Licensing Parents: Can We Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect?

By Jack C. Westman | Go to book overview
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Chapter 9
A Parent's Right to Be Competent

Does anyone understand that the jobless father often destroys himself, his family, and his community? Does anyone understand the frustration of the mother who knows that her children will need the best education possible, but she can't afford it and the national community won't help pay for it? Does anyone understand that the young men who make city streets dangerous and destroy themselves with drugs could have been proud, productive citizens? Does anybody understand that these problems can destroy this country? (p.xv)

-- RICHARD GORDON HATCHER, Mayor, Gary, Indiana, 19711

Because most of my clinical work is with parents who are foundering, I try to emphasize their strengths and to avoid adding to their feelings of failure and guilt. At the same time I need to help them acknowledge their problems so that they can better manage their personal and family affairs. This experience has made me aware of the fact that the work of parents is not sufficiently appreciated by our society. We do not fully realize how stressful parenting is and how important it is to all of us that each parent be as competent as possible.

To say that a parent has a right to be competent may well seem to stretch the notion of rights too far. If we give the matter careful thought, however, the logic for regarding competent parenting as a right in our society is compelling.

First of all, by definition the parent-child unit is irreducible. The

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