Katrina's Children

June 13, 2006

Editor’s Note: Every once in a while, we will publish on the front page a diary that piques our interest. As a former reporter, I can tell you that “letters to the editor” do have an impact on coverage. I am constantly advising progressive activists to write and e-mail TV and radio stations. Thank you, Brave, for a good diary! Elisa

When I read For Many of Katrina’s Young Victims, The Scars Are More Than Skin Deep on how the news of the first hurricane of the season is affecting kids who were in the path of Hurricane Katrina, I stopped in my tracks. How can funding for mental health services be a problem? How could anyone with any compassion for another living being not see how important it is? I mean, this seems like stating the obvious:

“Ten months after Katrina, its emotional effect on children is proving to be long and lasting. Two studies of children affected by the hurricane have found high rates of depression, anxiety, behavioral problems and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

It seems silly to repeat all the facts and figures and study results and anecdotes that the reporter includes in her story. And, yet, I knew in this day and age, when unborn fetuses take precedence over living children, the infamous “pull yourself by the bootstraps” myth is repeated as if it were a prayer, and responsibility for anything is tossed around Washington like the proverbial hot potato, it was true. That these children, who are most vulnerable, could and would be overlooked. I know all too well that untreated PTSD doesn’t just go away. In one way or another, it affects every area of your life. Many of these kids will find ways to cope all right and their names will be Jim Bean, Mary Jane, crystal meth or anonymous sex. Regardless of race or class. They’ll have problems connecting to other people, to their kids, their families.

So, I wrote a letter to the editor at the Post.

“For an administration that touts family values, the Bush administration ought to immediately support full and unlimited funding of any and all children (The (“For Many of Katrina’s Young Victims, The Scars Are More Than Skin Deep” Washington Post June 13) and their families affected by Hurricane Katrina with mental health resources that have no time limits and income and access barriers. Anything less will be yet another sign that our government cares nothing for its most vulnerable who don’t have a fleet of well-paid lobbyists. I am sure that there are plenty of mental health professionals nationwide who could provide near and long term services. The present and future of these living children and families who are struggling to cope with acts of God and lack of governmental action are at stake. And surely passing such legislation would be a better use of Congress’ time than debating the flag burning chestnut.”

Do letters to the editor work? Tonight, I like to think so. Maybe if there are enough letters to the editor, enough calls to Congresspeople and the White House, just maybe someone will do something. Oprah and Rosie O’Donnell (two celebrities who have donated a ton of cash to victims of Katrina organizations) can’t fix everything.