America’s Invisible Children Left Behind

By Wanda Parker

What does the term Invisible Children mean to you?

What does No child left behind mean to you?

As someone who has worked with children and their families for more than forty years and as a Christian these terms became very real to me when I was in my early twenties.

I was living and working in a migrant labor camp in Texas – you can see pictures of myself and husband (who I met while serving there) by clicking here  We were VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) Volunteers, part of President Johnson’s war on poverty.  I was just out of college and had such huge dreams of making a difference. 

Never will I forget the day that Lupe knocked on our door and asked if I would like to accompany her to court.  She was going to court with two boys, both 12 year olds. They had put bricks on the railroad track and derailed a train. Sure I thought, an afternoon to get out of the heat of the Texas sun and sit idly in the back of an air conditioned courtroom.  As we entered the court I sat in the last row while Lupe went to the front to be with the boys.

The judge came in and asked the two boys to stand in front of him.  Jessie wore a filthy, worn baseball cap. Mario stood with his head bowed and never looked at the judge. 

“Take that cap off!” the judge demanded in a gruff voice.

Mario and Jessie didn’t move.

“I told you to take that cap off!  Take it off now!.” the judge said more harshly.

Again, neither boy moved.

Shouting this time, “Did you hear me?  I told you to take that cap off!  Do so now!”

Again, neither boy moved.

“You, you sitting out there,” the judge shouted pointing at me.  “You’ve come into our small community thinking that you know everything.  You think that you can tell us how to run our community.  Well we’ll see.  We’ll see if you have all the answers or not!  I’m putting these two boys into your custody!.

He hit the bench with his gavel.  I sat there not able to move.  What had happened?  This was suppose to be an easy afternoon, a little time out of the heat.  Now at 21 I had custody of two twelve year olds.  What do you do with two boys who are about to become teenagers? Were they to live with us? 

As we drove back to the Labor Camp Lupe and I talked about the options available to me.  We decided it would be best for the boys to spend nights with their parents and spend days with us.  Joe and Ellen, my two roommates and fellow Vista Volunteers, had a good laugh as I explained what had happened –  that is until they realized how this impacted them too.

One of the first things we learned was that Jessie wouldn’t remove his cap because he had a scalp disease and his hair was all patchy.  Joe took him to town to pick out a new, clean cap.  A daily routine was making sure his head and cap were clean. 

We checked with the school to see how they were doing.  Because they were the children of migrant laborers and moved a lot the school was basically warehousing them.  We requested they be tested.  It took a little presuring but eventually the tests were administered.  Jessie had an IQ of 69, Mario’s was 48.

Jessie and Mario had no idea what the consequences would be when they placed those bricks on the railroad track.  They were merely having fun trying to balance the bricks.

For the next few months I worked hard with the school and their parents figuering out what would be best for them.  In the end we were able to get them enrolled in a residential school for mentally challenged children. 

I remember the day I took them to the school.  They were excited and I knew that they were going to receive training that would give them skills to function as adults on their own. 

As I drove out of the school grounds I had a sense of accomplishment, a sense I had done something good. 

Jessie and Mario were American invisible children – there was no one in their lives who cared enough or had the sophistication to get them the help they needed.  Little did the judge realize what a blessing it was for those boys when he placed them in my custody.

But as the years have passed I have often felt that those boys may have been left behind. 

Not once did I speak to them about Jesus. 

What did I truly give them if I gave them the whole world but they lose their souls?  Mark 8:36

That experience definitely has had a profound impact on the vision of KidTrek. Click here to go to KidTrek website.


Developing a partnership with local churches, KidTrek establishes youth programs to serve the community.

Through modeling, training, and coaching KidTrek equips adults to build intentional, long-term relationships with families in crisis.

Our goal is to see at-risk kids become Christ-changed, hope-filled, productive adults..


2 responses to “America’s Invisible Children Left Behind

  1. Dear Wanda,

    I am deeply touched and moved by this article.
    Words cannot express the love I feel for you and for the kids. Thank you so much for reaching out and helping these kids. I am trying in small ways to help children. I am located in India and it appalling to see the street children and their plight.
    Initially I would just look the other way. I couldn’t handle the pain and sad feelings.
    But now I pray, I just know they are loved wherever they are, whatever they are doing.

    Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful thoughts.


  2. Latha,

    Thanks for your kind words.

    Prayer is vital.

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