Thursday, January 27, 2005

Children At Risk

I read yesterday, with great dismay, but not surprise, about the effect of dual income families on children and their development. For years this has been an issue that I have felt strongly about and yet have felt powerless to change. There are families out there who manage to handle this very effectively, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

Bush's No Child Left Behind is now part of the problem as well. An ill conceived program, which was never properly funded, has just added to the ever growing problem of our inattention to our children and their very basic needs.

It goes without saying that children certainly deserve the best we are able to give them. This does NOT mean material goods, but all the attention and love we are capable of giving. And, to accomplish this, means time. I have seen many families who had very little in the way of material wealth, and yet raised children who were thoughtful, caring individuals who contributed greatly to society as adults. Conversely, I have seen children, of those more affluent, who felt that they deserved things in life just because that was all they had been taught. Buy Johnny a new video game and then we will not feel so guilty!

So now we have two income families, with children. Employers who do not wish to give their employees the time for a decent maternity leave, or time off when a child is home ill. Some families have to scramble for someone else to watch their children when they have a school cancellation due to snow or storms, and there is no daycare in place. And then there is the child who is caught in the middle between his mother and her employer when there is a special event at school and also a very important presentation at work. The presentation invariably wins and the child immediately knows where he stands in the greater scheme of things. He comes second.

Australia gives mothers a stipend in order for them to stay at home, IF they choose, in order to be with their children in their first, most important, formative years. Daycare may be an alternative, but what that gives us is a generation of children who have been raised, not by a child's parents, but by people who may not necessarily share the same beliefs as the parents of the children they are tending. And that also puts the child at risk for inappropriate behavior on the part of the staff at these facilities.

Again, those who are in the middle will pay the price. Those families who must work in order to meet the daily requirements of life and can ill afford the extras like au pairs or nannies. Indeed, most can barely afford daycare. Current Bush fiscal policy will only push the envelope of this issue further. Nor does this administration truly care. If it did, No Child Left Behind would have been properly funded, and those after school programs which were in place would not have had to close due to lack of funding because of fiscal "compassionate conservatism".

Behavioral problems are on the rise, and our juvenile court systems are seeing more and more youthful offenders. We have decided that there is nothing which cannot be cured if we medicate these young 'uns, or give them some intensive therapy. Teen suicide is an unfortunate side issue which is only recently coming to light.

No one is minding the store as it were. And, even more sadly, no one seems to really care.

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