In the Absence of Child Welfare Services
If we don’t want government to do it, we have to do it. Opinion from the Fringe Editor.
There was a time when Aunts and Grandmothers and Brothers-in-law made sure kids didn’t suffer too much from an alcoholic parent or worse. Word got around the family, someone said something, sometimes grandma would simply come and get the kids for awhile.
Those days are largely gone, killed by geographic mobility and the growing social belief that such things as children and the elderly should be left to professionals.
The upshot of that is that we are now reliant on the government to protect our kids. That dependency has been very bad for our rights as parents, but the possibility of losing it might be very bad for some kids.
What is an abused kid? If a parent hits a kid with an iron cord and leaves welts that crust over, I think we would likely agree that is physical abuse. What about when a parent spanks a kid and leaves a handprint? We would all agree that a kid that stinks and has bad teeth isn’t receiving good parenting, but should the state intervene?
One of the many ways “protecting children” has gotten out of hand is the “mandated reporter” system. By making all kinds of people responsible for reporting “suspected child abuse” the system has made it dangerous to send your kid to school or take them to the doctor. What was intended to empower people to intercede into families to prevent child abuse has become a do-gooder hobby for school-yard monitors and school secretaries and even postmen.
It would be helpful if we actually valued parenthood in our country. We have “family values” but don’t really honor those who turn their effort to the betterment of their children, and the next generation of Americans. It would be good if we honored parents.
It would be useful if all parents would be good to their kids. It would help if they loved their kids and valued them as their legacy to the world.
It would be very helpful if parents wouldn’t become addicted to meth or alcohol; that would save most families.
And, it would be helpful if no parents were stupid, as one social worker I know is fond of quoting John Wayne, “life is hard but it’s harder if you’re stupid”.
Right now, there are great alternatives to CWS. Many agencies in our communities offer education about hygiene, dental hygiene, nutrition and parenting skills. We should all support our Community Resource Centers, we should give our political support to First 5, which is taking major hits in Brown’s budget.
But, what if the money for those efforts continues to dry up? What can we do as a community?
One of the benefits of allowing professionals to take care of family matters is that they are often dangerous. What grandparent wants the pissed off alcoholic meth freak boyfriend to come around the house? Cops often say they dread domestic violence calls the most. OK, maybe there are some problems family and friends shouldn’t take care of.
But, we can start taking back some of the duties recently relegated to the government.
We can tell our friends who have children in their care to stop driving drunk with the kids in the car. We can tell our cousins to take their kids to the dentist, and learn to brush their teeth.
Maybe once in awhile we can tell our neighbors how miserable it is to listen to them scream and yell, and suggest it might even be worse for the kids.
Finally, we can remember that the “mandated reporter” law is trying to do what we all should do anyway: become alarmed when a kid seems badly abused or neglected. Most matters CWS gets involved with are also crimes. True, CWS tends to stretch definitions past the point of reason, but we all know it’s wrong for an adult to use a child for sexual pleasure, and we can call the cops about it. We know it’s wrong to get liquored up and take life’s frustration out on the kids, and when we know it’s happening we can call the cops.
In the old days, the in-laws looked out after their daughters and grandchildren; maybe we can do that again.
The Prospect encourages readers to get involved in preventative services. Some parents simply don’t know how to do better, but they would if they could.
Download this guide from Sierra County HHS
, and “save as” to your desktop or “my documents”.
Revised Sierra County Resource Guide
(Upload; updated 02-17-11, Thank-You Mary Wright!)