Murder, Money, Mommy's Boyfriend, and the Need for Marriage to Protect Children

Las Vegas recently commended a new child welfare campaign to confront "[t]he maddening, tragic trend of children being murdered by the abusive boyfriends of their single mothers has the full attention of valley law enforcement, social workers and researchers. On Wednesday, as part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a coalition led by UNLV's Nevada Institute for Children's Research and Policy launched the "Choose Your Partner Carefully" campaign. The drive, which already is under way in other communities across the country, attempts to educate parents about qualities in a partner/caregiver that officials say can put a child at risk for abuse." Glenn Cook's article, A New Child Welfare Campaign, can be found at the Las Vegas Review-Journal in its April 4, 2012 edition.

"The state-funded campaign will place posters at bus stop shelters and fliers and brochures at community centers, medical offices, schools, child care providers, domestic violence shelters and government offices." (You can download the posters and literature at the Internet links listed with this column. [pdf])

Cook first wrote about this issue in January 2011 in a column headlined "Single moms, boyfriends and dead kids." He states, "Las Vegas police reviewed child abuse and neglect homicides between 2005 and 2010 for me and found they were most often carried out by the mother's boyfriend, with 11 such cases in those six years in Metro's jurisdiction. I also learned that the FBI's national homicide data list 17 categories for a homicide victim's relationship to the killer, and "mother's boyfriend" isn't one of them. It's a crime in need of deeper examination."

Last week the Nevada Institute for Children's Research and Policy reported that "in almost half of abuse and neglect homicides reported by all Clark County jurisdictions over the past two years, the perpetrator or suspect charged in the crime was the mother's boyfriend."

The "Choose Your Partner Carefully" campaign, however, has an overall message that's good advice to anyone on the dating scene, regardless of whether they have kids. Its literature is long-winded with an occasional lecturing tone, covering not only undesirable personality traits, but infant-care basics and phone numbers to report child abuse. Some of the campaign's targets might not be able to read. Previous successful child welfare campaigns have had far simpler messages that were relevant to far more parents. For example, installing child safety seats in cars; telling parents not to leave their children alone in a vehicle; locking access points to swimming pools and never letting kids swim alone to prevent drownings. Elected officials created laws mandating car seat usage, establishing penalties for leaving a child alone in a car and, in some cases, mandating the installation of alarms and special gates to create protective barriers to swimming pools. ... Phebus noted that agencies involved in the campaign have seen untold numbers of cases in which a child has survived the severe abuse of mom's boyfriend -- cases that don't usually make the news."

This issue of indiscriminate choices in child welfare was taken up by a Regent Law student in a Juvenile Law class this spring. In his article, For Richer, Not Poorer: A Marriage Proposal Through the Welfare System, Justin M. Coretti, J.D. Candidate 2012 presents a solution for states to consider in reducing the harm to children of cohabitation, but he focuses on state economic welfare costs.

Coretti notes, "A 2010 study by the Citizens Budget Commission, an objective and independent leader in “advocating for government reform,” strongly recommended New York State cut $20 billion from its budget in order to help decrease the state’s outstanding $120 billion debt. Andrew Cuomo, New York’s governor, laid out an emergency budget plan which should reduce the $9 billion budget gap during the 2012 fiscal year. Cuomo acknowledged the dire need for the State of New York to modify its budget quickly while refraining from raising the tax rates in one of the highest taxed states in the country; additionally, the brunt of the problem, as Cuomo explained it, is simply that New York spends too much money."

The article examines whether the current state of New York’s welfare laws encourages non-marital births to families on state social assistance, fostering further family fragmentation and generating greater costs to the New York taxpayers. Section I briefly discusses the cost of the welfare program to the State of New York, offering an overview of the rules and regulations of New York’s welfare program. Section II examines how two states, Oklahoma and Florida, have strengthened families through state-wide marriage promotion and preservation programs, including through the use of state assistance programs for those below the poverty level. Then section III presents possible measures which the State of New York could implement to better serve the welfare beneficiaries, their families, and family and financial strength throughout the State of New York.

His article offers solutions for New York State to encourage marriage in fostering family strength, thus providing for the best interests of children in any state social assistance program, protecting the child with marriage that fosters personal responsibility, and protecting the state taxpayer with fiscal responsibility. The complete article can be viewed here.

Family restoration requires protection of children by their parents, and state economic responsibility that fosters that family strength with the stability afforded by marriage. Mommie's boyfriend will have no place or opportunity to harm the children when marriage is encouraged, and cohabitation is not subsidized.

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