What happens when a child is mistreated? Someone usually calls the local Child Protective Services. What happens when so many children are mistreated that the average Child Protective Service agent has a fifty family caseload? The local Child Protective Services sues the government for assigning an inordinate case overload.
It may sound insane, but in Indiana, that is just what is happening. And it’s not just the Hoosier State—across the nation more families cannot function without government intervention. Why this recent rash of heavily dysfunctional families? Joseph Turner of The Federalist explores the root of the problem:
Let’s look at single parenthood. One-parent households receive nearly twice as many CPS reports as those of married families. About 80 percent of reports are related to neglect rather than abuse. It doesn’t take much imagination to consider how the emotional, logistical, and economic demands of children could place single parents in some compromising situations. This is true even for the most loving and well-intentioned parents. Lose your five-year-old in a crowded mall? Miss a payment on your light bill? It’ll probably be okay…but you might get a knock on your door. Children are relentless, and parents are flawed. Raising kids is not meant to be a one-person task.
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Let’s look at cohabitation as a marriage alternative, and by now a norm. Here, the statistics are frightening. Children living with a mother and cohabiting partner are 11 times more likely to experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse than who live with married parents. Even children living with their biological unmarried parents are at four times the risk. Most cohabiting relationships are doomed to end eventually, exposing any children involved to the trauma of separation from parents and caregivers. And kids in the all-too-common families with one mother but multiple fathers are likely to experience any combination of the above risk factors during childhood, perhaps several times over.
We need to reeducate the populace about the importance of marriage. Devaluing the institution has left children bereft of the proper care they require. Turner offers possible solutions:
To protect American kids from harm on a large scale, we need to be willing to recognize a basic truth: children are safer and better off living with their married biological parents. As a society, we shouldn’t be afraid to say so. From high school sex ed on, adolescents should be warned about the dangers of unwed childbearing. The ample empirical benefits of marriage ought to be emphasized, with future children in mind. There should be pamphlets, instructional videos, motivational speakers, the works. We’re already on a mission to provide “comprehensive” sex education at ever younger ages. We encourage kids to stay in school, and educate them about college and career paths. There’s no reason we can’t fit marriage and family into the curriculum.
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Legislators should be willing to craft policies and fund programs that encourage marriage norms. Create tax incentives for people to get married and raise their own children. Start public education campaigns. Subsidize pre- and post-marital counseling for those who need it. There’s any number of ways we could strengthen marriage culture if that’s what we decided we wanted to do. Measures like these would go further to protect our children than all the CPS workers we can fit in the budget.
Marriage is a cornerstone of society. We must protect it, for our own good, and our children’s’ good. We need strong marriages between one man and one woman. Whenever possible, children need to be raised by their biological parents: their father and mother. Our nation is far from perfect, but we can attempt to give our children the best lives possible, by encouraging marriage to be upheld as the sacred and precious bond that it is: the bond that unites a man and woman is the bond that holds together the family.
See The Federalist for more.