End welfare — but what about the kids?

Abolish cash welfare, food and housing aid, except for the elderly and disabled, writes Peter Cove, founder of America Works, in What I Learned in the Poverty War in City Journal.  We need to “move from a dependency culture to one of work-first,” writes Cove, whose company trains “the supposedly unemployable” for jobs.

The federal government would use the huge savings from eliminating welfare to create or subsidize private-sector jobs, sending money to companies to reduce the cost of hiring and paying new workers. The government could also create programs similar to those run by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration, paying workers to build parks, refurbish bridges, clean streets, and so forth. The workers’ wages would pay for the basics—food, clothing, and shelter.

But once we dismantle cash welfare and other forms of aid and offer paying jobs in their place, what about the children of those few people who simply refuse to work? I think that we should seriously contemplate removing these unfortunate children from their irresponsible parents. Under current child-welfare laws, social-services agencies can already take kids away from their parents if their home environment is unsafe. Is it so extreme to extend that policy to homes ruined by willful poverty and neglect? I concede that the alternatives here are not pretty; government-regulated foster care, in particular, has its own risks of abuse. Adoption, however, works fairly well in most of the country. Another solution would be the establishment of government-funded institutions, operated by voluntary and religious nonprofits, to care for the children.

It’s time to think the unthinkable, writes Cove.

When I was reporting on welfare reform, every recipient I met said she wanted to work, if she get safe, reliable child care. My colleagues and I followed five welfare families. All found jobs. Only one quit — the one raised in a middle-class family. She got kicked out of a housing program too for refusing to make an effort to get off welfare. Her child wasn’t doing well. If she’d lost custody, her parents could have taken the child and tried to do a better job the second time around.

F as in fat

One third of U.S. children are overweight or obese, according to a new report titled F as in Fat 2011.  The childhood pudge percentage has nearly tripled in the past 10 years.

Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia had childhood obesity rates above 20 percent; Illinois was the only non-Southern state above 20 percent (along with the District of Columbia). In 2003, when the last NSCH was conducted, only D.C., Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia were above 20 percent.

Nationwide, the report found that less than one-third of all children ages 6-17 engaged in at least 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity on a day-to-day basis.

Very obese children should be placed with foster families till they slim down, argue Harvard researchers in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Bad idea, responds bioethicist Art Caplan. After all, 12 percent of U.S. kids are extremely obese.

Ludicrous,” responds Megan McArdle in The Atlantic.

. . . the foster system is already overstretched without adding obesity to catalogue of child abuse and neglect.  It’s also kind of creepy–the sort of thing that gives paternalism a very, very bad name.

Racist, adds Instapundit. African-American children are more likely to be obese.

Adults are getting fatter too.

And it’s not just Americans. As part of a British campaign against obesity, new health guidlines call for children under the age of five — including infants – to exercise daily for at least three hours.

Drinking while breastfeeding

Yeah, I drink while breastfeeding, writes Katie Allison Granju on Home/Work. So arrest me.

A Grand Forks, North Dakota mother, Stacey Anvarinia, called the police to say her boyfriend had hit her. When they arrived, they found her breastfeeding her six-week-old baby, decided without testing her that she was drunk and arrested her.  (Despite her bruised face, her boyfriend was not arrested.)  Anvarinia later plead guilty to child neglect and faces up to five years in prison.

A drunken mother might endanger her child, writes Granju. But breastfeeding has nothing to do with it.

Let me be clear that I do not think being “drunk” while caring for a baby is a good idea, ever, whether you are breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, or you are the babysitter or the father or whomever. Tiny babies are rather fragile creatures, and drunk people are rather clumsy and lack good judgment. So if this woman was really “drunk” while caring for her newborn, perhaps there was cause for alarm on the part of the officers. She could have dropped the baby, for example. But arresting her, and pinning it on drinking whilst nursing has all kinds of problems.

Nursing mothers often take painkillers or antidepressants, Granju writes.

When I came home from the hospital after giving birth to each of my four children, I was sent home with prescription, narcotic pain pills like hydrocodone and percocet to take during the recovery period. And I did take them, happily. After my c-section with baby #4, I took them for several weeks because I was still hurting. The pills not only helped with the pain, but gave me a bit of a buzz. I believe it would be fair to say that I was nursing my babies “while high.” Should I have been arrested?

In my day, women were told that a glass or two of wine or beer would relax mother and baby, making breastfeeding easier.  In the days of wet nurses, the fee often included beer, ale, porter or malt liquor to keep the nurse mellow and the milk flowing.

Nowadays, pregnant mothers are warned not to drink at all during pregnancy, lest their babies develop Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, which is very serious. But once the baby is born, even heavy drinking is linked only to “drowsiness, deep sleep, weakness and abnormal weight gain in an infant.” Light drinking is considered OK.

Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, who helps oversee breast-feeding policy for the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the group considers limited alcohol consumption compatible with breast-feeding.

Imagine the furor if a father was arrested for smoking in near a baby, writes Amy Tuteur on Skeptical OB.

We like to pretend that we would never expose our infants to risk, but simply putting them into a car to drive to the store represents a risk far larger than the risk posed by breastfeeding while drunk (which is merely theoretical) or the risk of smoking in the presence of an infant (which is an all too real risk of illness and death).

This story suggests the police were offended because Anvarinia continued to nurse the baby while they were in her living room.  I’m guessing these officers had no experience with nursing a hungry baby.

A heavy-drinking mother with an abusive boyfriend is not likely to be a contender for Mother of the Year. But the case sets a scary precedent.