How many children will have to die before our legislators will pass laws to strengthen families instead of lawyers bank accounts? The Richmond Times-Dispatch featured an article on the front page entitled "Youth murder, suicide surging" on Friday February 7th stated that youngsters in the United States are twice as likely to commit suicide than for the rest of the industrialized world. They failed to say, however, why this rate of suicide is so high and climbing.
The U.S. also has more children with emotional problems, discipline problems, teenage births, and more adolescent crime than any other country. That should be no surprise, we also have the highest divorce rate, more out of wedlock births and thus more single mother headed households than any other country.
A survey conducted by the Virginia Department of Health entitled "Fatherhood and Family Health" first published September 8, 1995 cited national studies evidencing a strong correlation between the absence of a father in the lives of children and their health. Among those health outcomes listed they mentioned teen pregnancy, disease, incarceration, violent crime, tobacco, alcohol, and drug use, physical abuse and SUICIDE. The survey also listed among the social outcomes, lower performance on intelligence tests, lower socio-economic status, and more difficulty establishing relationships with peers.1
Other children like Valerie Smeltzer die because Child Protective Services let a legitimate report of abuse slip through its hands. Maybe if CPS did not have to investigate those 27,896 unfounded cases FY 1994-1995, they could devote more time to legitimate complaints. 80% of all reports are determined to be unfounded and 92% of those are reported anonymously. It is felt that most of these unfounded reports are made maliciously by parents involved in child custody or divorce cases for the purpose of getting leverage -- and it works! 2 The Senate Courts of Justice Committee recently killed SB 1152, which would have provided penalties for making a malicious false allegation of abuse in connection with a custody case.
So far this legislative session more than half a dozen proposed pro family bills have been killed or watered down.3 Oddly enough, most have been killed by Democrats, women and attorneys. The message that is being sent is, don't change anything that will reduce my income, to heck with families and children.
Courts in Virginia issue almost 400 orders a day, terminating or reducing parental rights of fathers.4 If judges are going to get involved in family affairs without a compelling reason, why don't they order fathers to live up to their responsibility instead of ordering the opposite -- four days a month visitation!
How many more children will have to die before our legislators, lawyers and judges will change the status quo?
Murray L. Steinberg