Children born into dysfunctional families without access to crisis nurseries, quality daycare, or other early childhood programs rarely do well in school, learn how to read at grade level, or graduate.
Limited vocabulary skills, high incidence of behavior problems and mental health issues (about one third of children in child protective services are on psychotropic medications). School failure predicts a life of crime, drugs, dysfunctional lifestyles and state ward ism.
State ward ism is my word for;
A 70% prison recidivism rate (highest in the world – fostered by harsh laws & societal workforce shunning)
Generational poverty (once the cycle is broken families go on to lead productive lives)
The United States has traded at risk children and young families for failed schools, unsafe streets, a giant prison business and growing pharmaceutical industry (Prozac).
American institutions are now producing exactly what they were designed to stop. Child protection systems provide the fodder for a juvenile justice system which manufactures future inmates for our criminal justice system with a recidivism that might reach 80% in the next decade.
We have 2.5 million Americans in prison and jails, 7 million more out on parole (mostly poor, mostly black) with a high racial disparity ratios and climbing recidivism rates.
The great majority of ex-offenders are almost never be able to obtain jobs that pay more than minimum wage and rarely are they able to support a family or be part of the social fabric. Our culture and business world forbid it. We have become uncharitable people too taken by blaming and punishment and less concerned with well-being of our citizenry (no matter the cost).
300 years ago, Ben Franklin put forth the “Penny wise and Pound Foolish argument” that so nails the failure in the center of the anti government movement. In MN a few years ago, our biggest and most traveled bridge collapsed for want of a much fought over (and refused) 5 million dollars maintenance request by DOT Engineers.
14 people died, 104 were seriously injured, and the costs of rebuilding, death claims, the Governor’s own conservative additional driving cost estimates (the city was cut in half as it was the only hiway bridge connecting the two halves) and business that failed because of inaccessibility, were about a billion dollars (about 200 times more costly than the maintenance that would have stopped the collapse and saved the lives and suffering of so many people).
On a more personal note, for the saving of about 50 dollars, the state did not execute a child custody background check on a man who had spent 2/3 of his adult life in prison for the same crimes he was about to commit on his four year old son (if awarded custody). The state missed seeing a court order in an adjacent state forbidding that man from being near young boys for what he did to them. Four years later, I became the boy’s guardian ad-Litem.
When this boy aged out of foster care a few years ago, he had cost the county (big C and little c)* between two and three million dollars. He has AIDS today, and will always be a state ward. He could live a long time.
Even if he were to stop being a state ward today, the negative return on investment (by not spending the fifty dollars to investigate the father – who was in prison at the time he requested custody) would be 60 thousand dollars spent for each one of the fifty dollars not spent. To make it worse (much worse) these numbers do not reflect the cost of suffering this fellow caused the people he stabbed, teacher he beat up, or untold misery visited upon so many people that crossed his life growing up.
This boy has always been a state ward and he most likely will always be a state ward.
All this because of a mindset to save 50 dollars.
We are all much poorer and more miserable because of it.
* Actual direct cost for his care, to the County was between 1.5 and 2 million dollars + the cost of his violence, police/court interaction, and property damage was at or near a million dollars.
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