Friday, October 3, 2008

A Strong Economic Downturn - Best for Children and Families!

A strong economic downturn, recession, depression or however it ultimately becomes labeled, will benefit the cause of protecting children. Assessment, blame, accusation and more will be made throughout this paper however, this paper is not intended to attack any particular gender, social or economic class of people or particular programs.

What harms children?

In analyzing how children will benefit we must first look at what harms children and then what is at the root of that. Statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services show that children born to unwed parents, children of divorced parents and children in foster care are subjected to the greatest harm from those situations in descending order.

When we realize what the motivation that leads to most of those situations is then we can analyze how a strong economic downturn could benefit these children. It is not only those three situations that bring harm to children, obviously. Other situations will also be touched upon and as you will see a strong economic downturn will ultimately benefit families and children.

Motivations that harm

That primary motivation is control. Control of people and control of money. The phenomenon of unwed parenting is a complex one. Nothing has so many factors as this and a valid assessment cannot overlook these. There is no single overriding motivation to unwed parenting. So, these are addressed in no particular order.

Young lust is one we have all likely been through. Recklessness in general is just part of the process of maturity. In the evolutionary scale this allows those persons whose brains do not form in a manner consistent with that necessary to raise offspring to maturity to die off prior to parenting. Recklessness now is often manifest in unintended pregnancies. It would be useless to attack this problem through a cost-consequence approach. After all, that is what recklessness is all about; not foreseeing the consequence.

Instead an economic downturn could have an effect on this through unintended consequence. Young lust plus opportunity is what often leads to these pregnancies among unwed teenagers. Take a parent out of the workforce and you may have less opportunity. Additionally, there is an opportunity for many of those young girls who are just seeking affection and attention to get it from a parent rather than a hormone filled sex machine. Take the automobile away from that teen because you can’t afford it and there is less opportunity there.

Society has now made it acceptable for adults to be unwed parents. Many excuses are offered like so many people get divorced anyway so why get married. There are women who will intentionally get pregnant while unmarried for the sole purpose of collecting child support. That number is few though and although significant to the guy who was duped it is not significant for discussion here. Another factor is that neither wants to give up some control over their personal life which is a necessity of a successful marriage.

Harm does come to children from the lack of stability that married parents provide. The equal availability of jobs to both genders has made separate residences for nearly all adults feasible. The former mandate that a woman find a husband out of economic necessity no longer exists. With a strong economic downturn it will become necessary for parents to again live together and be wed to take advantage of favorable tax laws. As men are much more often to be stay-at-home fathers now this trend will also continue.


Any government agency has a budget procedure based upon the use-it-or-lose-it principle of accounting. Government is the most wasteful of all employers based upon this simple accounting procedure. So expect Child Protective Service and the Department of Child Services to be no different. If any agency’s funding should be based strictly upon need then this is it. Unfortunately those who profit by it will always label anyone who seeks to alter their financing scheme to be against the welfare of children.

The financing scheme of CPS/DCS requires that children be removed from the home in order to receive federal reimbursement dollars. CPS/DCS could spend all their money on parenting education classes, public awareness campaigns or other similar programs but those don’t get reimbursed by the federal government. The State would have to pay for it all. Do you want to be the governor of a state who is not bringing in money from the feds? Your state director of CPS/DCS is going to tell the counties to take more children out of their homes.

Did the rate of child abuse and neglect double in Kentucky in one year? No, but the governor saw this is as a way to help the state budget. Money is brought in and distributed to foster families who then buy more in the local community. A strong economic downturn would logically lead to more cries for reduced taxation and local control of government. However, logic is often far from the minds of people convinced by power brokers that they are facing imminent doom.


Many factors lead to divorce but undeniably money is the primary factor as reported by those surveyed. Women are the overwhelming winners in divorce who, not always, but, often get 100% of the assets, no debt and child support payments to fund a lavish new lifestyle. Admittedly a strong economic downturn is going to lead to more financial discord in married households but it will also lead to cooperative resolution as the prospect of financial gain from divorce evaporates and the cost of divorce becomes prohibitive.

One way lawyers keep themselves employed is to perpetuate animosity amongst litigants. Most people that went through a divorce and had attorneys representing them will tell you that they get along much better once the lawyers are out of the equation. A strong economic downturn should reduce the divorce rate but even among those intent upon divorce will find that they cannot afford an attorney or attorneys will not represent them because they see no possibility of getting paid through the liquidation of non existent assets.

Many will be forced into representing themselves in court. If already out of work this task will be made simpler. The fear of self-representation will be overcome by many and lawyers will have a much more limited role in society. The lack of resources to devote to prolonged litigation should lead to more agreements on the terms prior to going to court. A parent who knows that he or she won’t be able to get child support money is going to be more likely to want Shared Parenting. This has been shown to be the best situation for children save being in a home with two married parents.

Reducing or eliminating lawyer fees and staying out of court will ultimately leave parents with more money for their family obligations including the children. A strong economic downturn that gets lawyers, judges and social workers out of the business of micro managing families will do nothing but have a positive impact on children overall.

How wealth harms children

You may first think that wealth improves the quality of life. Our many cultures, religions and scientific data tell us otherwise. Wealth can buy medical care while poverty may eliminate the need for medical care. Wealth can buy us convenience while at the same time giving us disease. In short the old basis rules apply; money can’t buy you love, for every action there is a reaction and all the others you know but may not truly adhere to.

Assets are disappearing as more couples file for bankruptcy protection or have homes repossessed. The typical two earner household is going to be reduced to one. The wealth factor may be disappearing. Those who gain control through wealth want you to be scared but you should see this as a positive opportunity. Loss of general wealth is going to have a dramatic impact on the welfare of children and families in many ways. Some are subtle and some more obvious. Here are a few.

~ Childhood Asthma
One of the most subtle ways that economic prosperity harms children is through childhood asthma. If you haven’t already thought of this don’t be surprised, few have. Two earner families and single parenting essentially requires each parent to have a car and drive. This releases more pollutants into the air in a macro sense. Most are often pressured for time and will use the drive thru at a restaurant or convenience type household cleaning products that emit harmful vapors. This pollutes the air these children breathe in a micro sense. Few cars on the road and good old fashioned bleach and water instead of spray and walk away cleaners will provide cleaner air for children to breathe.

~ Full-time parenting
Leave it to Beaver was never reality and we would be foolish to think that a strong economic downturn is going to place us all into a blissful television created lifestyle. However, there is some reality to it. There are many benefits to full-time parenting which will be covered under other point here but one is that you get to spend more time with your children.
Studies have shown that children who are raised in daycare centers are more likely to be on behavioral medication, have discipline problems and anxiety issues. It is appalling to think that there are couples out there consciously deciding to subject their children to this in exchange for the freedom to pursue a career, an expensive automobile, plasma tv and fast-food dinners but it happens with great regularity.

~ Childhood Obesity
Long ago I read a study that I believe was promoted by the American Heart Association that addressed the issue of wealth and heart disease. The surprising conclusion was that wealthy people were more likely to suffer from heart disease than the poor. The explanation for this contrarian view was that even though the wealthy had access to better medical care they were much more likely to eat red meat and unhealthy convenience foods that the poor cannot afford.
Similarly, I find the same things when looking at childhood obesity. Most of what I have read points to those same factors in addition to sedentary lifestyle. Two earner or single parent households are more likely to use unhealthy convenience or fast foods as their children’s primary source of caloric intake. On top of that restaurant foods prepared in excessive amounts of fat, including hydrogenated oils, and salt have become family dinners for many. A strong economic downturn would go a long way to eliminating these sources as home cooked meals would become favored again.
I have found that wealth contributes to a sedentary lifestyle. Wealthier children are often entertained through expensive video game systems, TV shows, computers and other primarily non-cardiovascular activities. If we look to those that do participate in sports we find that in the U.S. there has been particular favor to sports such as Baseball and Gridiron Football. Although both are relatively sedentary the latter actually encourages obesity. Basketball is one American sport that does involve an intense cardiovascular workout.
In studying Latin American youth who have emigrated to the U.S. we find that childhood obesity rates have shown similarities to those of American youths. However, the Latin American youth in their native countries have very low rates of childhood obesity. The wealth factors attributed to Americans are not available in these poor countries. Another distinction is the popularity of World Football which is by far the predominant sport in Latin America. This is a cardiovascular sport where the clock rarely stops and play is continuous. Fortunately it is catching on in America and is very inexpensive to play.

Currently there is a strong push by lobbyist for the teacher’s unions and corporations to mandate 14 years of childhood education. Equally strong is the push for post high school education. This has nothing to do with imparting knowledge on your children but more on how they are socialized and what they are taught to believe.
As recently as 1858 the Indiana Supreme Court said it was the duty of a father to educate his children. Property values are going down. School systems who rely upon property taxes are going to get less as homeowners have their home’s value reassessed. Financial necessity may again require that parents educate their children more. This will increase the bonding and trust between parent and child necessary to establish a well developed individual.
Pharmaceutical companies aggressively try to get educators to recommend drugging children as a means of behaviour modification. Is this who you want your children exposed to? Do you want a government institution making the reproductive decisions for your daughter? This is going on now. When you are out of a job will you want the government to take more of your money to tell your children what their moral beliefs should be?
Government education institutions should be limited to the basic academic challenges without inflicting government sponsored social, political and moral beliefs upon our children through either direct programs or use of selective photos and carefully constructed text in textbooks.
Slashing educational budgets would be a very positive step for children.


This paper is in no way intended to be comprehensive or to fully examine every aspect of how a strong economic downturn will benefit families and children but hopefully has provided to you some insight into what the general results may be. Even if this hyped economic collapse doesn’t occur and the US Senate saves us by eliminating the tax on children’s wooden arrows you may be able to find some incentive to make beneficial changes in your life that are not necessitated by economic reasons.

~ Stuart Showalter, Executive Director
Boone County Child Advocates

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