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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.


 

Mental Health Care for Foster Children

This article is part of 3 in the column Children of the State

The children in America’s foster care system face a tremendous amount of psychological stress. Many have been removed from traumatic home situations because of neglect or physical or sexual abuse. Their life in foster care often includes uncertainty, frequent moves, and other difficulties that cause psychological stress. Data collected by the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) estimates that “approximately half of youths aged 2 to 14 years with completed child welfare investigations had clinically significant emotional or behavioral problems” (GAO-12-270T).

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) states Read more

THE BACKLASH OF INCLUSION: The collision of constitutional rights creates an irreconcilable conflict

This article is part of 13 in the column Kid's Capital Watch

Six years ago, Brady Howe and his husband became parents. They adopted their son privately through the Open Adoptions & Family Services agency. Soon, they added the boy’s two older sisters to the family through the foster care system. Their family is an extended one, with birth mother, foster mothers, and grandmothers all actively involved in the kids’ lives.

A non-profit agency Open Adoptions also contracts Read more

The Upside of Playful Risk

This article is part of 7 in the column Flights of Fancy

Summer is here, time for kids’ action adventure.

Reread that opening sentence. Did you think of movies released in the summertime?

Or did you think of the adventurous active pastimes that kids engage in during summer? Did you think of: Diving off the high diving board into the deep end of the swimming pool? Climbing toward a tall tree’s top and perching there for a while looking down at the world? Crawling in through the window of a homestead that nobody has lived in for years? Riding a bike with no hands on the handlebars down the steepest hill in the neighborhood? Read more

How to Improve a Classroom Learning Environment for Students With Dyslexia

This article is part 7 of 7 in the column Simple Words

Students with dyslexia may have difficult academic experiences due to the nature of their abilities to perform in a traditional classroom environment, such as problems with accurate or fluent word recognition, poor spelling, and reduced decoding proficiency.

Although the signs of dyslexia vary, providing general support and making accommodations in a classroom setting will benefit a majority of children with learning differences and improve their academic experience significantly. Read more

The Child Sex Abuse Scandals Are All the Same and They Demand the Government to Act

This article is part 11 of 11 in the column Marci A. Hamilton

The latest sex abuse scandal in the headlines paints USA Gymnastics in as bad a light as you can imagine. Indeed, it is so bad the successful president of the organization, Steven Penny had to resign. This scandal, amidst a series of other sports scandals, has pushed the U.S. Olympic Committee to create a new board to investigate claims of sex abuse, SafeSport, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, with bipartisan support, to introduce the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act. The latter mandates that anyone who suspects abuse in a National Governing Body (NGB) of an Olympic sport must report the suspected abuse to the authorities, extends the statute of limitations for civil suits against perpetrators, bans one-on-one time between coaches and athletes, and imposes other specific requirements on NGBs. Read more

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

Raise Well-Behaved Children: Set the Stage While They Are Toddlers

This article is part of 2 in the column Two Peds in a Pod®

When your baby turns 1, you’ll realize he has a much stronger will. My oldest threw his first tantrum the day he turned 1. At first, we puzzled: why was he suddenly lying face down on the kitchen floor? The indignant crying that followed clued us to his anger. “Oh, it’s a tantrum,” my husband and I laughed, relieved he wasn’t sick.

Parenting toddlers requires the recognition that your child innately desires to become independent of you. Eat, drink, sleep, pee, poop: eventually your child will learn to control these basics of life by himself. We want our children to feed themselves, go to sleep when they feel tired, and pee and poop on the potty. Of course, there’s more to life, such as playing, forming relationships, succeeding in school, etc., but we all need the basics. The challenge comes in recognizing when to allow your child more independence and when to reinforce your authority. Read more

Before the Zika Virus: A Look Back at Rubella and Microcephaly

This article is part 1 of 2 in the column Two Peds in a Pod®

The Zika virus in the news these days reminds us of another microcephaly-causing virus which scourged our world in the not-so-distant past. In the years right before the Two Peds doctors were born (late 1960s), the virus rubella routinely swept through the United States and the rest of the world. The airborne germ rubella, just like the mosquito-spread Zika virus, caused most people just a mild illness that they usually never even knew that they had. After they were sick, they became immune to the virus. But when pregnant women contracted rubella early in pregnancy, their unborn children sometimes ended up with microcephaly.

Microcephaly is a condition where a small, underdeveloped, or abnormal brain leads to a small head at birth. Many children with microcephaly have significant mental disabilities. Read more

Child Sex Abuse by the Numbers: Why Sports Must Be the Next Frontier in the Protection of Children

This article is part 10 of 11 in the column Marci A. Hamilton

The headlines on child sex abuse have been dominated for years by issues from the Catholic Church, culminating with last year’s Oscar-winning movie, Spotlight. There have been other scandals, of course, like Penn State, the New England boarding schools, and the polygamist sects, among many, but the Catholic cases and issues have continually rolled into the headlines. The latest is that the Manhattan Archdiocese in New York is partially covering the cost of sex abuse claims there by getting a mortgage of $100 million on hotel property that it owns.

I am the last person to say that the Read more

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