Two stories included in recent weekend editions of The Advocate spoke volumes about the problems facing many of Baton Rouge’s troubled youths — and what government can and cannot do to help them.
On Aug. 14, we reported plans by local agencies to establish a center to combat truancy.
We commend Mayor-President Kip Holden, the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, District Attorney Hillar Moore and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff Sid Gautreaux for working together with state government to plan the center on the now-empty campus of the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired.
The center is supposed to offer a one-stop place where school officials and law enforcement personnel can work with truants and their families to help prevent further unexcused absences from schools in the future.
An Aug. 13 story in The Advocate profiled the Rev. Donald Hunter, pastor of New Beginning Baptist Church and organizer of the Black Family Initiative, a coalition of 10 African-American churches aimed at addressing the problem of absentee fathers in many African-American families. Among other initiatives, the group is planning fatherhood classes for boys and young men where they can learn the basics of being a good parent. The hope is that such intervention can help break the cycle of single-parent families creating other single-parent families.
We aren’t in the business of endorsing any particular theological approach when it comes to teaching family values, but Hunter is right to acknowledge that when so many fathers so routinely are missing from so many families, the social and economic implications are profound.
And one of those implications, of course, is that fatherless children are at greater risk for becoming truants.
We’re glad Baton Rouge’s local government is becoming active in the fight against truancy, but government can’t wage this fight alone — or even primarily.
Churches and nonprofit groups also must get involved in shaping the lives of young people who desperately need discipline, moral guidance, a sense of hope and love.
We hope the new truancy center succeeds. And we hope efforts such as the one spearheaded by the Rev. Hunter pay off, too.