I’ve been following the story of Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman and his Senate Bill 507 past the writing of my original article. Wednesday, I listened to an interesting radio interview between Grothman and Alan Colmes (from Colmes’ Friday radio show). In it, Grothman says some pretty revealing and disparaging things about his feelings towards the intentions of single mothers (please take the time to listen if you can, but be forewarned the audio is about 13 minutes long). However, what really caught my attention was the revelation about where Grothman has been pulling his statistics from.
In the interview with Colmes, Grothman revealed that the basis for his claim that non-marital parenthood is a contributing risk factor to child abuse and neglect comes from the fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. I’m not ashamed to admit I spent my entire Wednesday reading the study. It’s a total of 455 pages, and so I tried to concentrate on the study’s executive summary and the parts of the study Grothman was pulling from.
Here are some of my conclusions from reading the entirety of the executive summary and all of sections 4 and 5 (including subsections).
First a little background so you understand how this came together. “The NIS-4 is a congressionally mandated, periodic effort of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. […] The principal objectives of the NIS-4 were to provide updated estimates of the incidence of child abuse and neglect in the United States and measure changes in incidence from earlier studies.” The first NIS collected data in 1979 and 1980. The NIS-2 collected data in 1986. The NIS-3 collected in 1993, and NIS-4 collected data in 2005 and 2006. I’m not sure if there is a reason why the length of time between each conducted NIS lengthens, but there it is. The NIS consults more than just CPS agencies for data and provides a unique perspective on children that were recognized by community professionals as maltreated.
So what does the NIS-4 say about child abuse and neglect in the United States? Well, while Senator Grothman is correct that the study shows a statistical increase in the risk to children who don’t live with both biological parents (who are married to each other) it says a lot of other things that he doesn’t seem to have paid any attention to.
First and foremost is the very promising news that between NIS-3 and NIS-4, instances of child abuse and neglect decreased 19%! “Taking into account the increase in the number of children in the United States over the interval, this change is equivalent to a 26% decline in the rate of overall Harm Standard maltreatment.” Meaning that the huge spike in child abuse between NIS-2 and NIS-3 has all but disappeared. The instances of child abuse in America have returned to their 1986 levels. And while of course the battle to eliminate child abuse is far from over, this is really encouraging news. I’d like to point out at this time that this decrease in child abuse occurred WITHOUT a piece of Wisconsin legislation emphasizing the “contributing nature of non-marital parenthood”.
Senator Grothman seems keen to focus on the statistics that deal with Family Structure and Living Arrangement. In his testimony at the SB507 hearing he claimed that he was focusing on this fact (versus say alcoholic parents) because it’s a politically incorrect thing to say and therefore wasn’t getting the attention it deserved. Grothman seems to have missed the entire part of the study where the NIS correlated a child’s race to their likelihood to be abused or neglected. The results are upsetting to read and far from politically correct. Section 4.3 deals with the Racial and Ethnic Differences in the Incidence of Maltreatment. The statistics are split into three major groups – White (non-Hispanic), Black (non-Hispanic) and Hispanic. (It’s important to note that this is the first year the NIS has studied how race plays into instances of child abuse and neglect and I believe this is why they only studied three racial groups.) So Grothman if your objective is the welfare of the children, why not bring up the fact that black children are nearly 2 times more likely to suffer from maltreatment than white children? If we’re going to follow your lead and start blaming correlation instead of causation, can we pass a law that says being black is a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect? How about the fact that girls are 5 times more likely to be sexually abused than boys? NOTE: I do not think that being black or being female are contributing factors. This is a parody of Grothman’s logic.
Contribute. That one word is just one of the places where all of Grothman’s arguments for this legislation fall down. Factors that correlate with an instance do not automatically CAUSE it. It’s just as absurd to say being black is a CONTRIBUTING factor to child abuse and neglect, as it is to say that living with non-marital parents is a contributing factor.
Lisa Subeck said it best in her testimony at the Wisconsin hearing for bill SB507: “Often times there are things that correlate that increase the risk factors but don’t cause child abuse. Single parenthood in and of itself doesn’t cause child abuse.” And she hits the nail right on the head when she accuses this bill of telling people to get married.
See Senator Grothman also has a few of his inferences regarding this statistic wrong. First and foremost he has been very vocal about his belief that this affects children born out of wedlock. While it’s certainly true that many children of single parents are a result of parents who were never married, there are THOUSANDS of children who were born in wedlock that have single parents now as a result of divorce. In his radio interview with Alan Colmes he constantly points his finger at mothers who he thinks maliciously and purposefully refuse to marry their partners and/or their children’s father because they want cash. For Grothman this is about following the money, and he completely misses the point.
I am convinced that Glenn Grothman cares nothing for children. He has no children of his own and has never been married. He supports gutting Wisconsin’s BadgerCare+ program which would kick 29,000 children off of state medial care. He supports getting rid of kindergarten for four year olds, believes smoking in restaurants and businesses should be legal, is against youth sex education programs, and is against subsidized day care programs. (Ironically, while the government SHOULD have control of all these things, he thinks they should get their big fat noses out of the raw milk industry. Way to prioritize, Grothman.) You can read more about his positions here and here.
This bill is REALLY about Senator Grothman’s desire to define a family according to his standards. Allow me to speculate about what this bill could be used for in the future. You see, if you follow some of the logic backwards you can see a case being formed.
Grothman is against homosexual marriage. In a secular government, you have to provide non-religious reasoning for why two consenting adults shouldn’t be allowed to marry. Frankly, there aren’t really any such reasons but if you grasp at straws long enough you might come up with this one: If you can get a state legislator to prove that children are better off being raised by two married, biological parents – you can later point to this and exclaim with glee why allowing marriage equality (or homosexual adoption rights) is wrong. And here’s the kicker, you can do it WITHOUT ever pointing to your personal religious beliefs or internal phobias and fears. This is all purely speculation but I have a hunch I might be onto something regarding the legal tactics. With a bill like SB507, you would be able to make an indirect case for why your state shouldn’t ever legalize a marriage equality act.
It’s also a double whammy GOP grand-slam because it overwhelmingly chastises and humiliates women. After all, while there are single fathers out there (I’m dating one! Oh look at that TWO non-married single parents in a relationship? Grothman’s head might explode). While there are single fathers, single mothers outnumber them 5-to-1 (according to the 2010 consensus). So legislation that singles out single parents, disproportionately applies to single mothers, and is therefore a huge win for the GOP’s agenda against women.
Senate Bill 507 is an ad hominem attack against lifestyles Senator Grothman disapproves of, and he is trying to use the Wisconsin State legislation to do his dirty work. After all by Grothman’s own admission this isn’t about children. It’s not about single fathers. It’s about the Atheistic Socialist agenda to encourage women to have babies out of wedlock so they can have a free ride on his tax dime.
I’m not making this up – Just check out the brochure for yourself. The title page alone looks like it could be next month’s cover of The National Enquirer. He’s just missing the 300 foot tall feminazi who wants to take away his second amendment rights.
After I read the third page of the brochure, my first thought was BRAVO Wisconsin. They have some fantastic programs for low income families and they should be commended for working so hard to elevate the economic status of families. After all, the American Academy of Family Physicians had this to say about prevention strategies for reducing child abuse and neglect:
Primary prevention strategies based on risk factors that have a low predictive value are not as likely to be effective as more broadly based social programs. In addition, programs focused on a societal level rather than on the individual level prevent the stigmatization of a group or an individual. Social strategies for preventing child abuse that are proposed but unproven include increasing the value society places on children, increasing the economic self-sufficiency of families, enhancing communities and their resources, discouraging excessive use of corporal punishment and other forms of violence, making health care more accessible and affordable, expanding and improving coordination of social services, improving treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, improving the identification and treatment of mental health problems, increasing the availability of affordable child care and preventing the births of unwanted children through sex education, family planning, abortion, anonymous delivery and adoption.
Consequently, the programs Wisconsin has in place to improve these conditions for families are the exact same ones that Senator Grothman wants to defund because he believes they are only used by people looking for a free ride.
So what’s the point? Why should a single mother that lives roughly 1,000 miles away care what Wisconsin is doing? Because Grothman is not the only politician who feels this way. He is just the most recent to try and do something about it using legislation. By his own admission, Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum feels much the same way about single mothers in this country. The logic Grothman uses here could be coming to a federal government near you.
Let’s also not forget Wisconsin’s ability to be a trendsetter in the nation. Shortly after they proposed legislation to strip away collective bargaining rights last year, 15 other states followed! The GOP does one thing really well and that’s stick together. They are alarmingly consistent when they put their minds to something, and what a Republican does in one state is likely to be attempted (if not accomplished) in several others – Especially when they don’t have control of the White House.
This issue matters. More importantly it matters to more than just the single parents of Wisconsin. We should all be offended by this slimy piece of legislation masquerading as protection for our children. Senator Grothman doesn’t care about our children and it’s obvious. Don’t let him slide on this and don’t let the legislators who follow in his wake get away with this either.
Tanya is currently recovery from a nasty battle with Transverse Myelitis and maintains the assertion that her legs are on unpaid leave and will be fired as soon as they return from holiday. She has been fluent in sarcasm since she was old enough to annoy all the adults at the Christmas party with questions that were “too smart for her own good”. When she isn’t spending her free time enjoying Dr. Who and other sci-fi, she designs witty literature themed posters for sale through her store on Etsy. She moved to Colorado from Orange County in 2007 and currently resides in Colorado Springs with her beautiful four-year old son and amazing boyfriend.