Summary: The challenge before us is how best to create a healthcare system in which all children receive care that is safe, effective, efficient, timely and family centered regardless of background or cultural differences.

Sermon on Sunday, September 10, 2006 at Union Baptist Church

“We Need Healthy Children”

Mark 9: 14-27 “How long has the child been like this?”

In this second installment in our Back to School Series, Jesus poses a question over two thousand years ago that haunts us today, “How long has the child been like this?”

“The challenge before us is how best to create a healthcare system in which all children receive care that is safe, effective, efficient, timely and family centered, regardless of background or cultural differences.” Why, because we need healthy children.

Studies show the earlier the intervention the more likelihood of positive outcome. When you treat families as collaborators and not recipients of care, you empower them, educate them, and enhance their ability to raise healthy children in healthy environments.

We need healthy children. On one hand we at Union Baptist Church can be proud of the systems that have developed to respond to not only the educational needs of children, but their health needs. Many times during the month you will see the Little Tike Health Van parked in the parking lot of the church providing services to the children who attend Head Start. Or go across the street, and you will witness the group leaders and counselors with Dru Healthy Families referring mothers and fathers to resources that will assist them in the care of their newborn children. We can be proud of that, but by itself, that’s not enough.

Currently a overwhelm majority of families in this community with up to 5 children in the household live below the threshold of self-sufficiency.

Last week I stated that “structural poverty is our society’s response to institutional racism that is aimed at denying access to the youth of our community to the benefits our government affords.”

I repeat it again because access to health care by our children is being denied to many of the families in this neighborhood because of the costs of health care.

In a state with the resources we have, it’s an affront to all our sensibilities that the most vulnerable of our community – our children lack adequate health care coverage.

It’s a sin that our children are treated that way.

Riverside Church in New York, where Dr. James Forbes is the pastor, when my colleague Dr. Bernard Wilson was the administrative minister, developed a health care initiative to provide quality health care to all the residents of Harlem. But with the explosion in real estate prices in Harlem, many of the poor have moved out. Nevertheless, a local church making a commitment to insuring that those who are underserved are served is the right thing to do.

It can be done. We can cross the economic and cultural divide that separates children from adequate health care coverage. We need healthy children.

We know that our children face not only physical health challenges, but also psycho-social health challenges. Therefore, we need an active health care system. Not a passive system that waits until a person in need comes to them. We need health care professionals going out to the children in our community to assess their needs early before them become full blown crises.

I share with you the work of the Faith Community Partnership, collaboration between University of Maryland, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Union Baptist Church, Sharon Baptist Church, Macedonia Baptist Church, Department of Social Services, and Booker T. Washington and Harlem Park Middle Schools. Through the Partnership mental health professionals and training will be brought directly to the students and families in the school and community. Over the past two years, the work of the Partnership has become a National Model and conversations to replicate it are occurring throughout the country.

Jesus, asks, How long has the child been like this?

The Department of Social Services in the Metropolitan Area has lost a host of licensed social workers who have been hired by the Baltimore City School System to work in selected schools. That’s a proactive approach. That’s good. Unfortunately, it stripped away essential personnel from a vulnerable agency.

Still we need healthy children and we can no longer afford a passive system; we need an active system that goes where the children are and addresses their needs. Not, only their needs but the needs of the family.

If we look closely at our text you will find that Jesus didn’t ask this question without context. He didn’t just ask it in a vacuum. He asked the question because the father had brought his son to the people of the church and all the man got from them was arguing, fusing and fighting.

Here was a man who brought his child to the people who where suppose to be the healers, who where suppose to be the disciples, who where suppose to be the teachers of the law, and all he received was confusion, consternation, and contempt.

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