Monday, July 24, 2006

You're Still a Bad Parent -- Eff Your Certificate

The cover story of this week's Times Sunday magazine is a heart-breaking story about the child welfare system and the precarious line it has to tread between keeping children safe and families in tact. To narrate the mess that is this system, from both a bureaucratic and human perspective, the magazine followed a 29 year-old mother of five who was fighting to get her children back from the state of Connecticut.

Yes, a 29 year-old mother of FIVE, fighting for custody of her children because she's been drug free for a year and has been keeping a tidy home thanks to "disability" payments for epilepsy and child support from one of her kids' grandparents. Funny, her kids' grandparents are giving HER child suppport when the actual grandkids are in a foster home. Nice.

"Marie," the subject profiled for the article, has been attending parenting courses and has been learning to deal with one her kids' ADHD (progressive 90s speak for "since you can't smack some sense into your child it's now time to call unruly, inappropriate behavior a disease"). She has certificates galore extolling her potential to be a functioning, upstanding member of society and she is even doing her homework online to learn about her kid's behavior problem. She needs a Web site to tell her her kid can't behave because she can't keep her legs closed? Sheesh.

Anyway, I don't want to spoil the surprise but three pages into the story we find out that our model of redemption is pregnant with her sixth child. I have to admit that until I read that part of the story I was on this woman's side. Hey, nobody is perfect and if my tax dollars have to fund this nasty war in Iraq they might as well help a young woman get back on her feet. But enough is enough.

Stories like Marie's are the reason why the Democrats have to cowtow to peasants and simps. There is no reason why my tax dollars should fund this chick's promiscuity. If there are decent, hardworking families who want to raise her children and teach them that they can be more than a matress and a leech, then I'm all for it. This woman has signed off her right to these children with her flagrant disregard for the law and for her own personal well-being.

I am especially incensed by this story because the woman in question is Puerto Rican. Having grown up in the 'hood myself I've seen many young women think of welfare as a viable option for raising their children. I grew up watching girls not much older than me push strollers while thinking it weird that no time seemed to have passed since we played on my stoop in the summer.

At the heart of this unfortunate situation is an issue of self-worth. I feel as if I know Marie and her family from reading this story. I bet at one point her family just gave up and thought, "oh well, as long as she doesn't go to jail things will be alright." Marie and her family probably don't think much of themselves; like many of the people I grew up around they probably think getting by is just fine and don't see that American Dream as something that applies to them.

As heartbreaking as it is, people like Marie make their lives the government's problem. Since the government is paying for her and her children's well-being then the government should be the one to decide whether she is a fit mother. Clearly she is not and she deserves to have her kids taken away for good.


Jean Lafitte said...

Interesting, and I appreciate your perspective, coming from the background you describe. I didn't know that about you, and I think that too often issues like this are discussed and decided by people who have never once spoken to someone who's actually lived the life they're trying to regulate.

I glanced at, but didn't really read, that article in the NYT Magazine. I'm afraid that many of the best and most important Magazine articles are so long that Sunday readers like me look at them, go aww jeez I'll come back to this, then turn to sports or arts and never do come back.

But from what I saw, and from what you said, it's a very painful issue. Yes, children need their parents, even if only one is available. Yes, teenagers living in poverty can make terrible mistakes, getting pregnant and hooked on drugs. Yes, they are capable of rising above their mistakes and redeeming themselves, and should be encouraged to do so.

But whatever happens, children keep growing. A baby cannot put his growth on hold for six years while his mother gets her life straightened out. This is heartbreaking and painful.

But how to choose the course that, in the end, will cause the least heartbreak, and the least pain? How, considering that parents have always had to accept pain themselves in the best interests of their children? That's where the agony of decision lies.

Marcos said...

I do believe in a sort of social net for those who need protection from things that are out of their control. Cases like the one featured on the article not only burden the fragile system but insult those people that deserve the help, get it, and are automatically labeled as leeches. Infant and child nutrition aid should be limited to a certain number of children per woman or man or a combination because the current system of unlimited aid fosters reproduction within families that cannot afford it.

I work at an independent grocery store in Connecticut and the amount of young, able people that come to ask for work to simply then quit and collect unemployment is outstanding. We get many cases like that every year. While financially stable families plan their child bearing carefully it seems the poorer the family or person is the more children they are having. At the end it is a matter of education and upbringing and unfortunately it looks more and more like a vicious cycle given that these children will in all likelihood grow up in depressed conditions that offer little hope of advancement, proper socialization, and sometimes even common decency.