When I was a kid, I was a big fan of Full House, which among others starred Bob Saget, John Stamos and Jodie Sweetin. I loved the idyllic representation of a non-traditional family whose comedic antics had adults and kids, alike rolling with laughter. Today, Jodie Sweetin gave birth to another child and headlines went up. That birth drives home for me a very simple truth: the cycle of life repeats itself.
For many that cycle–a child grows into an adult and has children of her own–is not a positive one. A little over a year ago, my cousin gave birth to a new baby. Addicted to meth, I worried about my cousin’s ability to stay clean and raise that child. She probably won’t get the chance because she was recently sentenced to 10 years under the supervision of the Department of Corrections in Colorado (my cousin’s child is under the care of her grandmother). My cousin’s case is a mild one in comparison with some of the more devastating effects of child abuse and neglect.
Right now, on the Western Slope, 15-year-old John Caudle is being held for evaluation pending trial for the murder of his mother and step father. He faces 80 years in prison for trying to free himself from the cycle of drug addiction and abuse wrought by his parents–by adults he was supposed to trust. Dozens more victims of abuse who, as children, took the law into their own hands sit idle in prison. Sentenced to terms as long as life without parole, they will likely never have the chance to break the cycle and lead lives as idyllic as the one portrayed in Full House.
Jodie Sweetin had her own struggle with methamphetamine. So far she’s been able to stay clean. She’s lucky; she got a second chance and we applaud her. Don’t child abuse victims sitting in prison for trying to get the same second chance deserve the same understanding?
Children are different from adults. Dozens of studies show that teens, in particular, lack the same decision-making capacity as adults and yet when they become inconvenient; when their parents fail them, we seek to discard them and put them in cold storage–many times for the rest of their lives. Why are those children any less deserving of society’s understanding than Jodie Sweetin?