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Betty Freauf
March 23, 2003

One of the hallmarks of a dictatorship is that its laws are deliberately vague. A dictator wants vague laws, in order to make obedience difficult so that he may call you guilty whenever he likes. Loose language gives bureaucrats and the courts near-free reign over determining what certain legislation may mean even if the original intent by the legislators is being misrepresented.

If you don't believe me, April 15th is the deadline for filing your income tax. Call the I.R.S. on two different days and ask two different officials to interpret a portion of the I.R.S. code and you will likely get two conflicting answers and yet they say "ignorance of the law is no excuse" and the taxpayers will eventually be held responsible if an audit turns up some problem.

The reporting statutes on child abuse have been written broadly to encourage reporting to the child abuse hotline so that the social workers can "stick their foot in the door", as one social worker described it, and offer help before the abuse gets too severe. Couple child abuse definitions and guidelines along with the financial incentives and we have a hysterical frenzy of greed.

Language used in the presentation of new programs may be unintelligible but no one wants to publicly admit they don't understand it so those who may see underlying dangers say nothing for fear of losing their jobs.

Right now many constitutionalists are concerned about President's Bush's definition of "terrorist." Who will constitute a terrorist?

Today's reformers shun clear definitions deliberately. Ambiguous promises do far more to persuade public opinion, subdue the opposition and create consensus.

Now, having said all of the above, let's go to the RISK FACTOR DEFINITIONS from the Parents as Teachers (PAT) Planning and Implementation Guide. While this information comes from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from about 1990, other states such as Colorado also have similar definitions.

1. Illness or handicapping conditions at birth.

This category includes conditions present within three days of the birth -- prematurity, birth weight under five pounds, emergency delivery, birth trauma, prolonged hospital stay for baby, etc.

2. Signs of failure to thrive.

This can include such signs as low weight gain, slow growth in length or head circumference, poor appetite, frequent illness.

3. Delay in any area of development detected through observation and/or screening.

Include information gained through the informal screening the parent educator does on every visit. (Many states are requiring home visits after the baby is born to gather information) We are not requiring the formal screening tools to be the sole backup for this category. The parent educator should use her expertise in child development to determine if a child should be watched more closely.

4. Inability of parent to cope with inappropriate child behavior (e.g. severe biting, destructive behavior, apathy)

This is really a discipline issue, and will become apparent more after the child enters Phase VI. Does the parent seem to have to "punish" the child, rather than "teach" the child. Is spanking the only method used? Is the parent unable to set consistent limits? This issue can go to either extreme.

5. Low functioning parent (due to limited ability or illness)

Is the parent too ill, too heavy, too tired, or too depressed to get up and regularly deal effectively with the child? Does the parent seem to have low-level intelligence or be mentally retarded? Does the parent appear to abuse alcohol or drugs? Is the parent handicapped? Is the parent injured?

6. Inability of parent to relate to or connect with child

Does the parent usually ignore the child? Does the parent fail to give the child affection and exhibit a caring attitude? This also includes the parent who is not able to understand baby's cues and/or have an effective parent-child relationship.

7. Overindulgence, undue spoiling on part of parent.

Has the child learned to expect immediate gratification? Does the parent give in to temper tantrums? Does the child always get his way? Does the child "rule the roost" (in control of the household?)

And all this information is being fed into a computer as gathered by and interpreted by a second party who may have dropped her six-month old baby off at day care for someone else to raise. There is one "code" missing? Under PAT guidelines, all children are considered "at risk." There is no code for normal.

Oregon's Agenda For The 1990's: Children, Youth and Families "College educated mothers will 'realize' that children belong in day care by the time they are six months old."

2003 - Betty Freauf - All Rights Reserved 

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Betty is a former Oregon Republican Party activist having served as state party secretary, county chairman, 5th congressional vice chairman and then elected chairman, a precinct worker for many years and twice ran unsuccessfully for the Oregon State Legislature. The Republican tradition is to stay neutral in Primary races but in Betty's case. They supported her opponent. E-Mail: [email protected]