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.

A report card is not destiny

In going through records from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls for his “permanent record” project, Paul Lukas discovered the saddest story, he writes in Slate. Doris Abravaya’s report card includes comments by school staffers:

Doris’s mother is insane and in Mental State Hospital. Father is paralyzed and crippled and a drunkard. Three children [including Doris] live in [a foster home]. … Doris has low mentality and is very timid and unstable. She constantly fears becoming like her mother. … Doris cannot work in a factory or workroom because her constitution cannot stand it. She had a nervous breakdown after her two weeks at [a previous job].

Doris finished her schooling in 1933 in the depths of the Depression. What happened to her? Lukas worried about her fate — until he met her two daughters.

She worked, married, raised her children, went back to work and retired to Florida with her husband. Her daughters remember her as an outgoing PTA leader.

‘Please sir, can I read some more’

As an eight-year-old in foster care, Kalimah Priforce read all the books in his  group home, some of them twice. Told it was “impossible” to get more books, he went on a hunger strike, he writes in “Please sir, can I read some more” on The Good Men Project.  Inspired by Peter Pan, Encyclopedia Brown, Huckleberry Finn, The Little Prince and Pippi Longstocking, he got more books and the right to visit a local library.

Reading exposed him to a wider world.

Thanks to Twain, Barrie, Dickens, Caroll, and so many more,  books gave my earliest dreams the push they needed to make the incredible journey from the confines of a Brooklyn group home to the learning labs of Silicon Valley — where I currently run an edtech startup. My life’s work is about giving every learning miracle its push.

A “hackademic,” Priforce started Qykno to develop career-exploration software.

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.

The college fear factor

Afraid of failure, community college students sabotage themselves by not talking in class, asking questions or turning in assignments.

Also on Community College Spotlight: From foster care to college.