Unfortunately, you have heard me say on too many occasions, how inept, self-centered and downright “heartless” our political ruling class is when it comes to taking care of America’s children. Let’s be fair--it is both the Ds and Rs who have dropped the ball and turned a deaf ear. In my mind, this is unconscionable and inexcusable, especially in a country as capable and wealthy as the United States!
The Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI)--a division of the University of San Diego’s School of Law--released a scathing, well researched report this past September, “A White paper on America’s Family Values.” This report is a follow-up to two previous brilliant research projects from CAI: “Shame On Us” and “The Fleecing of Foster Children,” two well-documented presentations that bluntly demonstrate the failure of America’s legislators, both state and federal, to adequately protect and care for our children.
It is absolutely stunning to realize that children in America are less safe than anywhere else in the industrialized world--we have the highest child abuse and child homicide rate! In 2016, 7.4 million child abuse and neglect cases were reported to authorities, 676,000 children were substantiated to be victims of abuse or neglect. About 20% of those children--or 150,000--were removed from their homes and placed into foster care. About half of these youth will be reunified with a parent, most within 12 months of their removal, but then 12% of them will suffer subsequent removal into foster care. Around 20,000 foster youth exit the system each year unsupported or cared for.
Underlying causes and correlations of child abuse and neglect are rarely addressed, but they include:
- a culture that dismisses the seminal right of a child simply to be adequately supervised and cared for;
- child poverty which afflicts 15 million U.S. children--21% of the total child population;
- parental alcohol abuse and drug addiction has a substantial correlation to child abuse;
- a lack of basic parenting education in public schools or otherwise, notwithstanding its importance; and
- a political system primarily focused on commerce and catering to the wealthy, while ignoring the health, safety and wellbeing of children, youth and families
The Centers for Disease Control estimates the total annual cost of child abuse and neglect at $124 billion.
The 20,000 foster children aging out of care in the U.S. annually suffer seven times the general population’s drug addiction rate, have arrest records ten times the rate of other youth, drop out of high school at high rates, disproportionately suffer post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems, and have an unemployment rate of 60%. Even by age 21, 90% of these youth are earning less than $10,000 per year. These outcomes occur for youth who lack the safety net and support system typically provided by family during this vulnerable transition time in their lives--a time all of our young people experience. But regardless, politicians on both sides of the aisle fail to adequately address the issues and needs these youth continue to face.
There are multiple failures across the child welfare system that demonstrate a lack of understanding of the underlying causes of abuse and neglect. The system remains woefully underfunded, worsened by counterproductive flaws in the funding formula, and an inability or unwillingness to hold states accountable for violating federal laws. Year after year, Congress fails to act on numerous bills designed to ameliorate these problems.
Our children should be a nonpartisan issue. Liberals should want opportunity and a better future for impoverished children. Conservatives should understand these children are not the children of “others,” but of our national “family.” We, the state, have seized them for their protection. How we treat these children—our children—will be a test of the conservative “family values” shibboleth.
Democrats invariably seek social worker-based, government provided solutions. Although these solutions are well-intentioned and sometimes helpful, children who need a caring family ideally are not relegated to the caseloads of public agencies. Additionally, they tend to ignore the impacts of real causes of child neglect — especially the failure of adults to simply plan for a child, as well as the denigration of marriage. They are also not fully cognizant of the significant role that parental alcohol and substance abuse addiction has in child abuse cases.
The Democrats are also so aligned with public-employee unions, they have become unwilling to hold them accountable or to fund private, not-for-profit based human services programs. Consequently, public social services has no accountability for the efficacy of their performance, and, much less of the limited pool of public funding designated for child welfare services actually reaches clients. Social services budgets burgeon with annual salary increases and tremendous retirement and benefits cost, outpacing increases in public funding, resulting in an ongoing reduction in service delivery capacity without consequence. They’ve created a process of serving a bloated “system” and not the children and families it is intended to serve!
Republicans may be even worse. They do not look at root causes either, including child poverty and the absence of parenting education in schools. They also cling to the classic lie of “revenue neutrality,” which contends that keeping raw spending numbers the same year after year is “neutral.” Without adjustments for population and inflation, this formula is no more neutral than a python wrapped around a child’s neck, contracting slowly but cumulatively. It is no surprise, treatment rates to providers have been stagnant for decades.
Republicans also invented the shameful tactic called the “look-back,” which deprives children of federal support if the family from which they were removed earned an income over the federal poverty line as it existed in 1996 — $12,980 per year for a mother and two children. Of course, they have not adjusted that either, although they now argue for inflation adjustment of capital gains to lower taxes for the rich. This arbitrary “look-back” artifice has resulted in federal financial abandonment of close to 50 percent of foster children since 1996—as more and more children become ineligible each year.
As “The Fleecing of Foster Children” report clearly documents, states are systematically diverting Social Security survivor and disability benefits that rightly belong to foster children to their own general fund coffers, a now widespread and brazen embezzlement. Another prime example of heartless politicians and greedy bureaucrats!
Through both Republican and Democratic administrations, our government has never represented nor created remedies for these vulnerable children to enforce their legal rights, or to promote their safety, health and wellbeing. Why, might you ask? MONEY and PRIORITIES! It cost Money to properly care for our children, and doing so is on the lowest rung of their priority ladder. By and large, politicians are driven by greed, the lust for power and prestige–most are political prostitutes selling their souls for the opportunity to remain in the “ruling class,” lording over the proletariat at the behest of their wealthy benefactors.
So what do we do? Three things:
- Elect better representatives, individuals who care more about people than money and making the rich, richer; folks with sound priorities.
- Maybe it’s time for federal term limits! I don’t think our founding fathers every intended for Congress to consist of “career” politicians, embedded there through a system of special interest and bribery!
- Continue to fight and advocate for what is right, before it’s too late!