July 20, 2014

Why are we arresting parents for things that were perfectly normal 30 years ago?

Megan McArdle goes off on the Mommy Police With Real Handcuffs

A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

I’m not interested in defending mothers who are under stress or are low-wage workers without a lot of great child-care options. I mean, fine, but these defenses should be unnecessary because what the heck are we doing arresting parents for things that were perfectly normal 30 years ago?
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Leaving an infant in a car is extremely dangerous, and parents should take great care not to do so…. Leaving an 11-year-old alone in the car is no more dangerous than letting her go to the ladies' room by herself.
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Nor is there any reason that a normally intelligent 9-year-old cannot be allowed to play in a busy, safe park by herself. Could something bad happen? Yes, though the risks of accident in a crowded park are pretty limited. But something bad can happen anywhere. The rate of stranger abductions is very low, and it has been very low for a long time. Yet when I ask parents why they can’t let their kid out of their sight, stranger abductions generally top the list.

You know what’s really dangerous to your child? Getting in a car. It’s the leading cause of death among kids ages 5 to 14, followed by cancer and drowning. Stranger abductions are way, way, way down on the list. Yet at the same time we’ve been tethering our children to our knees in an effort to make sure nothing bad ever happens, we’ve actually slightly increased the number of vehicle miles they travel. Why aren’t the cops on that?
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As Jessica Grose says, if this had been illegal in 1972, every single mother in America would have been in jail. Yet millions upon millions of us lived to tell the tale.

Illinois warns parents: You are replaceable  Deborah Teixeira is in danger of literally being fired by the state of Illinois from her job as Juliet's mother.

The Peoria resident has been warned that if there are more infractions, the state will send a replacement into her home to take care of her daughter instead.
Teixeira is not alone. Across the state, mothers like her and other people taking care of their family members have been told via threatening official phone calls and letters that they could be replaced if they don’t shape up.

Her predicament comes from the fact that she takes care of an adult daughter with brain damage. She provides Juliet with round-the-clock care at her home thanks to subsidies from Illinois’ Home Services Program. That’s common: Most of HSP’s estimated 20,000 “caregivers” are just people like Teixeira watching over severely disabled family members.

The program also comes with strings attached, including a new billing system that requires caregivers to call a phone number twice daily to literally clock in and clock out.  Forget to clock out and you are technically overbilling the state. Repeat offenders can be replaced as caregiver — even if they are taking care of their own children in their home. 

Januari Smith, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Human Resources. “It’s just like any other job. You go there, you clock in. You leave, you clock out. It’s a way of proving you were there.”  The program’s intent, she says, is to root out fraud, not punish families.
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Teixeira started getting phone calls this month from a state official pointing to problems with her timesheets. “Clocking out late is unacceptable regardless of intent, the official told me.”  If this persisted then “my employment would be terminated and I would be replaced by an agency personal assistant.”

It didn’t make any sense, Teixeira thought. Her daughter’s problems would require at least a very experienced certified nursing assistant. How would that save the state money?
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It is not clear how many of HSP’s estimated 20,000 caregivers were given warnings. Illinois DHS spokeswoman Smith could not cite a figure. But it was enough that the state created a form letter for it.
Posted by Jill Fallon at July 20, 2014 2:17 PM | Permalink