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I have once again heard stirrings that some in Iowa City are calling for a so-called “parental responsibility” ordinance. The idea here is that if a minor child is charged with a crime, parent(s) may also be charged.
I think people who support this ought to volunteer to be foster parents. Until they are willing to step up and take that on, they should shut their mouths.
Passage of this type of ordinance would kill foster care. Why would anyone risk prosecution to care for someone else’s child?
I have had more than my share of experience with troubled youth. This is not as simple as ordinance supporters make it sound. Sure, most parents can keep a rambunctious 6-year-old in his room – and 99.99 percent do. But what is that same parent to do when that child grows to be a 16-year-old, 200-pound young man?
I have personally seen dozens of situations where the parent would give almost anything to have the assistance of the police. They want their child to do the right thing; they cannot do much with an out-of-control teen.
We are severely lacking in services for troubled teens. Parents have almost no support. Twenty-five years ago, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) funded services for families in this situation. Not any more. In many cases, the only way a parent can get any help for a child is to hope he gets arrested.
There are already laws in place to punish teens that commit crimes. Why do we need “extra” punishments? Crime isn’t even up in Johnson County; it is down significantly!
Another factor is mental illness. The onset of most types of mental illness tends to take place during the mid to late teens.
These children have done nothing wrong. They are ill. Their parents face a lifelong, daunting challenge to provide for, support, and advocate for their kids. Meanwhile, some smug individual thinks that parent, who has experienced suffering they will never know, should get a fine. Makes me so angry I could scream!
Finally, there are significant civil liberties concerns in play. How can you charge someone with a crime who has done nothing wrong? The ACLU is fighting these ordinances across the country, and having great success. I hope they continue to do so!
Supporters of this type of ordinance have lived in a bubble, and they are lucky that they have been so blessed! A more appropriate response would be a call for more and better services for families in need. Meanwhile, supporters of punishing parents should heed the old adage: There but for the grace of God go I.
Smoke free Iowa
The Iowa Smokefree Air Act turns 10 years old July 1.
Iowa is one of 25 states that have enacted comprehensive smoke-free laws addressing secondhand smoke exposure in workplaces, restaurants and bars.
On the act’s five-year anniversary, a poll by the American Cancer Society Action Network found 82 percent of registered Iowa voters indicated their support of the law banning workplace smoking and said it had made Iowa a better place to live.
“The Smoke Free Air Act was the catalyst for many tobacco-free initiatives,” said Susan Vileta, health educator at Johnson County Public Health. “Iowans are now protected from secondhand smoke not only in the workplace, but also in smoke-free apartments, and in hundreds of parks and outdoor entertainment areas.”
Think minimum wage!
Planning an after-work get-together or beers with friends? Before choosing where to go, consider whether that business supports the Johnson County minimum wage.
Many businesses went out on a limb, and took a stand for low wage workers. If you care about this, reward the businesses that have done the right thing.