BY PHOEBE LEE
Through various trials and errors in finding a major during my first year at Cornell, I was led to PAM 2300: Intro to Policy Analysis as a sophomore. In taking that class, I knew I wanted to major in Policy Analysis and Management (PAM).
But I did not know exactly what type of policy to concentrate in until January of my sophomore year. Though I knew I wanted to focus on policies dealing with human rights, it was not until my campus church spoke of their missions trip in Haiti, where they visited several orphanages, that I decided on social policy—specifically, social welfare and family policy.
Before we are called to be active members of society, we are part of a smaller society—a family—and just as no society is perfect, no family is perfect. Much of the blame can be attributed to authoritative figures who abuse their power in harmful ways, which has devastating effects on a nation’s citizens and a family’s children.
I do not think it is a coincidence that many adult offenders come from broken homes1, so in order to bring about change in society, we have to change the home, and to do that, we have to put an emphasis on fostering healthy families. For these reasons, I want to specifically focus on child rights and protecting children, whether that’s in the foster care or adoption system.
Being a PAM major means that I have the chance to make real changes in our country’s legislation. I have heard of so many incidents in which children were prematurely reunited with parents who were not ready to care for their kids again. Situations like these show that legislature cannot use the same law, bill, or policy to resolve every case because they are not all the same. The truth is, the foster care and adoption systems must be updated so that legislation allows for nuances, thus securing better futures for these families.
Admittedly, I am not always certain of wanting to go into this field. At times, when I see the system is so broken, I have a defeatist mindset and wonder if it could ever be fixed. Other times, I think of the amount of work that would have to be done—not just in college, but for the rest of my life.
But when I hear stories about children who sleep in foster home centers because there are not enough families willing to foster them, or I hear about children who were abused by the adults in their home, I am reminded of why I wanted to focus on social welfare and family policy.
However, the biggest encouragement I have is not stories of the children or of the broken system but the Bible. The book of James states, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”2 This verse reminds us that we have a duty to take care of those whom the world marginalizes.
Truthfully, many people do not want to take care of others because they want to focus on their lives and their success, but God does not call us to be like other people. He directly tells us in this passage that we must care for the widows and the orphans. Yes, not all children are orphans and not all orphans live difficult lives, but to me, James is saying that we must be helping those whom other people glance over.
For this reason, I want to change the way the system works. There is already so much suffering and brokenness within legislation, but to have a law be the reason that a child is stripped of his or her future is simply unjust.
When I think about family policy, I cannot help but be reminded of the love of God that extends to all of His children and how He calls for us to carry each other’s burdens.3 When these children are neglected, we fail to remember that these are children of God being neglected. Just as our Father cared for us when we were needy and broken, I want to care for the kids who are currently in these situations.
In determining my major and what I wanted to do in my major, God was a part of it all. When I am unsure that I want to do this or when the world tells me I am wasting my time, I am encouraged by His Word to continue to help those whom society overlooks, and when I enter this field after I graduate, I hope to have His Word be the foundation on which I work.
1 Bloxham, A. (2010, November 4). Children from broken homes ‘nine times more likely to commit crimes.’ The Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8109184/Children-from-broken-homes-nine-times-more-likely-to-commit-crimes.html
2 James 1:27 ESV
3 Galatians 6:2 ESV