Tag Archive for parenting

Inappropriate talk on daytime TV for teens, children and young adults.

HUMANE EXPOSURES explores the quality of daytime TV for young mothers with children at home, or for children and teens coming home from school and turning on TV as they have a break between school and homework. Or are all kids in afternoon sports?

The Doctors, CBS daytime one-hour show, had topics about “mental orgasm,” “vaginal discharge,” “swamp butt,” “anal sex,” “going gray down there,” and other embarrassing, personal, female issues that children and teenagers coming home from school, grabbing a snack and turning on the tube, do not need to see, hear about, become aware of, or add to other inappropriate viewing on daytime TV.  Is this valued information for young mothers to view? Is this what we want young mothers and their mothers to talk about as critical issues of today? This show airs in San Diego from 4:00-5:00 p.m. opposite Oprah.

HUMANE EXPOSURES is interested in your thoughts.

States Get Graded on Treatment of Pregnant Inmates

Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing TimeA  report card that examines the treatment of mothers and pregnant women in prison has been issued recently, and several states are none too happy about the grades they’ve received. (California scored a cumulative “C-” in case you are curious.)

Here is a link to the PDF version of the report, which was issued by the National Women’s Law Center and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights: “Mothers Behind Bars: A State-by-State Report Card and Analysis of Federal Policies on Conditions of Confinement for Pregnant and Parenting Women and the Effect on Their Children.”

For those of you short on time, here is an excerpt from the Executive Summary:

There are now more women behind bars than at any other point in U.S. history. Women have borne a disproportionate burden of the war on drugs, resulting in a monumental increase of women who are facing incarceration for the first time, overwhelmingly for non-violent offenses. This rampant incarceration has devastating impact on families. Most of these women, unseen and largely forgotten, are mothers. Unfortunately, pregnant women, incarcerated women and their children are subject to federal and state correctional policies that fail to recognize their distinct needs or honor their families.

The Rebecca Project and the National Women’s Law Center collaborated on this Report Card, which analyzes federal and state policies on prenatal care, shackling, and alternative sentencing programs and grades states on whether their policies help or harm incarcerated women in these key areas. This effort is intended to help advocates assess their own state’s policies affecting these significant phases of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and parenting.

The state of California received a “C” in prenatal care, a “B” on shackling policies, and an “A” on the family-based treatment as an alternative to incarceration. The last one is a heartening statistic to see, since that sort of program has the highest chance of reducing recidivism, and also radically reduces the costs at the state level. Other states fared far worse. George Prentiss, a reporter for the Boise Weekly, reports that his state received a “D” in prenatal care, a “D” on shackling policies, and an “F” on the family-based treatment.

Gene Park of the Star Advertiser reports from Hawaii, a state that received a flat-out “F” on the subject of prenatal care:

Most states fared poorly on the report. Only one state, Pennsylvania, received an overall grade of A. Including Hawaii, 27 states received an F grade for prenatal care.

Well over half of the states in the U.S. got an “F” on prenatal care. Think about that for a moment. No matter what view you might have of these women, the bottom line is that the unborn children of inmates are not responsible for where they are. Even if they were, this sort of treatment drastically affects these children, as they grow into adults. Twenty-seven states. We should be ashamed.

Park writes:

The report states more than 115,000 were in prison as of 2009, and that figure is rising at a higher rate than that of men since the introduction of mandatory sentencing policies for drug offenses.

Kat Brady, a coordinator for the Community Alliance on Prisons, told the Star Advertiser that over 80% of the women incarcerated in Hawaii have been convicted on non-violent offenses. Quite often, these same women have a history of substance abuse or physical abuse, she added.

Source: “Report: Idaho Fails to Provide Proper Treatment for Pregnant Inmates,” The Boise Weekly, 10/21/10
Source: “Pregnant isle inmates allegedly treated shabbily,” The Star Advertiser, 10/22/10
Image copyright Susan Madden Lankford, from the book “Maggots in My Sweet Potatoes.” Used with permission.
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Age Limit for Foster Care in California Goes Up to 21

SchwarzeneggerThe campus of Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services last Wednesday was the epicenter of an enormous change for California. Governor Schwarzenegger performed a ceremonial signing of Assembly Bill 12, a bill that  will keep foster care kids from aging out of the system when they turn 18. Schwarzenegger called the idea of taking care of oneself at 18 “ludicrous.”

Brian Watt, a reporter for 89.3 KPCC, reports that the Governor refers to this extension of benefits as a partnership:

‘The kids have to take care of things, and also we have to take care of things,’ [Gov. Schwarzenegger] said. ‘We for instance continue giving them financial and social support, which is important for them, but they in return have to go to school, or go to work and meet regularly with their case workers. But let me tell you something: this is the greatest investment that we can make in our state.’

Now, the refrain that “children are our future,” while true, is often invoked but seldom truly heeded. What makes this a practical plan? The governor cited some promising data in his address:

He referred to study results that say for every dollar the state invests in foster care, it saves 2 and a half dollars in the future. Former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass co-wrote the legislation. The Los Angeles Democrat and Congressional candidate said the economic recession has given rise to a common expression: Boomerang Kids.

‘Young people forced by the economy to return to their parents’ home and support,’ said Bass. ‘But what happens to a boomerang that doesn’t have a place to go back to? It just gets thrown away.’

We’d say that a return of two and a half for an investment of one is a no brainer. Not only does it make sound financial sense at a time when it is vital for the state to save money, but it also shields those in foster homes from the trials and tribulations of possibly ending up on the streets.

Karen De Sa, writer for The Mercury News, brings us some supporting data:

Research by the Urban Institute and the University of Chicago has documented these outcomes. Within two years of leaving foster care, one in four teens lands in jail. And with high school graduation rates of less than 50 percent, more than half are unemployed. Close to one in four ends up homeless within 18 months.

Frightening numbers, and ones that stand to increase if the American economy continues to be so erratic. This is why AB 12 is essential, as this real-world comparison demonstrates quite well (also via The Mercury News article):

[...A] study released last year by child welfare researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Chicago estimated that extending foster care can change those outcomes — and result in cost savings for California. The multiyear report tracking young people exiting the foster care system compared Illinois — a rare state allowing foster care through age 21 — with states lacking such support. Illinois youths were three times more likely to enroll in college and 65 percent less likely to be arrested; the young women were 38 percent less likely to get pregnant.

Alanna Connaway, a writer for The Boot, reports a telling statement by a San Jose Assemblyman:

‘For generations, foster care youth faced being kicked out of their foster homes simply because they had turned 18 or graduated from high school,’ says Assemblymember Jim Beall (D-San Jose), who introduced AB 12. ‘Without any means of support, they were left to wander the streets for shelter and food. Many had no choice but to return to the parents who had neglected or abused them. AB 12 ensures they’ll have a safe place to live and stability until they are 21. It will help clear the way for eligible foster care youths go to college and begin careers that will contribute to our society.’

As states across the nation feel the economic noose tightening around their necks, it is essential that we find ways to save money and do so in a way that supports a restoration of the social fabric of the community. This is a hand up, not a handout.

Source: “New law makes 21 age limit for Calif’s foster care system,” 89.3 KPCV, 10/06/10
Source: “California enacts landmark foster care legislation extending the system to age 21,” The Mercury News, 10/02/10
Source: “Jimmy Wayne Reacts to Signing of California Foster Bill AB 12,” The Boot, 10/05/10
Image by Nate Mandos, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Nurturing in Early Years Has Direct Impact on Child Development

Child's EyeAn oft recurring theme on the HUMANE EXPOSURES blog is the effect of parenting and environment on the early development of children. Studies of runaways and incarcerated juveniles show a correlation between those early years and the eventual path that the child takes as an adult.

Think of how frequently the topic of abuse or a neglect-ridden childhood comes up in court and in the studies of repeat offenders. Consider the personal narratives of the homeless and how much of a recurring theme these issues are in their plight.

Enter Notre Dame psychology professor Darcia Narvaez who has helmed a recent group of studies that confirm earlier work done in the field. The results suggest that children who get more physical affection during infancy turn out to be kinder, smarter, and more caring about others.
Maia Szalavitz, a journalist and author of some renown in this field, noted Narvaez’ work in her recent column on Time Magazine‘s Healthland blog:

Narvaez, who will present her findings at a conference in early October, conducted three separate studies. The first compared parenting practices in the U.S. and China. Another followed a large sample of children of teen mothers who were involved in a child abuse–prevention project, and compared outcomes of various types of early parenting practices. The third examined how parents of 3-year-olds behaved toward their children.

So we have a nice broad base to start from, that’s good. The variety of studies does give us confidence about the veracity of the findings. Szalavitz writes:

All three studies suggested the same thing: children who are shown more affection early in life reap big benefits. Researchers found that kids who were held more by their parents, whose cries received quick responses in infancy and who were disciplined without corporal punishment were more empathic — that is, they were better able to understand the minds of others — later in life.

Later in the column, Narvaez neatly sums up the findings:

‘What’s been studied most is responsivity,’ [Narvaez] says, referring to the way parents respond to their babies and act accordingly, for example, noticing when they are about to cry and reacting appropriately to subtle positive and negative signals about what they want. ‘[Responsivity] is clearly linked with moral development. It helps foster an agreeable personality, early conscience development and greater prosocial behavior.”

Even behavioral research on rats bears this out. Rats raised by neglectful mothers tend to be not as fast, smart, or social as their more doted-on counterparts.

Research like this is highly important. If we are ever to cure the society’s ills, we need to know where our efforts need to be applied. Work like this confirms our already existent ideas about how crucial early development is when looked at in the context of its impact on later life.

We would also advise checking out more work by Maia Szalavitz. She is a journalist who covers health, science and public policy. She is a co-author, with leading child trauma expert Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D., of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential– and Endangered, (Morrow, 2010). They previously co-authored The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love and Healing (Basic, 2007). Her work in the field of journalism runs the gamut from The New York Times and The Washington Post to New Scientist and O, The Oprah Magazine, among other major publications.

Source: “No Such Thing as Too Much Love: ‘Spoiled’ Babies Grow Up to Be Smarter, Kinder Kids,” Time Magazine, Healthland, 09/29/10
Image by apdk, used under its Creative Commons license.

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Poehlmann Studies Effect of Incarcerated Parents on Children

Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time

Having a parent in prison is a hard to bear for a child, I think we all can agree on that. Is there a way to quantify the effect this can have on a child’s social development though? It’s an important question because of the sheer number of children it affects.

Julie Poehlmann, a professor at the School of Human Ecology and investigator at the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, estimates that 1.7 million (about 2.3%) children across America have a parent in prison. A truly staggering number.

David Tennenbaum, a freelance writer, recently published a piece on the University of Wisconsin website, in which he interviewed Poehlmann on the subject:

Although a definitive cause-and-effect relationship has not been established, children of incarcerated parents tend to have more arrests, and more problems with behavior, relationships, school, and substance abuse. ‘It’s all the things you would expect,’ says Poehlmann.

Problems are particularly acute when the mother is in jail or prison. ‘It’s more likely that the child will move out of house, and be placed with grandparents,’ she says. ‘They are more likely to change schools and have a higher risk of substance abuse, and the father is also likely to be incarcerated.’

Bleak, but not unexpected. A child with an incarcerated parent is at a pronounced disadvantage compared to his or her peers in many ways. There is possibility of mitigating these circumstances though:

Poehlmann, who has studied mothers, substitute caregivers and children in Milwaukee, Racine, Green Bay, Beloit and other parts of Wisconsin, finds that a strong, close attachment with the alternative caregiver can mitigate the harm of incarceration.

Since it is during childhood that we shape the adults of tomorrow, this is a subject of no small gravity. Do you have experience as a parent, child, or caregiver in this sort of situation? If so, we would love to add your perspective to the conversation, please leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts.

Source: “Research examines the price of prison for children,” University of Wisconsin-Madison News, 08/09/10
Image copyright Susan Madden Lankford, from the book “Maggots in my Sweet Potatoes: Women Doing Time.” Used with permission.

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Education-Based Incarceration in Southern California

Stack of BooksIncarceration is usually considered to be about punishment. Since 2006, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca has helmed a plan that adopts a variant view and is aimed at reducing criminal recidivism.

The program, called MERIT (which stands for Maximizing Education, Reaching Individual Transformation), focuses on education-based incarceration. It is designed to help provide reintegration of offenders into their communities in a way that enhances stability for both. Since 2006, 11 classes had graduated from MERIT.

Jim Lynch, reporting for The Century City News, explains the basics of the program:

MERIT is comprised of three unique rehabilitation programs: Bridges to Recovery, a two-phase twelve week domestic violence intervention and recovery program; Veterans Program, a two-phase twelve week program designed to provide incarcerated U.S. military veterans with a sense of regained pride and direction; and the Impact Program, which is a therapeutic treatment program for inmates sentenced by the various drug courts in Los Angeles County.

The curriculum for these three programs provides an educational framework to challenge the negative beliefs and behaviors that perpetuate personal and family dysfunction, including information on the negative impact of violence and the abuse of drugs and alcohol on the individual, the family and the community. The areas of study include personal relationships, parenting, substance abuse prevention, leadership and job skills.

In order to graduate from MERIT, the participants have to complete written assignments and submit an “Exit Plan,” designed to address the challenges they will face in their reintegration into society. Areas such as employment, family, and legal issues, among others, are addressed as participants develop their objectives for their first few months of freedom.

HUMANE EXPOSURES is interested in your thoughts and opinions on this sort of approach to reducing recidivism. Please share them with us in the comments section.

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Source: “Investing in Offenders Through Education Based Incarceration,” Century City News, 08/02/10
Image by Wonderlane, used under its Creative Commons license.

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