Friday, September 3, 2010

Nice work if you can get it.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, one in five Australian children suffer from some kind of mental illness such as anxiety, depression, or eating disorders.  Naturally this affects societal health such that these kids suffer from higher rates of school absenteeism and drug abuse.

The Australian government, led by the avowed atheist Julia Gillard, has stepped up with increased funding to combat these issues.  The taxpayer bill stands at $437 million.  And how will this one-third increase help these kids succeed in school and life?  Will they provide trained counselors in schools to provide assistance for kids going through abuse or neglect?

No, the money will go to chaplains.
School chaplains come from organisations such as Scripture Union, which sees them as a means by which they can fulfil their organisational aim of making "God's Good News known to children [and] young people" so "they may come to personal faith in our Lord Jesus Christ ... and become both committed church members".
Of course, this being publicly-funded education, the government knows that can't let these chaplains roam the halls passing out Bibles and tracts, leading kids in group hymns, or inviting the students back to their offices for a little one-on-one laying on of hands in prayer. "We know these chaplains aren't mental health experts," the government is saying, "so there are restrictions on exactly what they can do." For example:
  • Chaplains can't counsel students
  • They can't provide educational services
  • Nor can they provide medical services
  • And of course they can't proselytize.
So what are the chaplains, each pulling down an extra $20,000 for their trouble, supposed to do, exactly? No one really knows apparently, including the chaplains themselves:
As a report on the program reveals, many chaplains are unclear about their role. A majority admit they do deal with student mental health and depression issues, alcohol and drug use, physical/emotional abuse and neglect, and suicide and self-harming behaviours. What most don't do is refer to appropriate professionals when out of their depth.
So where can I sign up to sit in an office, listen quietly to kids complain about their lives, not say anything back to them, and not refer the ones that truly need help to competent professionals? I could get used to that sort of work.

No comments: