Why did a 2-year-old boy fall to his death through a window of his third-floor apartment in Hartford in July?
A long report by the Connecticut Mirror the other day attempted to answer that question. It attributed the boy’s death to “generational poverty” and, more so, to government’s failure to make sure the boy’s mother had everything she needed to raise her five children, all under 13, on her own, since the children’s father or fathers were not providers.
If only, the report lamented, government had given the woman free day care and longer classes about parenting and had applied current housing code standards to the family’s apartment building, which was exempt because of its age.
But the report did not address the most compelling issue as it strove to acquit the woman of the manslaughter and risk-of-injury charges she faces for having left her children unattended in squalor as she went to work as a part-time taxi driver, purportedly expecting the 2-year-old’s father to arrive soon to watch the children. It could not have been surprising that he was fatally late.
That is, how does a woman of limited education and job skills who can’t support herself come to have five children but no husband or committed helpmate in the state that gave rise to the constitutional right to contraception and sometimes seems to consider abortion the highest social good?
One pregnancy may be an accident. Five are not. Five children born to someone unprepared to support them is irresponsibility, though political correctness forbids any such acknowledgment.
But the Mirror report inadvertently hinted at an explanation.
First, the report said, the woman always wanted to be a mother. Of course many people want to be parents, but some still know that parenthood imposes obligations of preparedness.
Second, and perhaps crucially, the report elaborated: “When she was in high school, she moved in with an older man. Her family sent her to Connecticut after graduation to get her away from him, but she had little beyond the clothes on her back when she moved. She lived in a homeless shelter for several months and rang the Salvation Army bell at Christmas to earn money to pay the security deposit for her first apartment. When she got pregnant with her first daughter, she qualified for a housing choice voucher. …
“She paid $469 per month for the apartment, and her housing choice voucher covered the rest of the $1,550 rent.”
Of course in addition to that heavily subsidized housing there would be free medical insurance and food and other benefits. So who needs to be prepared, competent, self-supporting, and responsible and have a committed spouse when government will lavish money on irresponsibility that holds children hostage?
And so the disastrous cycle began again — four more children without a spouse, more dependence on government, more child neglect, mental illness for one of the children, and the horrible death of the 2-year-old boy, following constant problems that prompted frequent visits by social workers from the state Department of Children and Families, on which Connecticut spends more than $800 million each year to minister to thousands of similarly dysfunctional households with similarly neglected children, without ever establishing as a matter of policy that this is no way to live since it imposes a catastrophic burden on both the children held hostage and society.
Few children monitored by DCF fall out of third-story windows, but some die after ingesting narcotics left within their reach, others suffer serious injuries at the hands of their reckless custodians, and many come to school far behind in social development or with learning disabilities and behavioral problems. The $800 million spent annually by DCF is only part of the cost of this lifestyle, a cost that extends to schools, courts, and prisons.
That is, what is called the child-protection system pays for and thus rationalizes, institutionalizes, and encourages child neglect.
While the poor may be demoralized, like everyone else they respond to financial incentives. They are not stupid. But government can be, and journalism doesn’t always make it smarter.
Chris Powell has written about Connecticut government and politics for many years.