Can't Take Family Out of Policy

Jill Bertelsen
I doubt China knew what kind of effects would come from the one-child policy which allowed many couples to only have one child. They were trying to alleviate some of the economic and environmental problems that they were facing. But in the long run they did not foresee how this would not allow enough children to maintain the jobs or take care of the soon to be elderly. It also created a shortage of women and now lower class men are having a harder time finding women to marry, again decreasing the population. Even though policies have been made to try to remedy this, the damage had already been done.

This example of how often families are left out of policy making process. Karen Bogenschneider author of Family Policy Matters said in her book “Most policymakers would not think of passing a law or enacting a rule without considering its economic or environmental impact, yet family considerations are seldom taken into account in the normal routine of policymaking.”

Another example that she describes is two different mothers who just had a baby. The one in America had great benefits and got to take 2 months of maternity leave and then came back to work with required overtime hours. This was a lot with her husband working two jobs and having 2 little children. Whereas the other mother lived in Australia got 16 weeks of maternity leave where she was forbidden to work. Then she was eligible for a 18 month optional parental leave.

Some of us hear what the mother in Australia experienced and we think, “well that would be nice”. But our culture, our government, is so focused on individuals. Bill Dohetry, Marriage and Family Therapist and author said “Perhaps because of the dominance of individualism in our country, we tend to split the individual from the family, just as we have tended to split the mind from the body.”

Family should not be split from the individual. Children will be better cared for in a family, couples are stronger when they make a commitment of marriage and are a family, elderly are better taken care of when they have the support of their family, and so much more. We have more educated citizens when they were raised in strong families.

What can we do about it? On a more individualized scale we can strengthen our own families so that our communities can see what great families can do. We can become more educated by learning about laws and how they are made, current policy makers (, what currently is going on, and the current statistics on the family. Or on a larger scale we can get involved in our communities, volunteer, go to meetings where policies are made. Explain the perspective of families, show research in which will persuade your community to see how focusing on the family really can make a big difference.

I know that a lot of us did not come from a “cookie cutter” family. Most people only have one parent, or parents that are divorced. In no way am I putting down the way you were raised and your norm. But as a society, we have become passive in defending families. But we now recognize that families are the central unit and base of communities and societies. Intentional and responsible citizens who know what they are talking about and who actively defend the family is what will change communities, nations, and the world. We can do it, together.