What follows is from a mom working overtime, as moms do, looking out for a lot of children. She thinks the legislature was particularly hard on children this session, you might have another opinion. Feel free to submit it.
Our ideal mother is one who nurtures her children, reads them bedtime stories, bakes cookies, teaches them ABCs and how to get along with others, keeps them healthy, kisses their boo-boos, and protects them from harm.
Our fairytale moms may still exist in some neighborhoods, but the reality is that more than half of pregnancies in Florida are unplanned, and many unwanted. One in three pregnant women is abused, often by the babyâ€™s father. One in five lives in poverty and doesnâ€™t get adequate nourishment for her or the baby. The baby is welcomed not to a color-coordinated nursery but to a chaotic household, often without even a crib. Too many babies have died this year from co-sleeping and too many teens are juggling their homework with changing their babiesâ€™ diapers. Just recently, a young mom, working two jobs without decent child care, left her baby with the babyâ€™s father, who desperately frustrated by the incessant crying, shook the baby to death.
But Floridaâ€™s legislature abhors â€œgovernment spendingâ€ and â€œintrusions into families.â€ However, if government doesnâ€™t help prevent things like child abuse, it costs government even more to repair the tragedies. So in a state where a child dies from abuse or neglect every 43 hours, a state whose child abuse is double the national rate, it is unfathomable that the Florida legislature slashed almost $10 million dollars from Healthy Families, a long-standing program with a 98% success rate in preventing abuse in the highest risk areas of the state. Ironically the Governorâ€™s Office sponsored a meeting this week to create a five-year plan for preventing child abuse. Go figure.
Apparently state leaders think a appropriate use of our precious tax dollars (that could fund programs for children) is to sue our federal government to stop people from being required to buy health insurance and an appropriate government intrusion into our privacy is requiring ultrasounds for women with an unwanted pregnancy.
Youâ€™d think this concern about the sanctity of life would apply to prenatal care, but the Florida Legislature cut $2 million out of Healthy Start, which prevents premature babies, birth defects and other costly tragedies. Last year Governor Crist and the Florida Legislature raided Floridaâ€™s Tobacco Trust Fund, which was dedicated for Healthy Start and other children’s health issues in order to balance their â€œno tax agendaâ€ on the backs of babies. Because there â€œisnâ€™t enough fundingâ€ Early Steps, the program for handicapped babies and toddlers, will have to cut the eligibility in half, instead of early intervention, which costs less and is more effective, Florida will pay much more later.
And despite a constitutional amendment demanding â€œhigh quality PreKâ€, Florida is the only state in the nation to actually decrease funding for PreK for the past two years, which was already ranked at the bottom of national spending. Not surprising, Floridaâ€™s fourth graders did not meet even minimum reading proficiency on the FCAT.
In the absence of any state leadership or funding for childrenâ€™s issues, enlightened local communities have voted to dedicate county tax millage specifically for children, funding which the Florida Legislature tried to override and potentially eliminate by requiring additional costly elections and, ironically, â€œmore government interferenceâ€.
Cuts to pregnant women, handicapped babies, abused children and four-year-olds might be easier to swallow if there wasnâ€™t any money. But the legislature made deliberate choices to prioritize our stateâ€™s limited funding for things like $53.5 million in tax credits for film production, $29.8 million for launch pad renovations, and $50 million for a new â€œlaboratoryâ€, meanwhile refusing to eliminate tax-loop holes for yachts, ostrich feed, and lavish box seats at football stadiums. Instead of dealing with Floridaâ€™s dismal rankings for low birth weight babies and infant mortality and maltreated babies, or record high unemployment and home foreclosures, they wasted timed debating â€œdroopy drawers and bong bansâ€.
Moms like me should be totally outraged! Moms like me should demand more for our childrenâ€¦all our children and this Motherâ€™s Day we should demand more from our government and our elected officials. We must vote like Moms, putting the interests of our children and their safety, health and futures first â€“ and our own greed and selfish interests second. Like good Moms we need to take control of the House, and the Senate too!
—Dr. Mimi Graham, Mother of Two & Director, Center for Prevention & Early Intervention Policy