How one adult can save a child's life

October 27, 2019

Every child is one caring adult away from being a success story, according to Josh Shipp, a nationally recognized youth empowerment expert and author. Mr. Shipp made the comments during a keynote address during the 2019 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Every child is one caring adult away from being a success story, according to Josh Shipp, a nationally recognized youth empowerment expert and author. Mr. Shipp made the comments during a keynote address during the 2019 American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in New Orleans, Louisiana.

He should know. As a foster child, moving from one family to another, as a victim of assault and abuse, statistically, Mr. Shipp should be dead, in jail, or homeless.

The social and mental health burdens facing children in the United States rank as a serious health threat. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teenagers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mr. Shipp advocates that caring and compassionate moments from adults can forever change a child’s life.

Consider a report from Harvard’s University Center on the Developing Child that asserts “every child who does well despite serious hardship has had one stable relationship with an adult.”

Regardless of your role in that child’s life, Mr. Shipp added, there are moments that pediatricians and other primary care physicians can be that adult even if it is “one moment, one conversation, or one opportunity.” Children may not have the ability to form the right words, but they speak clearly with their eyes, he added.

“There are 2 comments that changed my life: ‘Josh you are nothing but a stupid, fat, pathetic foster kid. The second was from my Spanish teacher: Josh you have to stop acting up in class, but have you ever thought about speech and debate? She is the reason I am here,” Mr. Shipp said. It was one suggestion and insight that helped him start building skill and purpose.

 “Kids spell trust, t-i-m-e. Time invested builds trust,” he added.

Mr. Shipp showed attendees a famed photo of baseball legend Babe Ruth pointing to the bleachers signaling that he was going to hit a home run. He knocked the ball out of the park in the next few pitches.

“Here is how you develop trust: You call your shot, and you follow through,” Shipp told attendees.  

For Josh Shipp, it took the outreach of a patient foster father named Rodney for him to find meaning. As a teenager, Mr. Shipp was thrown into jail for the night for speeding, having no license or insurance, and acting recklessly. When he made the call to his foster father to bail him out, Rodney’s answer was, “Yes, and it will be tomorrow morning.” The next morning Rodney was true to his promise, and he was the first in line to pick him up. It was the experience and the kindness from his foster father that taught Josh Shipp about the true meaning of commitment, honesty, and selfless caring.

 

Mr. Shipp has focused his career mission to reach “as many children and young adults as possible,” and he believes physicians serve a unique role to help.