Tuesday, March 14, 2006

It Takes A Village...

“Every few months or so, some horrifying child-abuse case elbows its way onto the front pages, and there is a general outcry: How could this have happened? Where were the caseworkers? Lock up the monsters who did this! Let’s investigate and reform the child welfare system.” (Bob Herbert, New York Times) But then the story subsides…Americans go back to worrying about all the other issues plaguing this country. Personally, no issue is as important as this one! “Child abuse is a hideous, widespread and chronic problem across the country. And it doesn’t get nearly enough attention.” (Bob Herbert, New York Times)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported nearly 1,500 children DIED from abuse or neglect in 2003. Yet this estimate is probably low since most state records are notoriously haphazard. This same year, authorities were alerted to nearly 3 million cases of youngsters who were alleged to have been ABUSED OR NEGLECTED and confirmed at least a MILLION of them. To give you just ONE example of the horrors that take place, authorities in Michigan reported the case of 7-year-old, Ricky Holland, who begged his school nurse not to send him home to his adoptive parents. He was later beaten to death with a hammer. Prosecutors said his bloody body was dragged away in a garbage bag. To think we live in a country where this happens FOUR times a day!

“We know that there is a profound connection between child abuse and substance abuse…We know that abuse and neglect are more likely to occur in households were money is in short supply, especially if caregivers are unemployed…And adults who were abused as children are more likely than others to be abusers themselves.” (Bob Herbert, New York Times) Putting these generalizations aside, we have a viewpoint in this country as reflected by our President, Republican Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee and others, who commented during a debate on same sex marriage, "Will activist judges not elected by the American people destroy the institution of marriage, or will the people protect marriage as the best way to raise children?” If the numbers previously mentioned don’t send shivers down your spine than maybe you agree with this viewpoint.

"Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman." (Bill Frist) Here is another generalization, since legalized gay unions are fairly new, it would be likely to conclude that the 1,500 deaths and 1 million cases of abuse and neglect came from an opposite sex household. (Of course I could be wrong!)

“Child-abuse prevention programs are wholly inadequate, and child protective services, while varying in quality from state to state, are in many instances overwhelmed and largely unaccountable.” (Bob Herbert, New York Times) Then maybe we should be spending our time, money and efforts trying to prevent another Ricky Holland from being beaten to death than squabbling over the definition of marriage. After all, aren’t safe, happy homes the real goal here?

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