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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Panhandling Children: Right or Wrong?

For the last week a woman has been exploiting her four little girls by standing on our street corner begging for money at the four-way stop. I approached her last week with a number that would connect her to every possible resource in the state of Colorado. I pleaded with her not to expose her children to this type of living. Although she thanked me she returned two days later. This time her daughter were dressed in frilly dresses and running near the edge of the road. I worried the entire time that one of them might be hit by a car. In my opinion this is child abuse. There is no reason to use kids to invoke pity when we are a wealthy nation who gives so much. She doesn’t have to do this.

There used to be a time when kids could sell lemonade on the street corner to get money. There was a value to giving them a work ethic. It’s fun and exciting to learn how to make money by being an entrepreneur. It gives the salesperson the ability to take other steps to being successful. Now however, a kid has to apply for a permit to sell lemonade or face getting a ticket for breaking the law, yet this mother can parade her kids around so others contribute to their shame. Growing up in poverty myself, I understand the humiliation of having a parent use her children to get things. The persistent embarrassment has had an everlasting impact. Seeing her children being subjected to this type of life disturbs my peace. 

There is nothing positive that comes from teaching children to be panhandlers. They lose the ability to empower themselves, they face humiliation at the sneers of those who are disgusted by what their mother is doing and they learn they have no control over their lives and must depend of the pity of others. It was clear these kids had a home. They were well dressed in clean clothes and healthy looking as they frolicked at the edge of the street. We have shelters, food banks, welfare and much much more we can offer. Please consider not enabling her because as of yesterday, she has been rewarded for what she is doing which means those precious little girls will be out their every weekend begging for money instead of playing at the park and having a play date with their friends. It’s one thing to be an adult and feel you have to do this desperate act but it’s entirely different to exploit children. Any deviant could stop at that stop sign and abduct one of them while she’s reaching in to take a dollar from someone else. We just learned there is a registered sex offended within a stone’s throw from where she is exposing her children. Now I’m begging: Don’t support this as everything in childhood is transferable to adulthood. Is this what we want?

As a child advocate and therapist, I have used an old phrase, “It’s easier to build children than to repair adults.” Be a part of the solution. Please.