Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wisconsin Law Would Equate Single Parent with Child Abuse

DATA DRIVEN VIEWPOINT:  Wisconsin state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) has introduced a bill "demonizing single parents", according to the article below. To be fair, the articles headline is not accurate. The proposed legislation doesn't appear to classify single parenthood as "child abuse". Also, from an actuarial perspective, single parenting is a risk factor for child abuse and neglect (see Child Maltreatment Factors).

Having said that, this bill would unfairly, and unwisely, focus attention on single parenting. Having a child outside of marriage is a “family values” issue of the Christian right with a negative connotation. Consequently, such a law might serve to vilify and socially isolate some caregivers who already feel unsupported. This would be counter-productive. Moreover, politicizing this risk factor over other factors undermines public knowledge about child abuse and hinders prevention efforts.

To be clear, single parenting does not cause children to be abused. Furthermore, a risk factor that may apply to a statistical group doesn’t mean it applies to any given person in that group. For some, single parenting increases child care responsibilities, which can be more stressful and exhausting. But increased child care responsibility can also apply to couples where one parent is deployed in Afghanistan, or where a spouse is physically or emotionally unavailable to help with child rearing. The same increased level of stress in child rearing may also be experienced by a fully supported caregiver who is raising a child that resulted from an unwanted pregnancy. In this case I suspect the Wisconsin state senator would not use this factor to encourage the use of contraception. The United States already has higher rates of child abuse deaths than most other advanced countries. Politician’s should never play politics with issues where children’s welfare is at stake.

Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Wisconsin Lawmaker Introduces Law To Classify Single Parenthood As Child Abuse

Wisconsin state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) has introduced a bill demonizing single parents by classifying them as child abusers.

Senate Bill 507 specifically requires "the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board to emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect."

A third of Wisconsin parents are single parents, but this law affects even more than that. The way the law refers to "nonmarital parenthood" also makes this applicable to non-married couples, including same-sex couples. S.B. 507 reads:

Section 1. 48.982 (2) (g) 2. of the statutes is amended to read: 48.982 (2) (g) 2. Promote statewide educational and public awareness campaigns and materials for the purpose of developing public awareness of the problems of child abuse and neglect. In promoting those campaigns and materials, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.

Section 2. 48.982 (2) (g) 4. of the statutes is amended to read: 48.982 (2) (g) 4. Disseminate information about the problems of and methods of preventing child abuse and neglect to the public and to organizations concerned with those problems. In disseminating that information, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.

Grothman isn't just some fringe nut-job. He's the assistant majority leader and a staunch ally of Gov. Scott Walker. Unlike Walker, Grothman is not up for recall because activists were unable to get enough signatures.State Rep. Donald Pridemore (R-Hartford) co-sponsored the bill. (He is not up for recall either.)

Grothman is not a fan of welfare policies. In a flyer detailing his family policies (embedded at the bottom of this post), he says, "The Left and the social welfare establishment want children born out of wedlock because they are far more likely to be dependent on the government." He touched on those issues after introducing SB507 last week. The Cap Times writes:

"I guess as long as this state is going to fund a group called the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board, at least that group could use the money that they have to publicize something that's politically incorrect, but I think has to be said in our society," Grothman said at a public hearing on the bill last week.

Noting that 41 percent of children born in the U.S. last year were born to single parents, Grothman said: "It's a very politically difficult thing to deal with because over time you're having more and more families that are not old-fashioned families. There are even people who make fun of old-fashioned families."

State Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) said this bill is an assault on women. "What this bill does is call out and chastise women who have babies and are unmarried," she told The Cap Times. Human Development and Family Studies Professor Dave Riley told The Badger Herald that family type has far less impact than the family process and that research shows that "leaving a conflictual marriage actually improves parent-child relationships."

SB507 is now with the Senate Public Health committee, and The Cap Times says it's not likely to get a committee vote, since the committee chair Pam Galloway (R-Wausau) is facing a close recall election.

And here is Grothman's stance on families, wherein he explains "How The United States and the State of Wisconsin are Working to Encourage Single-Motherhood and Discouraging Children in 2-Parent Families."

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