I named the “Family Care Network” with a specific intent. FAMILY is our most important social institution and every effort should be made to support and strengthen families. A society exhibiting the disintegration of Family, is a society at great risk! The health of families is the most important ingredient to a healthy civil society. The stronger our family structure, the stronger and healthier we are as a nation. There is no disagreement--every child needs a healthy family! Let’s do our best to make sure this happens.
I do not want to dwell on the value of Family, but here are a few brief thoughts. Family represents protection and security, it is where children learn values, respect, and appropriate social skills and behavior. It is where children’s basic needs are provided for and where they are given a sense of belonging, happiness and joy. Family enables kids to experiment their way through life without fear of condemnation or rejection, and receive inspiration for their future. Family is a safe haven of love, nourishment, forgiveness and encouragement!
Certainly, these sentiments describe the ideal, and in reality there is no such thing as a “perfect family.” Unfortunately, too many families have become fractured, dysfunctional and ineffective in providing for the needs of family members. We can and must improve upon this!
“What is a family?” Let’s face it, a generation ago family was defined very differently than it is today. But that’s okay. Today, family is the social structure where caring adults, or a single adult, lovingly guide children to become successful, fulfilled individuals. It is not about the composition of the family, it is about the commitment of loving parents to nurture, teach, care for, protect and guide children to become healthy, productive members of society.
Ensuring the health and wellbeing of our nation’s families must become a first priority, akin to national security and defense. Our federal, state and local funding priorities must put strengthening families at the top of the list, not as some feel-good afterthought!
I find it rather ironic that we have a political party that has, for decades, sold themselves as the “family-values” party--which is just not true! In fact, their political actions have done more to hurt families than help them. They are driven by greed, selling themselves to the highest bidder, and promoting the wealth and prosperity of a few at the expense of everyone else. Their actions alone are responsible for creating one of the highest poverty rates amongst developed nations, one of the highest rates of infant mortality and lowest rates of access to affordable healthcare, stagnant wage growth in spite of a booming economy, and one of the worst records on educational achievement. If Family was really important, these facts would would not be the case!
Human history can be seen as a series of civilizations that were once dominant and flourishing, only to begin to decay, self-destruct and eventually disappear. There are many reasons why, but one of those most accepted by historians and archaeologists hinges on three components: 1) the disintegration of the Family; 2) the emergence of a small “ruling class” which holds disdain, contempt and lack of concern for the broader mass of people, which eventually leads to rebellion and the disintegration of key social institutions; and 3) invasion by a foreign power. I hope we are not on the cusp of a similar demise, but it does seem that we are trending heavily in that direction!
I am not confident that we will see priorities shift in the right direction at the federal level, at least not in the foreseeable future. Thus, it is critical that we develop state and local policies which really do prioritize the needs of families. Here are some steps that I believe we can take that will make a significant step towards strengthening Families.
First, people need the opportunity to earn a livable wage. Families where the parents are working several jobs to make ends meet, are severely challenged to also be effective parents. There is no excuse in a country like America where CEOs and businesses make millions of dollars, to pay workers so poorly! It seems like we have become like a feudal system with a few aristocrats lording over the proletariat. It’s time to change that!
Second, Families need affordable housing. The “American dream” of owning one’s own home has long been become available to only a favored few, and the cost of renting adequate housing is a huge challenge to many families. This, coupled with the greedy, “slumlord” attitude of some landlords and property managers, has produced deplorable, inappropriate housing conditions which are anything but conducive to healthy Families!
Third, Families need affordable healthcare. It is inexcusable in an economy as powerful and strong as that of the USA, to rank so low on the list of developed nations in providing decent, effective healthcare for everyone. So long as the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry controls Congress, American citizens will be the losers. Healthy Families will save substantial public funds into our future.
Fourth, Families need safe, affordable childcare, especially when challenged with inadequate incomes requiring both parents to work full-time, or a single parent to work two jobs, childcare becomes a life-critical service. Wouldn’t it be great if families had the fiscal ability to take care of and raise their own children? Until then, Families need this level of support to be successful.
Fifth, Families need great, well-funded schools so their children can get an excellent education. I think it’s high time we stop spending so much money on administration and infrastructure, and spend a lot more on classroom education! Teachers should not have to purchase their own classroom supplies, and parents and students should not have to support their school through cheesy fundraisers. Additionally, we need to revamp our whole concept of higher education and make it affordable for youth to pursue whatever career they can succeed at, whether it be specialized skilled labor, or a position requiring a college degree. A strong workforce produces a strong economy which further strengthens Families.
Sixth, Families need a community safety net. I was fortunate to grow up in a neighborhood where we actually knew our neighbors, people took care of each other, helped with child care, transportation and whatever was needed. The faith community also played a much more substantial role in providing community services and supports. Plus, we had a well defined sense of family connection and engagement. Just as children need the security of caring parents, so do Families need the security of a caring community!
Seventh, we must keep struggling Families together and help them whenever we can. As I have previously written, it is imperative that our communities have proactive, early detection, intervention and prevention services operating on a full-time basis to prevent family disintegration, child maltreatment and the removal of children. Our systems must respect the child-parent relationship, and provide every service and support available to keep Families together!
I am sure there will be many who will say “we cannot afford to do all this”, and to them I say, we cannot afford not to do this. When one calculates the costs associated with dealing with social ills “after the fact” it is staggering. As stated, it is time we fund the priority of strengthening and preserving families. If we do this, everyone wins. Poverty is reduced, the economy booms, people live longer and are more satisfied with life, and forces of social dishevel and destruction are substantially mitigated. FAMILY is our most important social institution – let us make the societal commitment to FAMILY!