I was born in the mid 1970s to a mother who never married, lived life impoverished and died prematurely at the age of 28 from alcohol and drug abuse. I spend way more time than the average person thinking about my upbringing – specifically the conditions that shaped who I am today. I also spend a good deal of time thinking generally about the impact of the policies of my generation and the one that followed.
I used to wonder why in most households in my neighborhood fathers where generally not around. While I believe that some men are absolutely irresponsible and discharge their task for raising their children onto moms and the public, there are some families who are victims to the devastating effects of policies and practices that are not thought about panoramically. In college I learned about a little known (and now defunct) provision in welfare policy that would jeopardize assistance to poor families if a man was living at home. I wonder if people understood the true impact of this policy, even today.
As an adult, I understand that most people, able-bodied or not, will need help at some point or another. The Great Recession reinforced for many of us the precarious nature of life, reminding us that we need each other from time to time. The future of our region is dependent upon nurturing a sense of community and strong families in safer neighborhoods. The future of our region is also dependent upon providing options for people to improve their lives. To do this we need to influence policies, practice and programs. It’s a complicated dance among leaders of many sectors, but we need to dance.