Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday: First, food for thought and then just friggin' funny

From the Acton Institute:

In a society that does not value private property and fosters a spirit of envy and class warfare through wealth redistribution, why should we be surprised that young people don’t value someone else’s property?

Said about 'flash mobbing' in the US. Could have been about the UK riots. It's a selective quote on my part because I don't hold with other views expressed by the Acton people. Nevertheless, as it stands, it makes crystal clear sense.

Then (unrelated) Kiwiblog features some recent Bob Jones correspondence. I recall reading a book titled something like Bob Jones Letters which was full of this sort of highly articulate piss-taking. Love it.

(Tried linking to the Acton Institute repeatedly but kept getting total disarrangement of post.)

Message for Paula Bennett

I don't want to repeatedly beat up on Paula Bennett and the job she is doing but her response to Coroner Wallace Bain's call for spot checks on all children under five is incredibly ill-considered and should have been a firm 'no'.

"As a country, we have to decide what we are prepared to give up to stop other children experiencing the abuse baby Nia did."

So those of us who aren't prepared to put up with state authorities sticking their noses into our homes to examine our child-raising abilities (remember the sort of standards being set for what constitutes abuse these days), we are heels. We are now the problem.

Yesterday I had to take both of my children to the doctors. There was a couple with a sick baby, obviously anxious and obviously adoring of their child. This is how most parents are. They love their children desperately. The state has no business monitoring their care of their children. The idea is quite repulsive.

So no Ms Bennett. I will defend the right of good parents to be left alone. Harassing them will do nothing.

The state has a role to play in preventing real harm to children and it is eminently possible to identify where those children are.

Stop prevaricating and buck-passing. You are the Minister.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Checks on sole parents have happened before

The Coroner in the Nia Glassie case is one Wallace Bain. Apparently Dr Bain wants spot checks on all children and...

Dr Bain is also calling for all solo parents on a benefit to be monitored and overseen to ensure the safety of children in their care.

Dr Bain wants a return to the past.

The Child Welfare Act 1925 introduced mandatory inquiries into the living circumstances of all children born outside marriage.

But decades later:

.... the Status of Children Act 1969, [which] ended discrimination between children born within and outside registered marriage and removed the term "illegitimate" from the statute books. This legislation reflected a desire to reduce some of the stigma associated with ex-nuptial birth that New Zealand inherited from English family law and brought the judicial system into line with the much more liberal concepts of Māori (Cameron 1967, 1969, Quin and O'Neill 1984).

And didn't that create a much kinder world? One where children are routinely loved and cared for?

Unfortunately not.

What's in a name?

The Domestic Purposes Benefit has been named as such since 1968. 43 years ago National instituted the DPB Emergency Benefit. How much life has changed since then. For instance women now make up half of the workforce and tertiary education rolls.

The benefit itself is dated and unsuited to the times, and so is the name. The reason I was thinking along these lines was looking at what various US states call their equivalent DPB. Many simply use the words 'temporary' and 'transitional' and 'work' but here are a few of the more imaginary examples:

Arizona EMPOWER (Employing and Moving People Off Welfare and Encouraging Responsibility)

Montana FAIM (Families Achieving Independence in Montana)

North Dakota TEEM (Training, Employment, Education Management)

Oregon JOBS (Job Opportunities and Basic Skills Program)

Virginia VIEW (Virginia Initiative for Employment, Not Welfare)

Wyoming POWER (Personal Opportunities With Employment Responsibility)

You can view the lot here.

The essential difference is the expectation that the name creates. The federal and state funds that go into these programmes only pay out a small percentage in cash assistance. The rest goes into things like childcare, training etc.

I would judge the success of the US reforms primarily on whether they break the inter-generational cycle of dependence. Changing the parent's expectations will change their children's. Poor and working is better than poor and on welfare. Aspirational is better than apathetic.

While many commentators (somewhat smugly) predict the economic decline of the US I think they have been tackling their social problems with real vigour and discipline. Eventually they will see a pay-off. NZ, frankly, is well behind.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Two working parents = problem children?

The front page of the Dominion Post features a story about the increasing bad behaviour of 5 and 6 year-olds. One of the reasons put up is:

Social problems contributed, with both parents in many families having one or more jobs.

This return to the 'latch key' children idea is bothering me.

It was one of the reasons the DPB was introduced in the first place. To allow single parents to stay at home with their children. That proved no panacea.

But I am not convinced that two working parents is really the crux of the problem. Parents who work are taking financial responsibility for their kids. It follows they are more likely to be taking responsibility for them, and each other, in other ways as well.

One child psychologist says poor parenting is part of the problem, and exposure to drugs or alcohol in the womb is having a terrible impact of some children.....There was a subset of children who had more challenging behaviour than previously seen. "Part of it could be exposure to drugs and alcohol in utero – we really under-diagnose that in New Zealand. We know we have children who have been exposed to P in utero that are in schools now ... but it's not going to be the only factor."

Holding down more than one job and abusing drugs and alcohol isn't very easy to do, especially with more and more drug-testing in the workplace.

I am more inclined to accept that the worst children are coming from dysfunctional family relying on a mix of welfare, and income from crime or the black market; these families began with a birth to a young mother who has probably been abused in her lifetime, and grow through a succession of partners. Not exclusively but more likely.

There are families with mothers, for example, working night shifts where older siblings are left to supervise the younger and it is true that they get baby-sat by X Boxes and movies and left to play into the night.

A working one or two parent family may neglect a child through sheer lack of time but I would love to see some evidence that the problem is about too much work and not about too much welfare.

There is also the obvious point that needs making. Two parents working by necessity are paying the taxes that support the 113,000 people on the DPB. And the only research available on the subject shows that CYF Care and Protection notifications are nearly 4 times more likely to occur to a child in a DPB dependent home.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Billy T

Billy T James didn't know me from a bar of soap. And this photo is only the result of an uncharacteristic action on my part. Asking someone who did know him slightly to take a photo of us together, with his permission. The occasion was backstage at a Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers concert in 1987, Auckland. I was a sales rep for RCA at the time and as such, met lots of famous people. Well, a few. But I never fawned on them or tried to get memento type shots. I had too much respect for their privacy and my dignity. But Billy was an exception. I selfishly wanted my own little piece.

But lots of people wanted a bigger piece.

I was going to write a review of Billy T: Te Movie after seeing it today. But it feels too close. The times, the gorgeousness of his humour, the loss. I will recommend it but can't guarantee you will come away feeling uplifted. I didn't. I just missed him all over again.