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A Rape by Any Other Name

Rape by Any Other Name

The first time I told someone what was happening to me, I had no understanding that I was being sexually abused.

I wasn’t reporting a crime. In my mind, I was confessing a sin. I believed I was having an affair with a minister. It was nearly 10 years later that I even started to understand what really happened—that I was groomed by an experienced, accomplished master abuser—that I was raped.

It’s an interesting word, “rape.” Our culture seems to think it has decided what rape is and what rape isn’t. When the word “rape” is used, most people imagine Read more

Forgotten Fathers

As Father’s Day approaches, retail sales are everywhere. Yet although fathers have a secure place in the annual sales calendar, their role in the lives of their children is underappreciated by government at every level.

Too many children, including here in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, lack the benefit of being raised by both parents. Usually it is the father who is absent. In Philadelphia, for example, 60 percent of children live in a single-parent household. Of all single-parent households, 83 percent are mother-only households and 17 percent father-only.

Social research strongly suggests that a father’s absence from a child’s life has a negative impact on child well-being throughout the child’s formative life and beyond. Negative effects include economic depri­vation, increased probability of later incarceration, double the probability of dropping out of high school, greater likelihood of smoking and use of alcohol and drugs, plus higher risks of economic, physical, and emotional neglect.

Further, the tendency of child protective services is still to focus on serving mothers despite research high­lighting the important role of fathers in their children’s development. “Current policy regarding child protection services places increasing demands for providers to engage fathers whose children are involved in the child protection pro­cess. Implementation of this policy clashes with the ongoing challenges that fathers have historically faced in working within these systems” (“Engaging Fathers in Child Protection Services,” Children and Youth Services Review,  August 2012).

The current policy and practice of state intervention in family affairs suffer from an institutional and cultural bias that undervalues the role of fathers. This Father’s Day, let’s take time to reflect on the pressing need to help all fathers become fully involved in the lives of their children. Let’s hope, too, that those who provide children services of all types will make a greater effort to include fathers in their programs. For those fathers affected, the added time spent with their children would be far more appreciated than a new necktie.

 

My thanks to Rufus S. Lynch of The Strong Families Commission for educating me on the urgent need for father involvement.


 

Child Care Businesses Nearing Crisis Mode as Funding Lags

Who will be the thought leaders of tomorrow? Soon enough, today’s business people, lawmakers, educators, and military leaders will hand the reins of this country to a new generation. Some of us worry that we’re not preparing our youngest children for leadership despite evidence that the academic skills and character traits needed for lifetime success are instilled in early childhood.

In short, the better our child care, the better prepared children are for school and life. Child care businesses provide a vital service that Philadelphia cannot do without, and yet we are in crisis, with the entire community feeling the repercussions. Read more

Healthy Children Are NOT Hungry Children: Everyone Can Help

Everything seems fine as I review the chart.  My 10:15 a.m. patient is a toddler who has no medical problems and is growing well. When I enter the room, I explain to mom how a child’s health is determined by several factors outside of the doctor’s control, and I ask her to complete a form that all parents fill out during well-child visits. This form screens for a number of social determinants of health, including food insecurity (FI). Even though the child has an intact family and appears well on examination, the completed form is highly positive for FI. Read more

The Human Cost of Irresponsible Gun Ownership

A few months ago, I was scrolling down my Facebook feed when I noticed a news report about a child finding a loaded gun left out by a grandparent. The usual emotions coursed through my body—anger, sadness, anxiety, empathy—and my heart went out to the child’s mother even though she was a stranger. Vivid images of stark hospital rooms, beeping medical equipment, doctors, and blood flashed before my eyes, and in that split second I journeyed back in time. I know all too well how an unintentional shooting can affect a family. I’ve been that mother whose child found a loaded gun at the grandparents’ house.

On April 5, 2002, my two young boys, Eli (4) and Ethan (1), traveled with their father to visit his mother in Louisville, Kentucky. Their father and I had separated, and he wanted to take the children to spend some time with his mother. When he arrived at the house, his mother and stepfather were not there, so he used his key and went inside.

eli-and-the-slideAt some point, Eli went in search of children’s books that were left on the headboard of a bed while his father changed Ethan’s diaper. Lying on top of the books was a handgun. Read more

Shadowboxing with our Future

Mr. Trump (I believe he deserves the respect of “Mr.” because he is the president-elect) was successful in tapping the fear, anger, and frustration of an America that is hurting economically. Job prospects generally improved under President Obama, but the benefits did not reach many of those who supported the winning candidate. Certainly, their wages have not risen in recent memory, and the hope that their children would achieve a better life than they did was lost along the way and has never returned. Worse, the “establishment” didn’t seem to care about or even recognize the depths of their discontent.

In 2001 I was hired to lead a large regional foodbank. That year I became aware of a shift in economic conditions that was like a silent tide raising around our ankles. More of the folks seeking help at food cupboards were not unemployed, and they lived in communities where hunger had never been a problem. As conditions continued to deteriorate, few national alarms bells went off, up until the economic crash in the fall of 2007. Massive layoffs then sent the unemployment rate soaring and lengthened the lines of people trying to get food assistance. Read more

Children Need Us Now, More Than Ever

In focus groups in Des Moines, Iowa, and Las Vegas, Nevada, a few years ago, voters were asked what their top issues were, but only one in each group of 20 mentioned an issue related to children. The economy, terrorism, the Middle East, and other issues were mentioned. Kids were an afterthought.

The focus group moderator and conservative communications strategist Frank Luntz proceeded to ask people — many parents, grandparents, and employees in professions that work with children — why they didn’t care about kids, and the participants became quite angry. “Why, of course, I care about kids!” several of them demanded. A few rose out of their chairs to further emphasize their passion for children. Read more

Protecting Our Nation’s Children: See Something, Say Something

Photo close up of eyeball with reflection of crying boy

In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, something did not look quite right. A neighbor was concerned that children were being harmed. She picked up the phone and made a call.

This phone call, to the statewide child abuse hotline, resulted in a response by law enforcement and child welfare professionals, who made an alarming discovery: 12 Amish girls, ranging in age from 6 months to 18 years, were found in the rundown home of a male acquaintance of their parents. Shockingly, the parents had “gifted” their then-14-year-old daughter to this man, who subsequently impregnated her not once but twice. Criminal charges were brought against all three adults, and the children were removed from the home and returned to their Amish community to live and begin the healing process. Read more

Conflicting Emotions on High School Graduation Rates

High school graduation rates have been the source of a lot of news coverage—and conflicting emotions—in the past few months.

President Obama and 19 governors hailed increasing graduation rates in their annual addresses. At the same time, leading journalists and policy wonks have raised questions about those very gains and about the value of a high school diploma.

How to make sense of this optimism and skepticism? Let’s take it one step at a time.

First, there is no denying the progress in graduation rates. Just 10 years ago, the nation’s on-time high school graduation rate was hovering just over 70 percent, where it had been stuck for decades. Today the graduation rate is 82.3 percent, the highest in history. Read more

The Summer Hunger Crisis

From the city streets of Baltimore to the wide open spaces of Kansas and the suburban cul-de-sacs of Fort Worth, kids will struggle to eat this summer. Summer vacation will be a time of anxiety and stress for low-income families forced to decide between buying a bag of groceries and paying the electric bill.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Summer meals are available to help millions of children get the nutrition they need. These meals could be a catalyst for improving the overall well-being of children across the nation.

One in five kids in the United States lives in a “food insecure” family, a family that struggles to consistently put enough food on the table for everyone. During the school year, free and reduced-price meals at school are a lifeline, ensuring that children get reliable access to nutrition. When schools close for the summer, however, these meals disappear. In one recent survey, low-income families say grocery bills can rise as much as $300 a month during the summer, putting incredible pressure on already-strained budgets. Read more

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