Welfare Reform, the American Family, and Orphanages: What's Best for the Children?
Peter, Val J., USA TODAY
The debate about a "return to the orphanage" and welfare reform rightly has focused the nation's attention on the problems of today's families, both parents and children. So there it is, on the front burner of America's policy stove, and nearly every partisan in the debate has cooked up his or her own opinions, thoughts, and ideas about the matter. It is necessary to remember that there are a lot of ingredients in the recipe of welfare reform, orphanages, and the problems of the American family. The object is to attain the correct mix.
There are two things wrong with welfare: first, it isn't well; second, it isn't fair. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, agree in this regard.
Originally, welfare was conceived as a way to help people get on the road to decent jobs and financial security. By and large, it has done neither. Increasing numbers of people are permanently dependent upon a growing public dole.
The welfare debate becomes confused when there is failure to distinguish this kind of economic dysfunctionality from behavioral or family dysfunctionality. While they are related, the latter is a far more important issue, touching every level of society. Some would have Americans believe that family dysfunctionality will be diminished greatly by redoing the welfare system. That is an illusion, mere wishful thinking.
Family dysfunctionality is behavioral dysfunctionality. It is not the same as dependence on the public dole. It is a different type of dependence--on drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, lying, cheating, stealing, violence, abuse, suicide, divorce, etc. It afflicts the rich and poor alike. What the nation really needs is a public debate about the increasing number of families who are trapped in these kinds of behavioral dependencies.
When the kids at Boys Town were asked to describe some of their experiences, both good and bad, what they gave was an intimate look at the vast and terrible problems confronting American families today. Here is a sampling:
* "I was severely beaten by my drunken parents. I was three."
* "After my dad left, my 15-year-old brother and I were blamed. And when we said we loved Dad, it only made Mom angrier. I will never forget the shouting and yelling."
* "I remember when my dad was in the pen for dealing drugs, and my mother was drinking extremely heavily. Mom's boyfriend came over to the house drunk and beat her."
* "When I lived with my biological family, my …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Welfare Reform, the American Family, and Orphanages: What's Best for the Children?. Contributors: Peter, Val J. - Author. Magazine title: USA TODAY. Volume: 124. Issue: 2606 Publication date: November 1995. Page number: 56+. © 2009 Society for the Advancement of Education. COPYRIGHT 1995 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.