Jim Rowe

Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe

KANKAKEE — People walk up to one another each and every day and extend their right hand to offer a greeting.

The words which follow are as seemingly routine as opening our eyes each morning. The question, “How are you doing?” is most often the next step in the greeting.

Some people may complete this greeting a few times a week and others possibly dozens of times a week.

But Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe, the keynote speaker at Thursday’s 2021 Legislative Reception for Kankakee County, said there are areas in Africa where the question is different and believes it needs to become a custom here in Kankakee County, in Illinois, and in the United States.

“Before they talk about anything, they ask, ‘How are the children doing?’” Rowe said. It’s a question that goes unanswered far too often here, he said.

“If the children are well, the family unit is well,” he said at the event hosted by the Kankakee County Farm Bureau and the Kankakee County Chamber of Commerce.

He extended the wellness to larger scales. If families are well, then the neighborhood is well. If the neighborhood is well, the town is well. If the town is well, the schools are well.

“How are the children in Kankakee County?” Rowe asked the now-quiet diners at the Kankakee Country Club.

How well are all the children in Kankakee County, Rowe asked. He posed a question to the audience: “What if someone asked you?”

One week removed from the double-fatal shootings immediately south of the Kankakee County Courthouse, questions are not only being asked as to how to deal with growing gun violence but also the mental health of our community’s youth.

Antonio Hernandez, 24, and Victor Andrade, 26, were killed in the shootout. Miguel Andrade, 23, who eventually shot and killed Hernandez, a gang member alleged to have started the incident when he shot Victor and another man with Victor, remains in the custody of the Kankakee Police.

But how did such young men find themselves in a gun battle on that hot, sunny summer morning near the courthouse, Rowe wondered. It brought him back to the question: How are our children doing?

Of course, Kankakee County — and Kankakee in particular — must deal with these types of images far too often. He said counseling was made available to courthouse personnel who witnessed the incidents of that day.

But, he wondered once again, what resources are made available to children who witness traumatic events on a repeated basis? What access do they have to services to help them?

He said while the Aug. 26 event brought significant portions of our community to a standstill, these types of crimes are not infrequent in many areas of the city and county. In far too many of the incidents, they fail to even make a blip on the screen.

“We have to start asking why?” he said. In most cases, he noted, these are people who have almost nothing to lose, yet they lose even the little they have.

“How do we end up as a community with this violence touching our streets?” he asked.

Can it change? Perhaps. But Rowe stressed the question must be repeatedly asked — “How are the children?”

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.