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OpenLine: 'Where are the parents?'

Posted: 5:16 PM, Nov 13, 2019
Updated: 2019-11-21 12:06:36-05
OpenLine Matthews Hughes Foster.jpg

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Some parents in communities most plagued by juvenile crime are crying out for help that just isn't available for them in Nashville, three activists said during an OpenLine discussion on NewsChannel 5+.

That panel discussion came as a part of NewsChannel 5's continuing focus on juvenile crime and the state's Broken juvenile justice system.

"Where are the parents?" one caller asked during the show Tuesday night. "They should be accountable for their children."

Davidson County Juvenile Court Clerk Lonnell Matthews said that he regularly hears from parents who want to intervene with children who are on the wrong path, but Nashville does not have consistent resources to respond to those needs.

"Parents should be held accountable, and they have a role to play," Matthews said.

"Parents need help too - especially if they are being accountable. And if they are asking or seeking help, we have to provide those avenues for them. We have to create a safe space for parents to be able to say 'I do need help.'"

Matthews noted that there are scattered programs to help parents in such situations.

"But no one is solely focused on providing those resources for parents that need it."

Ashford Hughes, a key adviser on equity issues for former mayors Megan Barry and David Briley, said that a lot of parents are working multiple jobs just to feed their families.

"I don't want to always put the blame on the victims," Hughes said, arguing that the city needs to do more to keep community centers open late and to make libraries gathering places for children in those families.

"We cannot just blame and say the parents need to do more, more and more," he added. "A lot of our parents are doing the best they can."

Shan Foster, who works with the YWCA on an initiative to end violence against women and girls, noted that child care is a major issue.

He pegged the cost for adequate child care at $400 per week.

"In certain communities, they are only making $400 a week," Foster said.

"So, to say to them that they have to shoulder all of this responsibility on their own is a lot for anyone. And regardless of what community you live in, if those were your exact same circustances, you'd be making some of the same decisions that you see parents making.

"It's not a matter of whether they want to be in their kids lives or they want to be able to provide more for their kids."

Foster argued that Nashville needs to engage in serious conversation about how the community can meet those unmet needs.

"If we don't all come together with solutions to say this is a priority, then it doesn't get fixed."

Watch more of the conversation above.

Special Section: Broken

Videos available on NewsChannel 5's app on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV