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Wisconsin Law Makes Single or NonMarital Parenthood an Official Cause of Child Abuse and Neglect

Every time I turn on the news or look on a news site I see more and more laws that make me roll my eyes, laugh, gasp or a sad combination therein. It seems that government has decided to insert itself into our lives in as many ways as possible, which is only a little funny since the majority of these laws are from small government touting republicans, but that’s a conversation for another day. But Wisconsin takes the award for the most entirely offensive new law of the week, and this week, that’s saying kind of a lot.

The bill, Senate Bill 507, determines, in no uncertain terms, that nonmarital parenthood is a “contributing factor” to child abuse and neglect.

I just can’t even.

The wording of the law is extremely clear.

“Promote statewide educational and public awareness campaigns and materials for the purpose of developing public awareness of the problems of child abuse and neglect. In promoting those campaigns and materials, the board shall emphasize nonmarital parenthood as a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect.”

Nonmarital parenthood includes single parents and apparently two parent households where the parents are not married. Now, this law doesn’t say that being a single parent with a history of violence is a contributing factor to child abuse and neglect. It doesn’t say that a single parent or non-married couple living in a car is a contributing factor to child abuse or neglect. It simply says that because you are a single parent, no matter how capable, loving or safe, or if you and your significant other are not married, you are more likely to abuse or neglect your child.

Did your head just explode? Because mine did.

My parents divorced when I was 11. My mother raised my sister and I largely alone (my father hard shared custody, but he remarried within a few years, so when we were with him, we were blessedly safe, apparently) and I would never, for even a moment, say that we were at an increased risk for child abuse or neglect any more than we were when she and my father were married.

And what about widows? If your spouse dies, you’re automatically more likely to harm your child? Or people in long-term committed relationships who choose not to marry? Not having a ring on your finger makes you more likely to neglect a baby? I just cannot even begin to understand how the writer of this law, Senator Glenn Grothman, thinks that this law is anything but completely appalling.

Good parenting cannot be determined simply by how many adults reside in a house or by whether or not a parent dons a wedding ring and has signed a piece of paper. There are plenty of terrible married parents, and some of the best moms I’ve ever known have raised their kids alone. It’s time we drop these stereotypes and it’s time we educate our elected officials so that we don’t have to read about anymore offensive, absurd wastes of taxpayer money.

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