As a pastor, I have seen the devastating effect of the opioid epidemic and poverty on children and families firsthand. That’s why I’m pleased that Governor DeWine and the Ohio House, including our Representative Jay Edwards, are supporting initiatives that help struggling moms and dads become better parents while working to improve child care options as well.
To encourage responsible parenting, Governor DeWine proposed a $30 million increase to the Help Me Grow program, which enables nurses and other trained professionals to help young inexperienced parents deal with stressful child rearing situations while working toward their own self-sufficiency. The coaching includes tips on how to “baby-proof” a home and what to expect during pregnancy. It also offers advice on how parents can complete their education, gain job training and employment and become more financially stable. Research proves these voluntary home visiting programs can promote better health for the children, more financial independence for the parents, and more academic success for both generations.
What’s especially important about this coaching is the likelihood that it will help parents respond better to challenging situations that could otherwise lead to child abuse or neglect. The stakes are high — every year, there are roughly 700,000 confirmed cases of abuse or neglect in the United States, including nearly 20,000 in Ohio. While the faith community is doing everything we can to address these issues by providing crucial support to parents and families, I’ll be the first to tell you we can’t do it alone. That’s why many of us are so happy that the House of Representatives passed a budget that includes the governor’s $30 million increase.
The governor and legislature are also working to expand affordable child care options for working parents by increasing funding for child care vouchers. This is another important step for thousands of working parents and a smart move for improving our economy as well since a recent ReadyNation report shows the child care crisis is costing families, employers and taxpayers about $57 billion a year.
Employers lose about $13 billion due to lower productivity and revenues when parents struggle to find child care. Taxpayers lose about $7 billion due to lower GDP based on the economic damage of the child care crisis. Parents fare the worst though, losing about $37 billion based on lost earnings and lower upward mobility because they can’t find dependable child care.
Of course I, and other member of the faith community, would love to see more parents being able to stay at home full-time to fulfill their mission to be “a child’s first teacher,” Unfortunately, this isn’t possible for the vast majority of Ohio’s families, who need two incomes to survive.
All of these measures are important enough on their own, but especially for communities struggling with the decimation of so many families due to parental opioid addiction. That addiction and related struggles are robbing children of parental love and support, leading to abuse and neglect of children, and placing foster care systems and kinship caregivers under more duress.
That struggle reminds me daily that the Bible commands us to “Train up a child in the way they should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6 and to “Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable” Proverbs 31:8
That’s all the more reason to support increased investments in these programs, which will support vulnerable children and families today and strengthen our communities in the years to come.
Adam Will is the Lead Pastor of Mount Hermon United Brethren Church in Pomeroy