Letter to the Board of Health
Board of Health Members of Jefferson County:
My name is Beth Parker, and I am the Co-Leader of Jeffco Unites: Kids First. To this point, I have only shared communication with Executive Director Comstock, but after listening in on the meeting last evening, I felt it was time to introduce myself to you.
I have great respect for the importance of public health as a whole. Due to the overwhelming socio-economic differences that exist in Jeffco, there is a real, immediate need for the services that JCPH provides. I became intimately aware of these services a few years ago when I was working to establish a neighborhood food hub at our elementary school in Lakewood. Through my work and getting to know the families we were serving, I quickly realized that these families were struggling as much with mental health as they were with food insecurity and lack of shelter. There is nothing worse than being a parent and feeling like you cannot provide for your children. It’s a helpless feeling. I learned that these families are intensely protective over their children and the decisions that are made about their well being. Above all, they love their children and they are doing the very best that they can. When I would sit with these families – many of whom were homeless and living in their cars, wondering where their next meal was coming from, and worried about having warm clothing for their babies – I often just wanted them to feel that they weren’t alone. I wanted them to know that it was OKAY to make the decision that they felt was best for their children. I could guide them by offering information and suggestions, but the end game was always honoring their choices. ALL parents love their children. ALL parents deserve the right to feel empowered to make decisions that are best for their children. ALL parents want their whole child to be healthy, safe, and happy.
The fact that Ms. Harriet Hall made light of the mental anguish that many parents and children are dealing with in Jefferson County disgusted me. To suggest that parents are projecting fears and political ideology onto children is overreach, out of touch, and inappropriate. True….some children do not struggle with masks. Also true…some children struggle mightily. There are parents in Jeffco RIGHT NOW who are dealing with immense and powerful mental health issues with their children and to make light of this in any capacity after community members poured their hearts out during public comment shows a complete disrespect for how a majority of the community is feeling. I have spent the better part of a year fostering a community where people can go to grieve and feel like they are not alone…..and always, the number one complaint is that people feel that what is happening to them is not being validated compassionately by anyone in a position of power. Did you consider, when you dropped a PHO at 5pm the night before school started, that there may be low income families who would be unable to provide a mask for their children the next morning? Did you consider that it gave schools very little time to plan and provide for their communities? Did you consider that you forced parents into having difficult conversations with TODDLERS literally hours before school was starting? This is shameful and the community deserves answers as to why the PHO was rolled out in this manner. Without an explanation, it appears as if it was nothing more than vindictive, childish behavior directed at “a small group of parents”.
I am here to tell you that we are not a small group of parents. We represent thousands of children in Jeffco. As far as I am aware, the public comments were randomly selected last evening. NOT ONE was in favor of the PHO or a mask mandate. For the Board to assume that you know best regarding what people are experiencing in their homes is naive. We are better than judging our neighbors. This is why, as Americans, we have always had the freedom to make our own choices regarding medical decisions. Like most parents, that is a moment I will never forget in the hospital after the birth of my first child. In that instant, it was my total and complete responsibility to make decisions about this little 8lb human’s health, safety, and heart. That is my privilege and my responsibility as a parent. I do not take this lightly. And while I’ve never professed to being a perfect parent (that is something one does prior to actually being a parent), I deeply believe in the depths of my soul that parents should have the right to determine what is best for their own children. Allowing for parental choice is respectful and necessary. EVEN during a global pandemic.
I am not going to ask you to rescind the PHO. I’m smart enough to know that we’re past that point, and at this point, that will be left up to legal minds. But, I do want you to know that your actions have contributed towards the complete shattering of a community. It’s quite possibly irreparably broken. As a result of Executive Director Comstock’s continued insistence that a large percentage of the Jeffco community is misinformed, this has become a war of “who is the better parent.” It has pitted neighbor against neighbor and created a level of profiling between community members that is incredibly troublesome. I worry about how we will come back from this. How will we repair people’s hearts? Buzzwords like “resiliency” cannot staple humanity back together. How will you play a role in repairing a community that is so deeply fractured?
I would hope that you would take this opportunity to clarify your statements at the end of the meeting last evening. I heard a lot of congratulating each other over a job well done, and not a whole lot of empathy and sensitivity to families within your community who are struggling. It is time to restore honor in parent choice, trust, and respect in our community so we can begin to heal.
Jeffco Kids First