by James A. Bacon
When social breakdown, a drug epidemic and failed government institutions converge, this is what you get: babies like Charlee Ford (seen at left) born with opioids and marijuana in her system and diagnosed with cerebral palsy. After birth, her lungs failed for nine minutes before doctors revived her. In her short, tortured lifetime, she suffered from severe seizures. She died at an age of four months.
Graphic credit: Roanoke Times
The surging use and abuse of opioids and other illegal drugs such as methamphetamines is associated with a horrifying increase in the number of Virginia babies born addicted to drugs. Worse, these babies are usually born into totally dysfunctional families. Mothers and fathers are themselves are likely to be substance abusers, which puts the babies at high risk of abuse and neglect. Meanwhile, child protective services in Virginia are uneven in quality — some local programs, one might say, are as bureaucratically dysfunctional as the families they serve.
The Roanoke Times tells the tragic story here. The focus is on Rockbridge County in the Shenandoah Valley. But similar stories can be found all around the state. It’s a long story but worth the investment in time.
Bacon’s bottom line: Maybe the Roanoke Times article hit me harder today than it would have previously because this weekend I visited my month-old grandson for the first time and cradled the tiny, helpless little creature in my arms. He is a lucky one, blessed by two loving, hyper-conscientious parents who will take very good care of him. Many babies are not so fortunate. Charlee’s story prompts several thoughts…. Continue reading
by Jay Timmons
Residents in the Richmond area are represented by three Republicans in the state Senate with very different views of Life and Family. All three will be on the ballot Tuesday.
When it counted, Siobhan Dunnavant stood strong for children and the unborn. But sadly, Glen Sturtevant and Amanda Chase chose discrimination and bigotry over Life. Sturtevant and Chase acted as charlatans who sent a very clear message with their votes that our son did not even have the right to exist.
The bill, HB1979, which Dunnavant supported and Sturtevant and Chase callously voted against, is also known as “Jacob’s Law,” and was inspired by my son and the horrific four-year legal battle that my husband Rick and I endured in an out-of-state court. The bill was simple – eliminate discrimination in Virginia’s parental rights laws for children born through surrogacy so that all intended parents are treated equally. The bill brought laws on surrogacy in line with those that existed for adoption in Virginia. Most importantly, the bill – which is now law thanks to bipartisan support – means more frozen embryos can be rescued and saved from potential destruction. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Virginia’s elected officials don’t agree about much. But they do share one common interest across the partisan divide: fighting human trafficking. Even in our hyper-partisan world, Democrats and Republicans still can unite over the proposition that sexual enslavement and exploitation is a bad thing.
In October of 2018, the Human Trafficking Institute released a report in which Virginia ranked sixth in the nation for active human trafficking cases. That comes from the Virginia Tech Collegiate Times. According to Sen Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico, the National Human Trafficking Hotline reports that there were more than 950 reported cases of human trafficking between December 2007 and June 2017.
Do a Google search for “Virginia human trafficking,” however, and see what results you get. Most reporting on the subject comes from local TV stations. Virginia’s major newspapers have produced almost nothing worthy of note. Indeed, in the top four pages of search results, the only report listed from the Richmond Times-Dispatch was an article describing how the Henrico County police chief debunked social media reports of human trafficking in Short Pump. Continue reading
Virginia Child Care Costs as a Percentage of Women’s Median Earnings, 2009-2017. Gray line: Infant center costs. Blue: line: four-year-old center costs. Source: National Women’s Law Center
by James A. Bacon
The cost of full-time infant care in Virginia has increased by 37% in inflation-adjusted dollars between 2008 and 2017, while women’s wages in the state have grown by only 5%, finds a new report by the National Women’s Law Center, “From Shortchanged to Empowered: A Pathway to Improving Women’s Well-Being in Virginia.” As a percentage of income, the cost of infant-center care has surged from 24% of women’s median earnings to 31%.
The study suffers from the usual victimhood rhetoric regarding women’s income — asserting that Virginia women earn only 80.9% of what men earn without adjusting for occupations, education and length of time in the workforce — which makes me wonder if the child-care data is similarly subject to tendentious analysis. With that caveat in mind, there does appear to be a problem, and it’s one that is especially devastating for poor women who see an ever large share of their income consumed by child care.
What the study doesn’t do is inquire into why the cost of child care has risen so precipitously in the past decade. For that information, we must turn to Adele Uphaus-Conner with the Free Lance-Star who, while dutifully and uncritically reporting the study’s findings, actually went out and interviewed someone in the community who knew something about the topic! Continue reading
by Don Rippert
Debate: The debate on immigration in America continues to rage. People who hold right-of-center political beliefs seem to think that the U.S. immigration laws should be vigorously enforced. There may be some “wiggle room” on the right. For example, some conservatives believe there should be exceptions to deportation for those illegally in the United States so long as they have been here a fairly long time, paid taxes, stayed out of legal trouble, etc. Without commenting on the reasonableness of the conservative position, it is understandable.
The position held by Americans with left-of-center political beliefs is hard to fathom. While few liberals will openly say they are in favor of “open borders” the sum total of their beliefs seems to indicate that “open borders” is exactly what they seek.
This issue is important for Virginia because some areas of Virginia have very low numbers of foreign born residents, while other areas have very high numbers of foreign-born residents. For example, the 2010 Census found that 12.9% of people living in America were foreign born. Virginia had 11.4% of its residents recorded as being foreign born. However, Arlington County (Virginia’s 6th most populous county) had a foreign born percentage of 28% in 2000. Social services are affected by immigration. The cost of teaching English as a second language in public schools is directly impacted by the percentage of residents born in foreign (non English speaking) countries.
Author’s apology in advance – this is a long post. By far the longest I have ever published. However, this is a complex topic with both liberals and conservatives more than willing to misrepresent the data. I saw no way to properly handle the topic with brevity.
Back to exploring “root causes” of poverty… This chart shows vividly how poverty is a demography-driven phenomenon. Poor people have more children than the not-poor do, and they have children at a younger age. The consequence of this “disparity” in fertility rates is that the percentage of children raised in poverty is vastly higher than the percentage of poor people in the population as a whole. Even as thousands of Virginians succeed in lifting themselves out of poverty, the reservoir of poor people is continually replenished. Continue reading
Exposure to crime-prone students in school has “large and significant” effects on test scores, school discipline and even adult criminal behavior, finds a new study by Stephen B. Billings and Mark Hoekstra published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Exposure to crime-prone peers in the same neighborhood also has an effect, but the negative influence is far stronger in the school setting.
“We estimate that a five percentage point increase in school and neighborhood crime-prone peers increases arrest rates at age 19-21 by 6.5 and 2.6 percent respectively,” state the authors in “Schools Neighborhoods, and the Long-Run Effect of Crime-Prone Peers.”
Billings and Hoekstra stick to the narrow issue of establishing the correlation between “crime-prone peers” and students’ cognitive and behavioral outcomes, but the study is sure to influence the debate over school disciplinary policies. If students displaying anti-social behavior are kept in school as part of the therapeutic disciplinary regime now in vogue, one can predict negative spillover effects on fellow students.
No one wants to see children go hungry, so one’s natural instinct is to sympathize with a new initiative like No Kid Hungry, which is helping parents and caregivers locate free meals in their communities with a simple text message. But a Richmond Times-Dispatch article profiling the program makes a startling statement:
The school year is over this week for most local schoolchildren, which means so are the daily meals many of them rely on as their main — and sometimes only — source of nourishment.
Note the RTD’s emphasis: School breakfast and lunch programs are sometimes the only source of nourishment for American school children. The RTD is asserting, presumably drawing upon the authority of its sources, that some kids in America don’t have access to any food during the summer. Is that not an astonishing statement? If true, is that not an an extraordinary indictment of our social safety net? Continue reading
Governor Ralph Northam vetoed a bill yesterday that would have imposed mandatory minimum sentences on repeat domestic abusers on the grounds that racial minorities would be disproportionately affected.
I nearly headlined this post, “Northam to Domestic Abuse Victims: Drop Dead.” I decided that wouldn’t be quite fair. But I wouldn’t be surprised if many people interpret his action that way.
Thanks to Northam’s veto, Virginia might be “fairer and more equitable” to perpetrators of domestic violence. But will it be “fairer and more equitable” to victims? The data is patchy, but considerable evidence suggests that African-Americans are roughly twice as likely to be victims of domestic violence as whites. One could argue that creating racial “equity” for African-American criminals creates inequity for African-American victims, primarily females. Continue reading
Where are the social justice warriors? SJWs are super sensitive to subtle signs of “institutional racism.” Perhaps they should focus on the widespread incompetence in Virginia’s local foster care systems. For instance: A Virginian-Pilot investigation has found “a pattern of mismanagement, retribution and poor performance” in Norfolk’s foster care program. “Employees say they saw the foster care program go from bad to worse. It started with children languishing in foster care for years, with little done to get them adopted. In more recent years, case workers say they’ve been pressured to get kids off the foster care rolls by any means necessary, even if that sometimes meant putting the children in harm’s way.” Sometimes foster children have been placed in situations where they have been assaulted and sexually molested. These children are disproportionately African-American. Why hasn’t this failed system become a cause celebre of the Left? Could it be that it doesn’t fit The Narrative?
Metro free falling. Ridership on the Washington Metro system continues its steady decline, sinking to fewer than 600,000 average weekday trips for the first since since 2000, according to the Washington Post. Ridership peaked in 2008 at 750,000 weekday trips. The passenger rail system, plagued by safety and maintenance issues, has been engaged in a SafeTrack rebuilding program that may account for some of the loss. But the system suffers chronic problems, such as too few trains, too many service disruptions, and the emergence of ride-hailing alternatives such as Uber and Lyft.
Why so few starter homes? Why are home builders constructing so few starter homes (defined as those selling for $200,000 or less)? Continue reading
Rick Olson, Jay Timmons and children at their McLean home.
A major revision of Virginia’s assisted conception laws has fought its way through to a final vote in the State Senate Monday, pushed by a former Virginia official who has gone public with his unconventional and very 21st century family.
Jay Timmons and his husband Rick Olson faced a major legal battle in Wisconsin a few years back over the surrogacy agreement they had with the mother of their third child. The child was conceived using a frozen embryo from a couple that had used a similar method to build a family of four, didn’t want to use the remaining embryos themselves, but also didn’t want them destroyed. Continue reading
Data source: Virginia Department of Social Services
A few days ago I posted data showing that “Asians” in Virginia are a diverse group whose country of origin include India, Pakistan, China, Vietnam, Korea, the Philippines and many other nations. Some groups are very well-to-do, some middling. But none, regardless of the circumstances of how they arrived here, are poor.
In the past, I have attributed part of the superior educational and income performance of “Asians” to the strong, family-oriented culture of the diverse immigrant groups lumped into that broader racial classification. Recently, while poking around Virginia adoption data, I have uncovered one measure of how Asian family values make life better for children. Continue reading
Source: Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission
As the General Assembly ponders how to reform Virginia’s sometimes-dysfunctional foster care system, I thought it worthwhile to present some data on the stakes involved.
The number of children in the system decreased between 2007 and 2013, then ticked up again in recent years. One reason for the increase, according to the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) report, “Improving Virginia’s Foster Care System,” was the creation of the Fostering Futures program, which raised the age at which children exit foster care from 18 to 21.
At the same time, notes JLARC, Virginia has the lowest rate of foster-care placement of any state in the country. In September 2016, the proportion of children in foster care was 2.6 per 1,000 children. States JLARC: “The precise reasons for Virginia’s low rate are unclear.” Continue reading