

      I am sure there are many places where people can exchange thoughts on their rage and not participate in the real issue of strengthening child abuse and neglect prevention efforts. You seem very confident that even though no one (and there were many trying) could establish who was the caregiver when Caylee died, you know exactly what happened. That concerns me.

      I encourage you to YES, take your feelings about what happened to a child, and use those feelings to make a difference in the world. Revenge, especially misplaced, does not make the world better. Convictions happen at the end of a failed continuum. I am encouraging all of us to move forward and make a difference in how these things begin. Prevent Child Abuse America is a great place to start understanding the dynamics and cycle of child abuse and neglect.

      Thank you for your comment.

    • What I try to remember and to share with other people is “If its not “personal”, don’t take it “personal”.” Everyone is entitled to their feelings, right or wrong, whether we feel them in silence or shout them to the world. The bottom line is not necessarily in what you say, but more in what you do. If you are not doing anything, maybe you should. If you are doing something, keep it up. We all know that no matter what we think….if we are not part of the solution, we can easily become part of the problem. Let’s be quietly or loudly proactive….together! There is strength in numbers! Our babies need us, and we….even as strong as we think we are….need each other.

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  19. If only so many young women didn’t see babies as an accessory like Paris Hilton does with “teacup” puppies. Casey Anthony is sociopathic, had her parents cared enough to seek a diagnosis for her she would’ve never beenleft in charge of caring for her daughter. They knew she was a habitual liar, self serving, and neglectful. They chose to ignore. Poor little Caylee….someone needs to create an outreach program for mentally unstable mothers.

    • Jennifer, thank you for you comment and for your concern about young mothers. I don’t know if one has to be “sociopathic” to be unprepared to handle the stress and commitment of parenthood. It is a very intense experience as you may know yourself, and I agree it is not for everyone and it certainly is not something to go into for status or entertainment, that is for sure.

      We do a lot it seems to support from a very young age with girls the idea that motherhood should be their ultimate goal. I think we need to take a closer look at that as part of the giant picture in front of us. Thanks again for your comment.

  20. Love your blog – what you have to say and how you say it. This is the second post I’m sharing on LinkedIn and Facebook. I especially like how you challenge people to turn moral outrage into action – through very practical suggestions; and to realize there are thousands of Caylees in this country right now. Thank you for using your beautiful voice to raise awareness and offer ways to protect all the other children who are at risk of being harmed and even murdered.

  21. Yes, we are in the same universe where it counts. Oh the hours I could spend ranting on people who wipe their hands of tough issues because “the parents should do a better job.” Actually, I posted on that once several months ago, but you already commented on it. 🙂

  22. I want to get involved in some way for child advocacy. I don’t have children (as I may have said before) but I’m just not sure where to start.
    It breaks my heart knowing there are children who are neglected or abused and there is little being done to protect them.

    Summer

  23. Elizabeth,
    This is very odd for me. Someone I meditated with said that I would be involved in something to do with protecting children in the near future. Now I am neither a believer or disbeliever.
    I’m going through a lot my mother would call it “life stuff”. This seems like a perfect place to turn because I’m at a fork in a road.

    May grace and peace be with us always. Idealistic,I know but this is what my heart tells me ❤

    Summer =0)

    • Same to you, friend. I believe in listening to that intuitive voice that tells us something is right. I can’t imagine anymore more suited to make a difference in the lives of children than you.

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