12/12/08 — Time to get serious: Penalties for child abuse should be toughened

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Time to get serious: Penalties for child abuse should be toughened

No more.

It is time for a change in how we deal with people who mistreat, neglect or otherwise have no business parenting children.

This week, we got yet another story to add to the anecdotal evidence that something needs to be done about those who do not seem to be able to do what is right when it comes to their children -- and those who continue to have children they are not caring for.

It is a potentially rather sad end to the story of the missing little girl in Florida.

The recent developments in the Caylee Anthony case suggest that the little toddler with the beautiful smile likely died because she was an inconvenience to someone.

And right now, that someone looks like her mother.

For months now, Casey Anthony has been telling the world that she knows nothing about what happened to her daughter -- and very few people actually believed her.

Just this week, investigators have found bones that resemble those of a young girl. They are testing to see if they belong to little Caylee.

The bag of bones was found just a few miles from where her mother lived.

There has been reason to doubt the mother's story for as many months as there has been an investigation. Pictures that surfaced of her partying with her friends while her daughter was missing suggested that perhaps there was quite a bit more to this story.

And while there are plenty of young people who have children and take care of them, this recent case suggests that there are still too many irresponsible people of all ages who seem to think that children are disposable when they are no longer a novelty and become an expense and a nuisance that interferes with fun and frivolity.

And it is time that the rest of us stand up and say enough.

It has to become harder to have children you cannot care for -- and to get them back if you have demonstrated that you are not caring for them properly. It has to become tougher to become a parent than it is to get a passport or to apply for a home mortgage.

And there should be severe penalties for those who do not follow the rules.

There are too many people who see children as a meal ticket or who simply refuse to take responsibility for them. They continue to produce children when they cannot adequately care for them, and we end up paying those bills.

And that's OK, we can still pay the bills, but we can make sure the offending parent cannot add to the cost and is forced to work to contribute to that care -- and that the children who are already here find parents who can love and care for them properly.

That's a change that we could all stand behind -- and one that is long overdue.

There are plenty of parents who struggle to provide the best possible homes they can for their children. They deserve our support.

But for the rest, like Casey Anthony, we need to send a message that we aren't going to just shake our heads and look away anymore.

That's the least we can do to honor the memory of little Caylee.

Published in Editorials on December 12, 2008 11:09 AM