I love serendipitous moments. It is in these that my faith is affirmed and grows especially strong. At our annual Alaska Flag Day celebration last Thursday, July 9th, I was blessed to witness such a moment. While the main focus of this community-wide gathering is to celebrate past resident Benny Benson’s accomplishment in designing our state flag – it is also a celebration of all the accomplishments big and small that the young people we serve and have served achieve. These achievements often occur despite great odds.
Most every student in our care has experienced and been effected by extreme trauma in their lives. Unfortunately, in the state of Alaska far too many young people experience trauma. Alaska ranks number one in the nation for deaths of 15-19 year olds, many of whom take their own lives. Alaska also ranks high among other states for child abuse and neglect, domestic violence and sexual abuse. It is many of these young people that come into the care of AK Child & Family.
So it was indeed a serendipitous moment to watch Governor Bill Walker sign House Bill 44 into law on our lawn as we celebrated healing and a return to wholeness for those in our care. This piece of legislation is also referred to as “Erin’s Law,” “Bree’s Law,” and “The Alaska Safe Children’s Act.” It will require all Alaska schools to teach kids how to identify sexual abuse and domestic violence and where to turn for help. To have this law manifest here at AK Child & Family where we seek to bring hope into troubled young lives was powerfully symbolic.
Every child matters. Every child has a name. And yet, the prevalence of abuse and neglect in our state allows so many to go nameless and be presented as mere statistics. It brought tears to many eyes to watch and listen to those who were instrumental in getting this law passed and to have names and faces attached to the tragic stories. Erin’s law is named for Erin Merryn who was a victim of child sexual abuse. And the section of the Alaska Safe Children's Act that covers domestic abuse is named Bree's Law. That is in honor of domestic violence victim Breana Moore, who was shot and killed last June.
It was a blessing to hear political leaders from across our state and the loved ones of Erin and Bree place a call to action saying that the signing of this law is only the beginning. We were reminded that all of us are responsible for the well being of our young people. All of us need to pull together to stop these epidemics of abuse, neglect and violence from ravaging the spirit and innocence of childhood. I give thanks that we at AK Child & Family are not alone in our mission to help victims of trauma find skills to move forward in healthy ways. I give thanks that Light has been brought upon this scourge of darkness. It is a serendipitous moment to witness love, care, passion and faith bring to life action.