There is an old Native American story about two women sitting on a river bank watching dead babies floating downstream. They decided instead of just pointing out to others what they had seen, they would go upstream to stop whoever was killing the babies. This story is a perfect description of what needs to be done to protect America’s children from incompetent and dangerous parents.
For too long, we have approached the crimes of child abuse and neglect in total reverse by trying to mop up the damage after the children have already been maltreated. As law-abiding taxpaying citizens, we have the burden placed on us to deal with the repercussions of the acts of unfit parents. Wouldn’t it make more sense to try and work with people by defining effective parenting skills before they destroy their children’s lives and their unconscionable deeds are done?
The problem stems from an out-of-date mindset established centuries ago—that children are the property of their parents. Property is defined as: “the possessions of a particular owner having the right of enjoyment or disposal.” How does that in any way pertain to raising children? And yet, for too many parents, this is their mindset. That’s why I and many other survivors heard when growing up, “Don’t you open your mouth!” We had no right to our bodies or minds, and we paid dearly for trying to be our authentic selves.
In the last 30 years, we have begun moving forward a more child-protective process of addressing this issue with laws placing liability for childrearing on grandparents, making parents responsible for the crimes of their children, and applying more stringent child support requirements. We need to move ahead to address the problem directly. We need to license parents.
People are required to get a license to drive a car or own a gun so that they don’t inadvertently hurt someone due to ignorance or negligence. And yet, anyone old enough to have sex can have children with no expectations dictated or required whatsoever. At the very least, new parents should by law be required to attend and pass child development classes which explain healthy childrearing tasks. If the parent(s) refuse to attend these classes, then it can be noted, and if and when problems occur in the future, it will be an indicator of their non-interest from the very beginning.
I don’t believe taking a class on how to raise children in a respectful and appropriate manner is too much to ask. As someone who went through torture at the hands of my parents the whole time I grew up, mandatory parenting classes would have at least put them on notice that the State was concerned about my welfare. Instead, they acted out their resentment and rage on me, an innocent child.
It is interesting to me when parents who object to this proposal raise the issue of civil rights. What is blatantly obvious is the total absence of concern for the civil rights of children—that all persons should have equal access to a life where they can develop to their full potential—not just parents.
Until Americans place a higher value on raising healthy children than operating a car or a gun, our country will continue to pay the price of the destruction of children’s lives.