Isn't it about time to get serious about at-risk kids?

Published August 16, 2018

By Joe Mavretic

by Joe Mavretic, former House Speaker and NC SPIN panelist, August 16, 2018.

I have yet to read a respected study concluding that single parent homes raise better children than homes with both biological parents. Put the other way, homes with both the Mom and Dad raise better kids than those with just a single Mom or a Dad.

In spite of all the stories about how some wonderful person, working three jobs and starving so the children could eat, raised a doctor, a lawyer and a school teacher, the average outcomes aren't so good. We just love to remember one hard-luck success story and overlook the other seven that ended in dropouts, poverty, workfare, unemployment, incarceration or homicide. We tend to put a lot of hope in stories and ignore the statistics. The fact is too many parents in this state don't care enough about raising their children.

My research suggests that, in North Carolina, fewer than three of every ten children will live with both biological parents until age eighteen. Described another way, at least seventy percent of children born in North Carolina will be raised in a single/mixed family home. (Subtracting the homes in which a biological parent dies does not significantly change the statistic.) This is the real world situation in our state today and this is not going to change anytime soon. As the tenth largest state in the nation, we will not reach our potential until decide to focus on families.

What can we begin to do now to create better family situations for our children?

As a beginning we need to identify the biological parents of every child born in this state. Recording the biological mother is simple; knowing and recording the biological father sometimes is not as simple. However, this legal recognition must be the foundation of all services provided by the state and every action taken by the state. Conception has consequences and parenting has responsibilities.

Next, biological parenting must have established responsibilities that are enforceable. We have chosen to be organized by counties so identification, entitlement and enforcement should originate in counties. Counties need to pay more attention to the homes where our "At Risk" children spend their first ten years. Let's divide them into two phases and call them the "TWO SIDES OF EVERY NICKEL."

The FIRST SIDE of the NICKEL begins a conception and should require that every parent is, routinely and consistently, monitored to ensure a healthy birth into a secure home....not just the pregnant female but the biological father as well. Monitoring includes providing assistance, mentoring, counseling - the entire range of social services. The first task at the county level is to determine which homes need to be monitored. Two good indicators of secure h0mes is the education level of  the pregnant female and the employment status of the biological father. Homes that are not secure must be identified and services delivered through birth and early development to ensure a child is "School-Ready" by age five. The social costs to do this are about one-third of the future costs for not doing so.

The OTHER SIDE of the NICKEL begins in school and ends after the fifth grade. Students from monitored homes must be afforded the same opportunities as their classmates. Students that need glasses should have them; those with dental problems must have dental care; hearing should be tested; no child should shiver at the bus stop; none should start classes hungry; no child should live in a home without books; weekends should be filled with fun, not famine; our children should be adored, not abused. The worst childhood disability is being into a house that does not or cannot care.

If we believe children matter in North Carolina, the activities and priorities of our counties, the committees and budgets of our General Assembly, our executive departments and our system of courts should reflect that concern. Our next generations must be better than the ones before.

Isn't it about time to get serious about our at-risk children in North Carolina.

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