Don’t miss The Washington Monthly’s article Taxing the Kindness of Strangers, in which a couple of bleeding-heart, middle-class liberals take in a foster care child—and discover the exhaustion and humiliations of trying to get the services the child needs.
In a way that we never really anticipated, welcoming Sophia into our home led us into the wilderness of red tape and frustration navigated every day by low-income parents who struggle to raise children with the critical help of government programs …
It’s a major bureaucratic process to remove a child from her home and family. The state insures the child, pays for daycare, investigates the claims of abuse, and retains legal custody, but it cannot actually put a baby to bed at night. And so, on the other side of this most intimate public-private partnership are usually people like us, left alone with a stranger’s child and a garbage bag full of clothes and wondering what’s going to happen next. And what happens next depends, to a stomach-churning degree, on the state’s willingness and ability to keep up its half of the bargain.
The beautifully written piece includes a brief history of child social-welfare practices, an examination of the myth that foster parents are doing it for the money, stories about trying to buy food on Women, Infants and Children's (WIC)—a federal child-nutrition program—that keeps them on a tight leash, and a sense of what it means to watch political debates with an intimate fear that they’re about to take away your child’s doctor visits.
The global public-health consensus is clear: Breast milk is the best nutritional choice for infants, boosting immunity and reducing disease. But according to Women’s E-News, “The federal program with arguably the greatest practical influence over the nation's infant-feeding practices—the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC—continues to distribute more than half the infant formula sold in the U.S. each year.” Reporter Molly M. Ginty investigates how the infant formula industry persuades new American mothers in poor communities to use formula, with misleading information, samples, and other discredited tactics—and how the industry outmaneuvers health advocates who’ve been trying to get its claims investigated. As Molly M. Ginty writes:
In the face of the formula industry's sophisticated PR campaign, WIC is facing an uphill battle to instill the practice of six months of breastfeeding among its own participants. Few mothers in WIC are currently achieving that goal….
For women, breastfeeding is considered statistically helpful for everything from weight loss after pregnancy to improved odds of avoiding diabetes, osteoporosis, and breast and ovarian cancers. For infants, breastfeeding is statistically linked to higher IQs and improved defenses against asthma, ear infections, diarrhea, diabetes, obesity and respiratory problems.
Exclusive use of formula, meanwhile, was associated in independent studies in the 1990s and 2000s with asthma, allergies, diabetes, obesity, skin rashes and ear and respiratory tract infections.