Caring for children in Moultrie

By Sophie Katz

This week we have been reflecting on the work we are doing with migrant children in addition to what we have been able to do for the farmworkers themselves. Through this experience, we have learned how unstable life can be for the children of migrant workers, frequently not knowing where they will find themselves from one week to the next. We wonder what happens to their records, their grades, their developmental screens and glasses prescriptions and dental records as they follow their parents from crop to crop across the growing seasons. The Moultrie project has opened our eyes to the world the children at the elementary schools we’ve visited occupy, and it has shown us how much more our screenings and checkups can do than just scratch the surface.

We test the students’ eyes and ears, take their blood pressures, heights, and weights, measure their hemoglobin and blood glucose if necessary, and pass them onto the other disciplines for sealant and cavity checks, motor screenings, and their well child checkups. What we find often takes us beyond concerns of the body. We have to carefully consider whether a silent child has a developmental disability or is simply shy or frightened. Perhaps she doesn’t speak English or Spanish, and hasn’t been in Georgia more than a month. What we decide is true for her matters because it will be on the form that determines whether she can start kindergarten.

Often in Moultrie it is easy to feel that the main event is night camp with the farmworkers. However, what we do for the children is just as vital, if not more so. We are starting medical records that will be passed to clinics that are integrated into the migrant stream. The screenings we perform help ensure that they have a chance at success in school. At night we see hard workers, chasing their dreams and ambitions across blazing hot fields. In the mornings we are lucky enough to have a chance to help those dreams grow.

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