With the Casey Anthony debacle out of the way, Florida lawmakers have decided to turn down an opportunity to prevent child abuse.
The state has rejected an offer of $50 million in federal child abuse prevention programs on grounds that it is attached to Obama’s healthcare reform package. The money, offered through the federal Affordable Health Care Act passed last year, would have paid, among other things, for a visiting nurse program run by Healthy Families Florida, one of the most successful child-abuse prevention efforts in the nation. Healthy Families’ budget was cut in last year’s spending plan by close to $10 million.
And that is not all – the Healthy Families administration is tied to the Race to the Top educational reform effort, which brings more complications. The lawmakers’ rejection of the child abuse prevention programs also means that the state will lose out on a four-year $100 million educational grant.
Healthy Families provides trained home visitors — many of whom are nurses — to work with young parents who, based on a questionnaire filled out at child birth, are deemed at risk of abusing or neglecting their children. The visitors offer guidance on everything from healthy eating habits and early childhood development to recognizing safety hazards, such as pools and sweltering, sealed automobiles.
Gwen Wurm, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami and a board member of the Our Kids foster care agency, praises Healthy Families because it provides positive solutions to the ignorance that causes abuse and neglect.
“If I just tell you, ‘Do not shake your baby,’ and your baby is still screaming, I have not solved your problem,” Wurm said. “They are not just telling parents what not to do.”
State Sen. Joe Negron, who chairs his chamber’s Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, said he long has been philosophically opposed to Healthy Families, which he views as an intrusion into the private lives of parents.
“I believe in providing basic information to parents at hospitals and medical settings,” said Negron, a Palm City Republican. “I am not persuaded that it is a good idea to show up at a family’s home year after year giving advice and guidance. I do not think that is a core, essential function of government.”
Whatever “ideological purity” excuses Florida legislature gives, or however they claim it might interfere with the precious privacy of ignorant or even malicious parents, cutting an effective child abuse program certainly looks bad in light of the Casey Anthony trial. Or the many other high-profile child murders and disappearances that have taken place in the state over the past several decades.
Florida’s elected officials seem to be so mired in some abstract ideology that they reject aid for, or even refuse to acknowledge, serious concerns.
Contains information from Miami Herald.