There’s a lot to learn from this interview between my friend Rod Dreher and the author of “Hillbilly Elegy” J. D. Vance. And much that relates to issues I raise in No Child Left Alone. But one point especially I wanted to highlight and that’s this quote from Vance about the problem the left — in particular — has about trying to use the government to solve certain societal challenges:
But there’s this weird refusal to deal with the poor as moral agents in their own right. In some cases, the best that public policy can do is help people make better choices, or expose them to better influences through better family policy
This is exactly correct and the Child Welfare system is especially at fault here because it doesn’t have a family policy at all. The basic approach of child protection agencies is to figuratively and physically divorce children from their families because the children are supposed to have independent rights that are separate and distinct from their parents. As a result, the family is not treated as a whole unit and solutions are imposed that include removing children from their parents for the “crime” of obesity, for example, even when most often the whole family may be suffering from the same problem. These are complicated issues, but to misunderstand the context is to guarantee a terrible result to most interventions.
As I explain:
Child-welfare workers have a very different mission if they view families as homogeneous units (irrespective of structure) with rights and responsibilities. If families are viewed through the more segmented prism—divided between the alleged power inequity between members—then child protection naturally becomes kids versus parents. After years of working in child welfare, NYU Law professor Martin Guggenheim came to the [following] conclusion: ‘Child welfare’s purpose in the latter part of the twentieth century was dramatically narrowed to protecting children from harm inflicted upon them by their parents.’ Note his terminology: Child welfare’s purpose is protecting kids from their parents.