Many years ago, we decided that as a society we would protect children who are being slapped, kicked, burned, beaten up and sometimes even killed in their own homes. We decided not to look the other way but to take action.
In the state of Michigan, anyone who works with children is required by law to report suspected child abuse. Protective Services workers, also known as P.S. workers, are the ones who investigate to determine a course of action for those vulnerable children.
When I worked for the Child and Family Services agency in Marquette, Michigan, I came to know many P.S. workers. I developed deep respect for them and their work. Talk about a tough -- but important -- job. They are truly heroes.
First, they are on the spot with the child. They take pictures if necessary and get all of the pertinent information. This, obviously, requires a great deal of wisdom and sensitivity, to be dealing with young children at their most vulnerable moment. Then the tough work: determining whether it is truly abuse. This would be an easy job if abusers had it written across their foreheads. Unfortunately, though, it is not that easy. It requires research to determine what is actually happening in that home. The P.S. workers interview friends, neighbors, relatives, the children involved and their teachers.
They then must weigh all of that information to determine if the child is safe in that home. Should the family receive help? Should the child be removed from the home? These are tough, tough questions. The child's life could depend on the answer. A wrong decision could cost a child his or her life.
People who are responsible for large sums of money traditionally receive six or seven figure incomes. Interestingly, though, those who are making life or death decisions for our most vulnerable children barely make a living wage. That in itself makes quite a statement.
Now it gets even worse, because along comes the Republican party to insist on pay and benefit cuts to those workers. Instead of raising their pay, they want to cut it.
This lack of respect for our most vulnerable citizens is, of course, at odds with Republicans' stance on "life". Seems like they are only for life when they have political motive, but will sell children out at the first opportunity when it is to protect the wallets of our wealthiest citizens.
Not only do we have P.S. workers, we also need people to license safe homes and work with the families. Those people need top-notch training and supervisors to help with the decision-making process. Every link of this chain is critical to the health and safety of our children. It is sad that our Republican leaders, who claim to be for families, step up not to help, but to remove links and weaken the chain of safety for our children.
Their myopic thinking tells them the economy will miraculously blossom if only we cut those workers' pay. There will be jobs for all. Sunshine and flowers will rule the day. But let's think about this again, through the prism of reality. When that chain of safety is weakened with pay cuts, the workers on the front lines don't stay in those jobs long enough to acquire the sophisticated skills they need. And those who stick it out? Their morale sinks, just when they need it the most. Children fall between the cracks, fail to get a good education, and come into adult life lacking skills.
And who is filling our prisons, costing us millions of dollars? Those very children, who are now adults. Over and over we read that Michigan can come back, but we must have a trained workforce at hand. Cutting pay of dedicated middle class workers will simply not create a trained workforce. Quite the opposite.
These disastrous cuts are being proposed so the Republican party can claim fiscal responsibility. Cutting workers' pay and benefits is neither responsible nor fiscally sound. In spite of that, they continue their mantra that they are on the side of children. The steps they want to take will not only ruin our economy but will also harm the very children they claim to love.
Our Republican leadership in Michigan consistently claim our budget is expanding, when in truth it is contracting. They claim we are a high tax state, which is simply not true. They claim those working with our most vulnerable children are over paid, when in reality they are under paid.
It is time to expose their words and actions for what they truly are, an opportunity to put more money in the hands of those who already live on the lake, have two or three homes, take European vacations and drive the most luxurious cars -- at the expense of those children being beaten up in their homes.
It is well past time to call them out on their inconsistencies and hypocrisy and ask them to truly be on the side of families and children.