Inequality comes in many forms in modern societies. On this blog I’ve written about poverty as a lack of income or wealth; people also lack for jobs, health care, or food, among other things. But the more human care and well-being depend on family-based support and labor, the more we need to think about “having” a family — or the family of one’s choice — as a matter of inequality as well.
I’ve gone through some old posts and added a “no family” tag to a series that focus on absence, loss or denial of family relationships as problems of inequality — for example, the deportation of legally married spouses in homogamous couples, state eugenics programs, and the drug war’s father-removal consequences.
Once you start reading the news with this problem in mind, the stream seems endless. (For example, what about the future marriage consequences of unbalanced sex ratios resulting from sex selective abortions?) To keep up, I need to do a digest post.
No Family Update
Deportation: The first time I wrote about “Who Gets a Family?” was back in my Huffington Post days, in a story about the parents of U.S.-citizen children being deported. At the time I was shocked that, “Over the 10 years up to 2007, the U.S. deported 108,434 adults whose children were U.S. citizens.” Now we learn from the Applied Research Center’s government document investigation that 46,000 such deportations took place in just the first half of this year.
This is a family loss for both the allegedly illegal immigrant parents and their U.S.-citizen children, many of whom end up in foster care. Some people aren’t sorry for the parents, since coming to the U.S. was their risk. Others aren’t sorry for the children, because it’s their parents’ fault rather than the government’s. (Feeling justified in punishing children for the actions of their parents is one perspective on human rights I can’t get behind.) In any event it clearly shows that the birthright citizenship of these children does not include the right to keep their parents here.
Abduction: Two horrific stories of state-sponsored child abduction made the news for this roundup.
In Spain, we are gradually learning that thousands — maybe hundreds of thousands — of children were stolen from their mothers at birth by Catholic nuns and priests in cahoots with the Franco dictatorship, and sold to other families. The BBC has run a series of reports, describing how a program that started out something like American eugenics — except taking away children from socially marginal women rather than sterilizing them — developed into a profit-driven criminal enterprise under the protection of the dictatorship and the cover of Church authority.
In South Dakota, hundreds of American Indian children are removed from their family homes every year and placed in White homes or group homes, in violation of the federal law requiring every effort to place them with native families. A heart-rending NPR series revealed that American Indians are 13% of the state’s children but 53% of the children in foster care. Further, the South Dakota system is using their child removals to gain federal funds and funnel money to home operators with deep connections at the highest levels of state government.
Aberration? Finally, the New York Times has a long story on deaths from neglect (my layperson’s term) in privately operated group homes, where adults with disabilities are cared for at state (and federal) expense. The Times looked into the inexcusable or unexplained deaths of hundreds of residents from choking, drowning, fire and other causes. How does this fit? The group homes in New York, as in other states, are the post-deinstitutionalization system of non-family care for people whose developmental or psychiatric disabilities prevent them from living on their own or with their families — given their economic resources. When the family can’t care, who cares? As this story shows, it’s the state that cares — sort of.
(This one struck close to home for me, since I was once a 19-year-old high school graduate working as a counselor in a group home in New York for adults with developmental disabilities. I dispensed medication, supervised household chores and relationships, cooked and cleaned with the residents, and counseled a little. Sometimes I was the only staffer with eight residents or so, even overnight, and now I’m thinking how glad I am nothing awful happened. I had a few days training, and I was very conscientious, and everyone was fine, but it might not have been.)