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Posts Tagged ‘family’

It’s November and time to think about what we will make for that important meal.  And for some families in Tulsa, we’re not just talking about the highly anticipated Thanksgiving Feast.  Set the Table Tulsa is challenging local families to sit down at the dinner table four times a week, every week, all month long.  In a busy and overly connected world, it seems like a radical idea: family bonding, without the television, the computer or the cell phone as the center of our attention.  However, when we are able to incorporate this simple form of family time into our routines, it should be a cause of ongoing thanksgiving.

And let’s face it, if finding time for a sit down dinner was easy, it wouldn’t be such a rare event.  It comes down to time, a precious commodity in our busy world, and if we want to spend time wisely we need to budget it just like we do our money. Set the Table Tulsa has provided a space for participants to blog about their experiences as they change the way they view mealtime.

Vanesa Mares is one of the writers documenting how this experience is impacting her life.  She is already keeping up with a busy schedule, between caring for her children, one of whom is enrolled in CAP’s early childhood program, and developing her own skills through CAP’s CareerAdvance® program.  Yet she and her family are making the time to eat together.  In her posts she discusses her family’s process of setting a meal plan and trying to disconnect from the cell phone, which is something to which we can all relate.  Turning the phone to silent and setting it aside during dinner is one suggestion I am challenging myself to adopt after reading her posts, and I suspect I’ll be thankful for thirty minutes of peace and quiet. (more…)

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Thursday’s Child launches its 2010 year with a webcast on public investments in children and families:

New research by Urban Institute and Brookings Institution analysts reveals how children — collectively and at different ages — fare in the federal budget and how federal and state spending mesh. Drawing on these forthcoming reports, a panel of distinguished experts will begin a vital and timely exchange on how the nation can, amid severe fiscal and budgetary challenges, make the wisest public investments in its children.

The webcast is January 14 at 8:00am Central. Register here.

On an only mildly related note, did you know that “Thursday’s Child” is also the name of a David Bowie song. A lyric sampling:

Throw me tomorrow
Now that I’ve really got a chance
Throw me tomorrow
Everything’s falling into place
Throw me tomorrow
Seeing my past to let it go
Throw me tomorrow
Only for you I don’t regret
That I was Thursday’s child

Really not sure how that inspired the Urban Institute series. (Or was it the other way around?)

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Into and Out of Poverty

I posted yesterday about the links between single parenthood and poverty and referred at the end to the relatively small portion of people that fall into poverty by becoming single parents. Well the Urban Institute just dropped a great research brief into my inbox summarizing the research on poverty “spells.” Just in the interest of being straight with my readers, I should point this nugget out: “Single-mother households become poor at a rate of 15.7 percent a year, compared with just 2.8 percent for married-parent households (Ribar and Hamrick 2003).”

So, yes, households headed by a single mother are more at risk for poverty. But even so, the overwhelming majority of these households are not in poverty. Poverty and single parenthood should not be conflated.  And, to again reinforce, a solid plurality of poverty spells are caused by job loss not by parenting status: “between 40 and 50 percent of those who become poor live in a household where the head of the household, spouse, or other family member lost his or her job.” The majority of people (the brief says between 50 and 70 percent) who leave poverty do so because they or a household member got a job, not because a single parent found a spouse.

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The Tulsa World reports on a state legislative panel’s hearing yesterday on reducing divorce and births to unwed parents. I know the author isn’t responsible for writing the headline, but the headline editor definitely captured the spirit of the article with the headline “Broken Families Cost Taxpayers.”

So that I don’t bury the lede here, let me just state my complaint up front: in Oklahoma (and in most places), among the most effective ways to draw the public’s scorn is to say something “costs taxpayers.” I remember the report on that Defense Department toilet (which turned out to be an astronaut toilet) costing millions of dollars to procure. “Toilets Cost Taxpayers Millions”, or some variation on that theme, the evening newscasters screamed. And sure enough, the public was appropriately scornful of toilets and the Defense Department. So what happens when you label your story “Broken Families Cost Taxpayers”? You draw scorn upon “broken” families.

Moreover, the headline implies that our concern over “broken” families should be rooted in its cost to taxpayers rather than in compassion for the family members themselves. It’s commonplace now to see economic arguments replace what used to be ethical issues (by which I mean a competing conception of the good), ranging from the President’s urge to “bend the cost curve” on healthcare to organizations like the Partnership for America’s Economic Success (which argues for greater early childhood investments), to the House hearing reported on today.

Finally, the reporter writes, “slightly more than 60 percent of all Oklahoma births that year [2008] were funded by Medicaid.” Now that may be technically true, but the wording implies that births are a sort of government program. We could reduce our appropriations to them and then there’d be fewer births. It’s as if there’s something wrong with a government that supports its children at their most vulnerable.

Now, it can’t be denied that single-parent households are at much greater risk for economic insecurity and, thus, more likely to be eligible for government safety net programs. (more…)

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