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We're in this together

October 21, 2008 - Betsy Bethel
It's easy to blame parents for many of the problems in America today. Just take a look at today's headlines from The Intelligencer:

"Woman Jailed for Keeping Kids' Football" -- It seems Edna Jester, an 85-year-old neighbor lady in Cincinnati got tired of the kids' football landing in her yard, so she refused to return it. A parent of one of the kids called the cops, and the elderly woman refused to accept a citation but instead "took a stand" and went to jail.

IMO: A parent called the cops on Edna over a football? Surely you jest. Instead of giving the kids a lesson in respecting their elders and others' property, this teachable moment turns into fodder for Leno.

"Nev. Police Quiz Boy for Clues on Abduction" -- A 6-year-old boy in Las Vegas is allegedly kidnapped by Mexican nationals over a drug deal gone bad. The boy's mother and boyfriend were tied up before the perps snatched little Cole. It turns out, it's the mom's dad, a 51-year-old, may have stolen millions from the meth dealers, and they were trying to collect.

IMO: The spawn of bad parents have kids of their own now. Whatever the fact turn out to be, this boy's life will be changed forever.

"Age Limit OK'd for Safe Haven Law" -- Many states, including Ohio and West Virginia, have Safe Haven Laws, allowing parents to drop off unwanted newborns at a hospital. In Ohio, the baby must be younger than 72 hours old; in West Virginia, the baby must be less than 30 days old. The last state to adopt the law is Nevada, but legislators failed to state the age of the child. So, parents -- some from outside the state -- have taken to unloading their children and teen-agers at Nebraska hospitals — 18 children in three months, including nine children ages 20 months to 17 years from one Nebraska widower. The state took action Monday to clarify the law to children 3 days or younger.

IMO: OK, I know a lot of parents of teen-agers who, at one time or another, would love to dump their eye-rolling, disrespecting, rule-breaking kids, no questions asked. But come on! Have they really looked at all their options? How about enrolling them in after-school and mentoring programs, church activities, school clubs? How about enrolling yourself in parenting classes, getting involved in a support group or seeking the help of your church, family or neighbors? It's sad to think parents are so desperate -- or unwilling to take responsibility -- that they are abandoning their children. But then again, perhaps some children SHOULD be placed in foster care. If parents ARE going to be that irresponsible, they should be held accountable. But because of laws that place such an emphasis on keeping families together, children are being physically and sexually abused, and neglected, rather than being placed in foster care. (Case in point: Jessica Morris' children in Moundsville.) Not enough foster care families, you say? Well, maybe churches need to think about opening orphanages again (notice I said churches, not the government).

So, do parents deserve a bad rap? Many of them do. But remember, for every one of these headline makers, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of parents who are doing their best to raise happy, healthy, responsible youngsters.

My charge to you (and me): If you see a parent who needs a helping hand, extend it -- not begrudgingly or out of pity or contempt -- but out of love and concern. If none of us has compassion on our neighbors, our society's downward spiral will continue. We really are all in this together.

"The individual is capable of both great compassion and great indifference. He has it within his means to nourish the former and outgrw the latter." -- Norman Cousins, journalist and author (1915-1990)


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