Two recent news stories about Kansas children have remained in my thoughts.

The first, which I found to be disturbing, was that more than 15,000 fewer children are enrolled in school since the Covid outbreak. When that number is added to an increased incidence of truancy and absenteeism, the matter is most concerning.

Surely, those numbers cannot be due only to the masking debate which continues to roil. Our students have to be educated in this modern world. I’m hoping none of those gone missing are from Miami County.

A second story prompted memories about the variety of services that the Osawatomie State Hospital has provided over the years. That account was a call by the non-profit group Progeny, which focuses on juvenile justice reform. It is pushing the state to close the last juvenile prison. That term “prison” is much harsher than the one used here in the 1970s-early ‘80s — the Youth Rehabilitation Center.

That YRC program was based on an earned-rewards system which encouraged delinquent boys to make good decisions. Jim Trask, Bob Jackson and then Barbara Gray were directors of the work done there before the unit closed and the remaining boys were moved to Topeka in 1984.

Progeny urges Kansans to invest in community prevention programs rather than incarceration for kids, a recommendation fueled by the state’s cutting more than $20 million from funds marked for community intervention.

The issue has been complicated by the horrid fact that those institutionalized children are not only delinquent but instead too often “children in need of care” who have been abused or neglected. Such inappropriate placement can only be damaging. The Progeny report title says it all: “From Harm to Healing: The Blueprint for Healthier Outcomes for Kansas Youth.”

A caveat. I was a social work intern at YRC while working on my MSW and can attest to the humane and effective treatment rendered by OSH staff. I can also attest to the fact that my own “not-ever-to-be-used-in-public” vocabulary increased greatly, thanks to the residents, not the staff.

On a totally unrelated note in response to a reader’s question, those Malian nonuplets born last May have all survived and are still hospitalized, now breathing on their own. One of those odd “believe it or not” claims cropped up in international news following those births.

A Chinese woman began claiming in June that she had birthed decuplets, 10 babies, one-upping the record. She even posted pictures of herself as if gigantically pregnant, to get attention. Investigation proved that no such births had occurred and the mom in Mali still holds the title.

No title was awarded in the recent effort to establish the town of Golden here, but I extend my respect to those who took part, for or against. I, too, value rural living and the responsibility of property ownership.

I thank those who took a stand and let their opinions be heard. It shows officials and promoters that our citizens are vigilant. More importantly, it may prove to be a deterrent to encroachment on Miami County property and the Hillsdale watershed.

We will continue to watch as this story, too, evolves.

Margaret Hays is a longtime Osawatomie resident who writes a weekly column for The Miami County Republic.

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