Guest Post by Donna Gratehouse
Lots of local politicians and pundits are weighing in on Arizona’s unfolding Child Protective Service crisis, mostly blasting department head Clarence Carter and top CPS administrators for incompetence in allowing thousands of child abuse and neglect reports to go uninvestigated. And, okay, I’ll stipulate to the conclusion that the people running CPS are the most incompetent managers ever and their clients would be well served by them being replaced. Perhaps CPS should be spun off from the state’s Department of Economic Security and run as a stand-alone department as many observers have suggested as well. Perhaps doing those things would lead to more thorough investigations and quicker resolutions of some cases.
AZ Republic columnist Bob Robb’s suggestion to sweep funds from First Things First (Arizona’s early childhood education program funded by cigarette taxes) and put them toward “more fundamental needs for children”, is simply laughable but I do have to hand it to him for having the chutzpah to exploit this opportunity to push for his heart’s desire on that subject yet again.
AZ Capitol Times has been doing extensive coverage on the CPS situation and for their Tuesday piece they interviewed a couple of state legislators, including my own Rep. Kate Brophy McGee (R-N. Phoenix).
Too big to manage?
Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, one of two lawmakers on the CARE team, is wary of what she called “reactionary legislation,” which she said tends to create more problems than it solves. She also questions whether more funding is truly the solution to CPS’ problems. But Brophy McGee has plans for CPS that she was working on before the uninvestigated cases came to light.
Sorry it’s behind a paywall but, spoiler alert, Brophy McGee’s big idea is to – you guessed it- separate CPS from its parent organization, DES. Certainly not give it more funding, oh no. The main reason I’m highlighting that paragraph is to note Brophy McGee’s incorrect use of the word reactionary. It does not mean what she thinks it does. I happen to like the word, a lot, to describe the conservative movement in this country. Reactionary means resistance to modernity, equality, and democratic reform, and Brophy McGee is (inadvertently) correct to warn against it.
The blame for America’s shockingly high rate of child endangerment in comparison to other developed countries can be laid directly at the feet of this country’s attachment, particularly in red states, to cruel, unfair, and backward-ass policies.
What differentiates us from other countries? The single best predictor of child abuse is poverty. Children raised in families with annual incomes of less than $15,000 are 22 times more likely to be abused. Since the economic downturn, there has been a 30% increase in child maltreatment. The recession is, quite literally, a slap in the face of American children. The vast social programs available to low-income families in other countries are gapingly absent in the US. Social programs are also suffering funding cuts at the hands of Republicans, who persistently paint citizens in need of social programs as manipulative pariahs on the populace.
Since entering the bid for the 2012 presidential election, Gov. Rick Perry has boasted Texas' pseudo-success, bedazzling voters with misleading statistics. His swagger is rooted in the fact that Texas is a low-tax, low-social service state. He neglects to mention that children from Texas are four times more likely to be incarcerated, four times more likely to be uninsured, twice as likely to drop out of high school, and nearly twice as likely to die from abuse and neglect. In order to perpetuate the façade of "traditional family values", Child Protective Services in states with strong Republican leanings prefer to keep the faux family together, even in cases of flagrant abuse, instead of taking custody and removing children from their cruel environment. Nearly half of all Texan children killed by abuse belonged to families investigated by CPS, but the service's myopic political masters would rather leave a child in the hands of a sadistic, torturous family than have a child raised by a gay couple in a safe and nurturing home.
The UK Guardian article I linked, written by a health care provider who responded to gruesome cases of child abuse in Texas, goes on to describe how the state has passed numerous restrictions on abortion access. Both Texas and Arizona, being run by right wing Republicans, have pushed abstinence-only sex ed and limitations on contraception access relentlessly, targeting Planned Parenthood with a vehemence that seems incongruous with the Right’s stated principle of “personal responsibility”. Both states are also chock full of so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers that lie to women in order to convince them to continue pregnancies, whether or not that is the best course for those women or their families, and to not use contraception. This is some highly reactionary business, and conducive to more unplanned and unwanted pregnancies. It’s certainly not conducive to less child abuse and neglect. Never has been.
Reactionary politics are all about “the family” as the locus of social control. The man is firmly entrenched as the head of the family with the woman and children under his leadership. Children are viewed as property of the parents, in particular of the father. If you understand that, then you can see why conservatives don’t want to spend money on Child Protective Services.
But children have lives, and they matter! Children who live in those OMG SOCIALIST! countries have better health, better educations, and better futures than anything we’re giving them here in the supposedly freest country in the world. All we in America are offering them is a starter kit for abuse and neglect.