10/27/09 — Children lost: Recent news more evidence that parenting should have requirements

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Children lost: Recent news more evidence that parenting should have requirements

Commenting on the circumstances of the actual case isn't proper -- not yet, anyway -- but the recent story about a 6-month-old baby who died allegedly at the hands of at least one of her parents is nothing short of heartbreaking.

This is not the first story like this and it won't be the last -- and local children's services officials could probably tell you dozens of others about child abuse and neglect right here in Wayne County.

But that is not why this case has caught our eye -- and not why it should not escape yours either.

The defendants in this case are 20 and 21, barely old enough to be out on their own, let alone parenting a child -- and they are not alone.

There are many, many births to young women in this county under the age of 18, let alone 21. What they usually create are dysfunctional families caught in conditions that often lead to poverty, and in some extreme cases, abuse and neglect.

If we are going to make a better world for children, we need to start finding ways to keep children from starting families before they have the means and emotional maturity to care for them.

And we have to mean it.

This is no time for fuzzy wuzzies and positive reinforcement. It is time for strict action -- even if it means requiring parenting classes and strict monitoring of any teen who decides to have a baby. We need to do everything we can to make it no fun to have a child at this age.

And we have to be ready for something else, too -- the fact that sometimes people should be prevented from having more children if they have proven they cannot care for the ones they have. That could mean required birth control for anyone on the public dole.

As draconian as that sounds, it is infinitely better than having even one more baby lost to an irresponsible and abusive parent.

And the same is true for parents who have already proven themselves unworthy of caring for their children and have had them taken away. Getting your children back after such a court action should be extremely difficult and require extensive training, checks and other qualifications such as proof of employ-ment and of sufficient funds to provide acceptable food and shelter. It should be embarrassing and it should be intrusive -- that is how you show people that you are serious about taking care of children.

It would be worth it to spend more money on enforcement if it meant that we could prevent some of these tragedies before they happen. In fact, in the long run, it would probably save us money -- in juvenile detention facilities, murder prosecutions and drug enforcement.

This is not an easy problem to solve -- and hasn't been for generations. But it is one we need to address sooner rather than later -- for the children's sake.

Published in Editorials on October 27, 2009 9:20 AM