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Bad parenting costs taxpayers

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lack of parental responsibility is a recurring theme of mine. I have long argued the obvious: many of the pressing issues in this country can be traced back to parents - more often than not a single mother - abandoning responsibilities that ultimately cost taxpayers more precious dollars.

One not-so-isolated example. Lack of education achievement is more often an absence of any reinforcement in the home than any deficiency in our school systems. When the best teachers with the best funding possible fail to break the achievement cycle, then look to the home environment as a source of concern.

But now comes a new study - including the Show-Me State - where a lack of parental responsibility in health care is also having a costly impact.

Medicaid - which siphons one-third of the budget in Missouri - has a legal requirement for regular medical, vision and hearing exams. But almost three-quarter of children in nine states studied missed the free medical exams. State officials say much of the problem stems from parents skipping appointments.

Early testing can lead to early detection of potential problems. That early detection means not only improved health care but also lower costs down the road for taxpayers.

Regular check-ups are extremely important to all children, especially low income kids who are at higher risk for "obesity, depression and poor cognitive development." But it takes a parent willing to spend the time to have the medical screening.

Child advocates - who would never blame the parents and instead point the finger of blame at someone else - argue that many families struggle with making the appointments and dealing with government red tape.

Although dealing with the medical system can sometimes be frustrating and time-consuming, why do we always see the parents as victims? When will we acknowledge that some parents were never taught parenting skills and therefore lack the initiative to break that problematic cycle of passive neglect?

Certainly, states could do more to educate parents and the medical community could do more to ease access. That will always be the case.

But isn't it time to finally acknowledge that some of the blame falls on the "victims" themselves? Why are we afraid of an honest assessment?

Back to education for just a moment.

Study after study clearly illustrates that simply throwing dollars at problem schools is not the answer. And yet we throw even more dollars at a failed system.

If a child leaves the school system and comes home to a house where the only reading material is a Bible and a phone book, you might assume that the home learning environment is somewhat lacking.

But the issue of 75 percent of Medicaid parents skipping the required medical exams for their children is not the blame of government or education or a host of other circumstances.

Lousy parents cost each of us a small fortune. Yet a snapshot of modern society gives little hope for any substantial improvement.

One thing is certain. We'll continue to spend foolish money on phony solutions when the source of the problem is so obvious.

It's not identifying the problem. It's finding a solution.

Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen