Posted by: Beverly Davidson, LMSW | February 16, 2016

“Look for the helpers…”

“For me, as for all children, the world could have come to seem a scary place to live. But I felt secure with my parents, and they let me know that we were safely together whenever I showed concern about accounts of alarming events in the world.   There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong……” Fred Rogers, 1986.

With the continuing man-made water crisis in Flint, MI, this city has become a scary place for children and families to live.  Volunteering there, I have seen the scared faces of people whose trust in their government has been shattered, and who are unsure of how to keep themselves and their children safe from their water.  I have heard horror stories from others who have worked tirelessly to help the most impoverished get the assistance they need.  I will never forget the face of a young mother who was so grateful for the water we delivered, as she rushed out to tell us she just had a baby and drank the lead-poisoned water throughout the pregnancy.  I worry for her, and how this knowledge will affect her attachment with her baby.  I worry about the baby, whose developing brain was flooded with poison.  Their world is now a scary place to live.

Children respond to the faces and emotional tones of the grown-ups around them.  If their parents are scared and worried about something that should be as simple as clean drinking water, what do the children feel and see?  When parents are scared, it is in turn more terrifying for their children.  If our biggest helpers, our government, who are responsible for providing basic services such as clean drinking water, cannot keep our adults safe, how do parents keep their children safe?  What do the parents tell their children?  “Look for the helpers.”

The children of this city will need thousands of helpers over the course of a lifetime.  As an infant mental health specialist, I work with infants and young children and their parents to form a mutually respectful partnership so that the parent can feel supported and nurtured. In turn, the parent can support and nurture the child, in spite of the hardships they face.  I work primarily with infants and toddlers with special-needs and developmental delays, and often these needs impact the parent-child relationship.  I have sat with a myriad of parents wondering why their child is developmentally impaired, chronically ill, etc., and almost always these parents blame themselves.  “What did I do to cause this?”  Nothing, you did nothing wrong.  It just happens sometimes, I say.

But today, in 2016, we have a generation of children who will likely have developmental, behavioral and emotional impairments because of catastrophic mistakes that the biggest helpers of all created.  This did not “just happen.”

Early interventionists, infant mental health specialists, teachers, nurses, social workers, counselors, doctors will all need to be bigger and stronger helpers than ever before so that these children and their parents are wrapped up in secure blankets and held tightly. We will need a continual influx of private, state, and federal funding to ensure that there are more than enough infant mental health specialists to support and nurture the parents who are devastated and mired in shame and guilt for unknowingly giving their chidlren lead-poisoned water.  We will need funding for medical homes, school nurses, school social workers, teachers and programs to provide as many safe grown-ups as we can find to let these children know that “it’s ok to feel scared, it’s ok to feel sad, and it’s ok to be who you are because you did nothing wrong.  And, I will take care of you.”  These children will need helpers in every developmental stage of their life.

The question is, will our government make it happen?


(To help, please consider volunteering with or donating to Crossing Water, who are some of the most amazing helpers on the planet).




  1. Well stated Bev! I am so honored to work with you everyday and to know you not only care about each of our families but your concern and compassion for others is far more reaching.

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