Saturday, April 12, 2008

Does Every Child Matter? Candidates will decide

(Originally published 4/12/08)

Last week, I challenged our presidential candidates to ditch their television ads for the month of May and donate the money that would have been spent to air them to domestic violence shelters and/or child welfare programs.

I’m still waiting to hear from them.

But I don’t take rejection well, so I renew the call again this week, bolstered by another report that paints a bleak picture of child welfare in America.

Last week’s report from the Centers for Disease Control informed us that an estimated 91,000 babies a year old and younger are victims of nonfatal child abuse or neglect in a year. This week, the Every Child Matters Education Fund released a report that ranks the 50 states on 10 standards of wellbeing for children.

“Geography matters greatly when it comes to the ability of U.S. children to be healthy and survive to adulthood,” the report noted. For example, children in the lowest-ranked 10 states are three times more likely to die before the age of 14, five times more likely to be uninsured and eight times more likely to be jailed as teens, it said.

The ECMEF exists to stop child abuse, help working families with child care, expand preschool education and after-school programs and ensure that children receive good health care. And while we’re encouraging the candidates to do some good, the ECMEF is trying to get their attention.

The ECMEF also produced “Homeland Insecurity: Why Children Must Be a Priority in the 2008 Presidential Campaign,” a fascinating but disturbing report in which ECMEF researchers consider the effects of current policies on America’s youngest citizens. The report also encourages voters to pose tough questions to candidates about how – and whether – those candidates will spotlight and work to meet the needs of children during the 2008 campaign and beyond. (One example: “More than 3 million children nationwide were reported abused and neglected in 2006. What are your plans to keep all children safe from violence in their homes, schools, and communities?”)

So, come on, candidates … Give voters a welcome respite from the increasingly insufferable commercials with which you’ve browbeaten the country for months. Shelve those ads for a few weeks; give those dollars a better purpose. The lives you save could be your supporters someday.

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In other news, as anti-China protesters traded their credibility for juvenile attacks on Olympic torchbearers this week, activists called on President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing and Americans to boycott the corporate sponsors who participate. China’s dismal human rights record demands it, they say.

There was another Summer Olympics hosted by a country with a poor human rights record – indeed, one of the worst in history. But there was no U.S. boycott of the 1936 Games in Berlin, and against the backdrop of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi propaganda declaring “Aryan racial superiority,” Alabama native Jesse Owens won four gold medals.

Since when does political change occur in any country as the result of a limited, targeted boycott by outsiders? True revolution happens from within, and it can only be sparked when the oppressed see evidence of the vibrant life beyond their borders. The Olympic Games is a celebration of sport, of human achievement and of humanity itself, regardless of the political boundaries that divide us. It’s a reminder, every four years, of the world that could – and can – be.

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On the blog this weekend, links to all the ECMEF stuff mentioned here, and where Alabama ranked.


Legally Kidnapped said...

Good for you! You fell for it. What you fail to understand is that those numbers do not provide any depth whatsoever. They support an agenda where a lot of cronies are given state contracts. They are not an accurate analysis of the realities surrounding child abuse and neglect.

What they do is lump everything together in a nice neat little package. One kid could be in there for getting his face slapped for telling his mother to go **** herself, while another could be on there for having the living crap beat out of them by a mothers live in boyfriend. They do not include severity levels. They do not tell the number of households where abuse took place, which would obviously be much smaller as many of these children are sibling groups, who are often separated in foster care. These numbers are fluffed in that anything that could be considered maltreatment in any way is included.

Yes child abuse is a horrible thing, but so is the foster care system. Foster care is not the answer to this problem. They can't get it right. Children tend to do better in abusive homes, the studies are supporting this.

Children are even more likely to be abused in foster care. Families are ripped apart. Children’s lives are destroyed. Children are heavily medicated while in foster care, so that they can keep them under control. Children are bounced around from foster home to foster home with the average being 14 different foster homes, this causes mental disorders. They are thrown out on the street at age 18. Children are more likely to become pregnant, homeless, incarcerated, unemployed.

Maybe you should learn a thing or two about reality before you start spouting off at the mouth about all these evil parents who screw up. The ignorance of the self-righteous hypocrite never fails to amaze me.

Jennifer Foster said...

Hello, "Legally Kidnapped." Interesting screen name. Perhaps that sheds a bit of light on your diatribe for us.

My first reaction was to delete your comment, because I wouldn't want anyone to read it and think there is any truth to your statements. But then I decided to leave it alone, because I can't believe that anyone would read it and think there is any truth to your statements.

If anything, your comment has demonstrated for us the absolute reality and severity of the child abuse problem in America. Who are you? Are you a child who was abused, and your scars rule your life? Are you someone who applied to be a foster care parent but was denied, so you have an ax to grind against the system? Or are you an abusive parent yourself, afraid that someone will uncover the unforgivable in your own home?

I won't confuse you with the real facts about child abuse. Anyone who makes a statement like, "Children tend to do better in abusive homes" has neither credibility himself nor the ability to comprehend explanation. I will tell you that I have worked in state government and I know about the state contracts you describe. The reality is that, as anything else, foster care has its shortcomings. But the lion's share of foster care parents are trying to do their best to help the helpless from a hopeless situation. For you, the cost of the life of the child "having the living crap beat out of them by a mothers (sic) live in (sic) boyfriend" is not worth saving if it means intervening in a situation that involves borderline discipline.

Our options are to either address the shortcomings of foster care while building on the foundation provided by those who truly care about children, or simply leave abused and neglected little ones to languish in their agony because no one believes their lives are worth the effort to save. No reasonable person would support your approach. What was it Hillary Clinton said? Your argument requires the "willing suspension of disbelief."

I know all I need to know about abused and neglected children, and that is this: They are out there, and they need our help.

As for your personal attack, I forgive you for lashing out; perhaps you're not responsible for your ignorance. Anyone with that amount of vitriol must have been through something terrible. Let go of your bitterness and use your experience, whatever it is, to help children in need. Your life will be much more fulfilling than if you continue scouring the Internet for places to reject reality.