|Photo via Helen-lingard.com|
I was a single mom for a few years. Those of you who have followed my blogging are well aware of this fact and have probably reached the threshold of nausea hearing about it. When I got married, I swore that some of the best things from single mommyhood would follow me into my life in joint-parenting. Among those items were a positive outlook, courage and humility. This week I’ve decided to add one more to that list.
Not loyalty to my daughter or family or friends or career. Loyalty to other single parents. Once you are a member of that club you are a member for life. Among the shared experiences are the unique struggles, the concern that you are not filling two roles effectively and the constant battle against stereotypes and pity that are often unfounded. If I meet a single parent, I embrace them. Not literally. Okay. Sometimes literally. I also make a mental note of who they are in case I ever need an extra player on a rugby or roller derby team. Single parents are the toughest people you will find anywhere. Period.
Which is why I was very disturbed to hear about proposed legislation out of Wisconsin that would pinpoint single parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse. The purpose of the bill, in its own words, is this:
Promote statewide educational and public awareness campaigns and materials for the purpose of developing public awareness of the problems of child abuse and neglect. In promoting those campaigns and materials, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.
In short, if the bill passes, the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board of Wisconsin would be required to to emphasize this risk factor in its awareness campaigns and materials. If you read it carefully, you may notice the word “nonmarital.” Children with two parents that are not married, but equally involved in the parenting, and children with same-sex parents would also be included in the child abuse risk factor stipulation.
If your reaction is anything close to what mine was, you may be asking “Where in the world is this coming from?” Single parents comprise about one-third of Wisconsin’s total parent population. Some studies have shown that abuse is higher in instances when there is only parent present. Still, this legislation is a stretch. In those single-parent homes where the abuse occurs, what other factors may be present? Is there a history of drug use? Depression? Domestic violence? Simply being a “single parent” is not grounds enough to declare a higher risk factor for abuse. This bill as it is written right now, quite frankly, is offensive. And it should be to all parents — not just single ones.
I can think of one hundred reasons why a single parent may be pushed to the point of abusing a child. Here’s the thing: those are the same one hundred reasons I come up with as to why married parents, or divorced joint-custody parents, would be pushed to the brink of abusing their children.
Single parenting does not raise the risk factor for abuse unless there are actual dangers to the child that accompany it. I hope the publicity surrounding this bill helps it die a quick death on the floor of the Wisconsin Senate and anywhere else this language might be lurking.
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Tags: child abuse