To the editor:
Reading the largely anonymous responses to Jennifer Tarr’s letter in support of the proposed school breakfast programs at a couple of the city’s elementary schools (Letters, the Times, Monday, June 10) was really eye opening.
To be sure, there are irresponsible parents who are guilty of neglecting their kids, and more than a few of them are not poor. But I became well aware, working as a counselor on a pediatric unit in a private, for profit, psychiatric hospital in southern New Hampshire that child neglect and abuse transcend socio economic status.
I also learned that neglected and abused children from more affluent homes are often more difficult to help because many mandated reporters of suspected neglect and abuse, like social workers, counselors, and school officials, are hesitant to report such cases to the proper authorities because they know those more affluent families have the resources to fight back in ways poorer families cannot.
Fear of litigation can trump the concern for a child’s welfare in such cases.
Poverty is at record levels in the United States. It is little wonder, given that we have been living for more than three decades under an economic model that is all about using the levers of government, particularly the tax code, to redistribute wealth — albeit in an upward direction.
Real wages for ordinary Americans have been stagnant or declining for decades. Today’s minimum wage is worth less, in real dollars, than the $1.60/hour striking Memphis sanitation workers were earning in 1968, when Martin Luther King correctly labeled that amount “slave wages”.
Wal-Mart, one of the world’s largest and wealthiest corporations, pays its hourly sales associates so little, they have no choice but to apply for all kinds of tax payer subsidized assistance, including food stamps, housing vouchers, and Medicaid. In fact, in many states the employee manual packets of new Walmart hires include a brochure telling those not quite full time, so not eligible for any benefits, new hires what government agencies they should go to access the kinds of benefits Walmart, a supposed “Christian values” company, refuses to provide.
That is what is “criminal” in America today, not the fact that there are parents whose economic situation, often through no fault of their own, makes it difficult for them to provide their kids with even the most basic necessities of life.
Jennifer Tarr is to be highly commended for both her letter and her commitment to the well being of all children.