Thursday, December 8, 2016

A student’s editorial in favor of Senate Bill 100 to end the School to Prison Pipeline in Illinois

Senate Bill 100

I have a friend was was a teacher in an alternative school in Peoria; she has since moved on.  She commented to me how kids coming to her school were so damaged and in a sense, many kids are just thrown away for different reasons.  She said it is so sad; the kids just need a chance to learn. They need that attention that they are not getting at home.  So, they act out and end up there, in her class.   

High schools have jumped on the bandwagon of zero tolerance when disciplining students; that way they don't disrupt the "good" kids.  The chance of African American kids being suspended or expelled is much higher. During the 2012-2013 school years, Chicago Schools suspended 32 of every 100 black students, compared to just 5 of every 100 white students.  These kids are then funneled through alternative schools, juvenile justice systems, then finally prison. This has got to stop!  This is known as the School to Prison Pipeline. 

Senate Bill 100 would eliminate the zero tolerance suspension and expulsion rules that are already set in place by the majority of schools.  Senate Bill 100 requires all public funded schools to only suspend and expel students as a last resort when coming across student discipline issues.  Therefore, requiring all schools to exhaust all means of intervention before expelling or suspending for more than three days.  The bill also prohibits fines and fees for misbehavior, and required schools to communicate with parents about why certain disciplinary measures are being used.  

Teaching is not easy; we do expect a lot of our teachers and very little from parents.  It is ridiculous to think that we have lost common sense when disciplining kids today. Why would bringing nail clippers or a wearing a  hair style that is distracting merit a high school student to be suspended? Or why do high schools feel the need the  bring in outside law enforcement to handle trivial issues?   The student now has a record before they are even out of high school!  This bill is long time coming and very much needed.  The cost of Senate Bill 100 in the short term, would be the cost of extra tutors, more qualified teachers, and special education services.  The long significant savings  of this bill, would amount to hundreds of millions when these kids do not end up in our judicial systems.

A key point in the justice argument is that the misbehavior of African-American students is neither quantitatively nor qualitatively worse than the behavior of other children (after adjusting for material deprivation and a few other things that contribute to negative behavior), and yet, when we control for those factors that explain negative behavior including income, the higher rate of discipline remains spectacularly high.  A counter argument you can anticipate is that "African-American students behave more badly more often, and that is why they are suspended and expelled more often" and you can anticipate that point and address it by showing the disparities in expulsion and suspension in Illinois schools was not in line with the differences in disciplinary problems.   

Legalizing Cannabis: An Incendiary Topic

An editorial written by a student... a creative student.

First, I would like to preface this article with the fact I do not engage in recreational drug use. I refrain from engaging in such activity for personal reasons and, quite honestly, have never felt the desire to pick up such a habit. I understand the moral reasons why some people refrain from casual cannabis use and also the health benefits that some cannabis users claim justify their use. While radical conservatives –even Democrats—may balk at the moral fabric of our society becoming compromised if marijuana is legalized for recreational use, many fail to recognize the economic benefits legalizing marijuana could produce; this is my focus and position for believing marijuana should be legalized.
 As Illinois lawmakers and officials march forward waving figurative signs of protest backing their respective causes, our state flops around like a fish out of water, on the brink of total economic chaos. Proposed budgets ooze with either too many Lucky Charms marshmallows or not enough enough cereal in the bowl to prevent starvation, and the population sits precariously on the edge of their seats waiting for the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters to begin his famous walk through the cities eating everyone’s pensions and entitlements for dinner. Instead of opening dusty doors with potential gold nuggets sitting on the other side, our state legislature continues to staple bright yellow caution tape over them to see if everyone will just ignore the doors and move on to something easier to open like boxes of municipal bonds. The problem is that we can all see the rectangular shape of the doors under the layers of bright yellow nonsensical caution tape. We see state after state legalizing recreational marijuana and joining the increasing number of fiscally responsible governments that care about opening the doors instead of finding every possible way to keep them locked. 
Illinois legalized medical marijuana several years ago, and then completely destroyed the financial opportunity by regulating the manufacturers as if they were opening proxy headquarters for the NSA or CIA. How can a viable business break out when the red tape is wrapped around its potential, like titanium shackles? Does each medical marijuana plant in the facility really need to be monitored, tracked and witnessed through Illinois State Police spy cam feeds? Why do we throw away the potential tax windfall from this billion-dollar industry when we are Kung Fu fighting over crumbs? It is unbelievable to think that our elected officials would rather whine and moan about how to fund various programs, while the American Civil Liberties Union estimates that it costs America over $3,600,000,000 to enforce marijuana laws at the local level (Poindexter, 2014).  Law enforcement officers could be spending their time and our tax dollars on more pressing and serious issues, than making it a point to bust “tokers.”  However, Illinois’ recent decriminalization of small time marijuana users will undoubtedly ease the burden on our state’s economic back by  trying to suck money out of the pot smokers instead of spending debt based money to incarcerate them, yet it is just a token of what could be earned from the honest taxation of a fully functioning reefer market. 
How much could Illinois gain, financially, from legalization? We need to look at the experience of other states that have legalized.  Colorado has only had a working recreational marijuana industry for a few years and they are already puffing on an additional $135,000,000 in tax revenue from the almost $1,000,000,000 fledgling industry (Poindexter, 2014). There isn’t any way the United States will ever eradicate recreational marijuana smoking, so why not allow it and tax the puffers? As the residents of Illinois watch their sales taxes, property taxes and medical insurance premiums continue to fatten like a pet wooly mammoth, can there be any wonder why ever higher percentages of the population want to see this prohibition go up in smoke? Every day we read of folks in more enlightened states discovering an increasing number of new uses for the plant, but our ridiculous, overbearing legislative parents maintain the myth of the diabolical gateway drug. 
Marijuana has been proven to be less addictive and much less harmful to the human body than both alcohol and tobacco, yet the cloudy gateway drug argument is continuously used as a rickety old platform from which to stand on by rickety old control freaks who never seem to understand when they have outlived their usefulness in the state legislative body. On the contrary, cannabis has been proven to have legitimate medical benefits, so why require individuals to jump through hoops in order to smoke it legally, when they can purchase without a doctor’s order and use at leisure to alleviate physical discomfort? Cannabis has been shown to reduce discomfort associated with AIDS, chemotherapy, general pain, and glaucoma. Cannabis has also been shown to provide relief from spasms that result from multiple sclerosis and Crohn’s disease (Poindexter, 2014). 
Illinois taxpayers want to see freedom ring and watch as this budding industry provides another much-needed income source that does not involve the forced theft of a greater percentage of their hard-earned paychecks. 


Poindexter, O. (2014) Available at: says-end-marijuana-prohibition

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Student reaction paper about Workers Compensation

Workers Compensation (A reaction essay)

I choose to talk about workers compensation. According to the social welfare history project at Virginia Commonwealth University, workers compensation is the third biggest social insurance program in U.S. It started in the 1900s (in the Progressive Era). While in the work force I have learned a lot more about this program then I would have learned if it wasn’t offered by my employer. It does not help some workers in areas like farming. With Workers Compensation, the state covers someone who is injured on the job or in a work place. It also covers the family if the person passes way from an injury on the job. In each job situation there should be information for the worker to know how they can get Workers Compensation benefits if needed. At my workplace there are many flyers in the teachers' workroom on workers compensation. These flyers explain things like where employees can get the benefits and who gets affected when the money is taken out for insured workers.  

From working in the school system I have learned that the more money that goes to injured or disabled persons through workers compensation, the more money is taken away from the education system. I feel like some stuff does need to be taken care of by the job if they are responsible. On the other hand I do believe some people abuse the idea and system so that money doesn’t get to go to a better cause. There are many people out there willing to help people who believe they have been hurt on the job due to some kind of unsafe condition. According to the Illinois workers compensation commission once there is a case to deal with it will appear in court for a trial to see if the employer is really at fault. They also stated that in most of the cases there is a settlement from the company to end it all. I have seen this happen and some times the settlement is not always the best bet. For example instead of going after money they just say they can’t be fired. The workers compensation would almost seem better to pay a little money or the amount the judge says to pay. 

Some things I think they could change would be where the money comes from when a worker gets hurt. I know my dad has to have insurance just for if someone gets hurt. It hurts the owner if someone gets hurt and the problem had nothing to do with them. I think if they get hurt and it was something like tripping over there own feet or something feel on the floor that isn’t their fault. The wet floor with no sign or loosing an arm or leg that I understand. The other stuff I just think the money should come from somewhere else.

Could a fast-track to citizenship for undocumented workers help sustain Social Security?

Social Security 

For my second reaction paper, I decided to give more thought to Social Security and ways to replenish the trust fund we are currently pulling funds from. As it is, the social security payroll (FICA) tax is not currently drawing in enough money to cover the payments being made every month to those receiving old-age, survivors’, and disability benefits. Of the items discussed in class to increase funding, we considered a small tax increase immediately, a larger tax increase later, or removing the cap on taxes collected on incomes over $118,500 (, 2016). There was also mention of the increase in revenue possible if current undocumented immigrants were allowed a stream-lined process to citizenship, making their incomes taxable. 

After reading a few articles from various sources, I found many economists and politicians agree that allowing undocumented workers to become legal citizens will only further strengthen our economy and Social Security. An article from The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare (n.d.), states the Congressional Budget Office believes allowing the 11 billion undocumented workers currently in the United States to become legalized citizens could increase economic growth by 1.3%. The article also cites Social Security trustees as claiming legalizing 100,000 workers would improve the Social Security Trust Fund deficit and quotes Edward Alden, from the Council on Foreign Relations, as saying undocumented workers are currently holding low-wage jobs and giving them a legal status will increase their confidence to look for higher earning employment, thereby contributing more in taxes (, n.d). 

But there are people who believe the benefits of higher tax revenues on these workers will be short lived due to the increased number of people who are eligible for benefits later. With this in mind, I searched for a good source on the ages of undocumented workers and found a report from the Department of Homeland Security (2013) showing in the year 2012, 61% of these workers are between the ages of 25-44. This is a high percentage of workers who would have at least 20 years to contribute towards Social Security before receiving benefits if they were legalized. 
I find this information interesting and useful as an additional source to replenish the Social Security Trust Fund. While there are those that support a stream-lined immigration process for both economic and humanistic reasons, there is definite opposition to the idea based on national security concerns. It is an area, I believe, which needs more consideration and scrutinizing to find if it is a valid source of revenue. 

Good essay.  I will point out a couple minor details that do not have bearing on your conclusions. 

 First, I have read that the estimate of 11 million undocumented non-citizen residents in the United States dates back to before the Great Recession (from an estimate made in 2005 or 2006), and that the population may now be much smaller, although the latest Pew Research Center report I could find (from November 3, 2016) suggests 11.1 million is the most accurate current figure. A Census Bureau study discussed in the Atlantic in January of this year reported 10.9 million undocumented residents in 2014. So, my point is that your estimate of 11 million is probably quite accurate, and the higher number that existed here before the Great Recession was about 12-13 million.

Secondly, among the objections to legalizing persons who are here without proper permission and documentation there are many plausible reasons.  Some I'm sympathetic to, and others I reject, although I have not made up my mind and remain neutral on some of these immigration policy disputes.  On one extreme are people who worry that the character of the United States will be changed if too many “non-European” immigrants are allowed in.  Of course, the Hispanics of Latin America (including Mexico) are a mix of indigenous native Americans and Europeans, so not only is this sort of objection stupid (for suggesting that culture exists in blood, or that national character is inherited with genes), it is also ill-informed (since most immigrants are coming from persons with Native-American and European genetic stock, making it ridiculous to call them alien or non-European, since they are neither). On the extreme that I am sympathetic to are the arguments that our population in the USA is too large, given our carbon footprint, and bringing more immigrants here to help us continue to maintain a growing population will harm the planet, and therefore we ought to diminish immigration (but not necessarily eliminate it—I personally would cut it by 40% or so), and we could start by having undocumented American residents return to their nations of origin and apply to return here, giving them favorable consideration if a certain number of American citizens support their immigration applications with testimonials about how these persons have contributed to American society while living here as undocumented residents, but denying them readmission as immigrants if they could not establish that they had contributed to community life and integrated into American society.  Another argument is that even if legalization made sense economically, there are issues of justice here, since many foreign persons would love to come to America, and they are following the rules and applying for permission through the official channels.  Giving amnesty or creating policies to help undocumented residents become citizens quickly allows some people to get away with essentially jumping to the front of the line without waiting their turn.  That makes sense to me, but of course there is a counter-argument based on humanitarian grounds that many of these persons have lived her a long time and established themselves in their communities.  I personally know several undocumented American residents (mostly from Mexico and China) who stand as significant persons in their communities, having lived here for more than a decade (or for a few decades in one case) and naturally I would want these friends to be well-treated by any new immigration policy.

All in all, the idea that allowing a mass immigration of young working-aged immigrants to join our society as Americans and then collect from them sufficient payroll taxes to keep Social Security and Medicare going without increasing FICA taxes does have its appeals.  In fact, I can remember in 1993 making exactly this same argument to Martha Ozawa in a policy course... suggesting that America could always increase payroll taxes by allowing more young immigrants to come here so we did not end up with an inverted population pyramid of many elderly citizens and few working-aged citizens to support them.  Dr. Ozawa thought it was a very intriguing idea, but suggested it was unlikely because Americans would be too anti-immigrant.  And, here we are about 23 years later, and you are making the same point I suggested, and my thought is sympathetic, but I retain some of the same skepticism that Dr. Ozawa showed me.  

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Even Foster Care can harm children

Removing children from families can also cause harm

This is a student reaction paper about the issues around removing children from families and putting them into foster care.

In the assigned reading for class I came across the article Foster Care vs. Family Preservation: The Track Record on Safety and Well-being. This article argues that family preservation is based upon one overriding assumption: If you remove a child from the home, the child will be safe. If you leave a child at home, the child is at risk. The risk can go both ways, for instance real family preservation programs have a better record for safety than foster care. Studies have shown that children left in their own homes typically do better than comparably-maltreated children placed in foster care. According to the article, a study of reported abuse in Baltimore, found the rate of "substantiated" cases of sexual abuse in foster care more than four times higher than the rate in the general population.  Using the same methodology, an Indiana study found three times more physical abuse and twice the rate of sexual abuse in foster homes than in the general population.  Studies were found that In group homes there was more than ten times the rate of physical abuse and more than 28 times the rate of sexual abuse as in the general population, in part because so many children in the homes abused each other.

Thomas Morton argues in his article “Foster care vs. Family Preservation” is the wrong debate because neither foster care nor family preservations is absolute in its safety outcomes.  The purpose of having child welfare is to ensure physical protection and emotional security for all children.  Emotional security is compromised when children are being neglected or abused. However, removing children from a home where they are neglected or abused so the child can be safe can also cause damage by the trauma experienced when the child is removed from their caregiver and placed into foster care. When a child is removed from their home, away from their primary caregiver and placed into foster care, this violates the basic trust existing in child’s life.  These occurrences can affect the child’s overall performance in life. 

For more information visit, 

I just want to point out that while foster care situations (or even adoptive situations, for that matter) are riskier than family situations in the general population, the comparison group here is not the general population.  The comparison group here is families where a child protective worker was so concerned about the situation that they decided to remove a child from the household to protect the child from harm.  What is the risk of abuse or neglect or harm to a child in the sample of homes where a social worker decided that removing a child was necessary because of the risks to that child of staying in the household?  I have strong feeling that the risk of abuse in such households is probably more than 28 times higher than it is in the general population, and far, far greater than it is in the foster care family households or adoptive households.  
Yes, abuse and neglect can happen, and sometimes do happen, in foster care families.  But, such abuse and neglect also happen in some very small fraction of biological families or families of origin.  In that small fraction of "natural" homes where abuse takes place, the risk of further abuse or continuing abuse is very high, and much higher than the risk in foster care.
The contribution of this article is to make us remember that the very act of removing a child from a dangerous home is likely to harm that child.  Chemotherapy harms cancer patients; it may save them, or it may not, but it may also kill them, and it's always dangerous.  Removing children from their families is like that.  Even a vaccination is obviously good, in the general sense, but every one and a while someone who is vaccinated will have an allergic reaction to the vaccine, and some people will even die from vaccines.  But, for most of us, the vaccines protect us, and create a society that is protected from diseases that will do more harm, in total, than vaccines will.  Is the child protection method of removing children from homes going to be disastrous and wrong every once and a while?  Yes.  There will certainly be cases, hopefully very few and isolated cases, where children will be wrongly removed from fairly good homes, where the child protection worker will be making a bad decision, because there will be no real risk to the children, and the natural family is loving and good, but still, sometimes child protection workers will make mistakes, and in one of these cases where the child is wrongly removed from a family, the child will end up in a placement where the child will be abused. That is the nature of the system.  What is the solution?  Maybe the solution is to have interventions where teams of people move in and live with the family around the clock so the parents and children are never alone together, thus preventing any abuse, and the teams of people who have entered the household can ensure that the child is never neglected.  That would stop the harm of removing the children from bad placements, and it would stop the harm of the abuses that some children suffer while in foster-care or group homes.  Is it plausible?  Is it feasible?  Maybe it should be, but there is no state where this sort of solution has been proposed, as far as I can tell.  Far more often when I have heard people say is "some people don't really deserve to have children."  I think most people would just rather remove children from families than spend $150,000 per year to have a team of social workers and child care workers intervening in the household and preventing the parents from harming their children.  That is not where our priorities as a society are placed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Stigma of the Homeless

Stigma of the Homeless

[This is a student's reaction paper on the topic of housing, homelessness, the stigma surrounding the homeless, and the need for homeless persons to have use of a permanent street address (not a post office box) for mail while trying to get out of a homeless situation] 

Homelessness in the United States and in other countries has been an issue for many generations. The term homeless is defined as being without a permanent dwelling or living space. There is not a definite cause for a person becoming or remaining homeless, but instead a series of causative factors. Poverty is one of the major causes for homelessness, whether it's from a lack of employment or being underemployed. Another major cause of homelessness lies with the individual having a mental or psychiatric disorder where mental health services are difficult to access or are unavailable. However, once a person becomes homeless due to an unfortunate circumstance they often times turn to alcohol or other drugs (AOD) to cope. When he/she become addicted to AOD it becomes harder to obtain adequate resources to alleviate being homeless and continue to remain addicted. The issue remains a vicious cycle of deviant behavior of one form or another.

Unfortunately, the stigma of addiction is almost always connected to homeless persons as is a connection to mental instability. A society which places a stigma on such individuals only adds to their revolving problems. Local governments within the United States have, over time, enacted laws in an attempt to alleviate vagrancy amongst those who are homeless; like prohibiting sleeping/camping, eating, sitting, and begging in public spaces. The laws were meant to ensure public safety, yet are often used to coral the homeless, adding further stigma. When a person finds themselves impoverished it becomes harder for him/her to attain affordable housing or even affordable healthcare. Often times, the individual will enter a state of depression due to lack of available resources. There are federal programs designed to help end homelessness, yet there is still a large number of individuals and families without adequate housing or shelter.

There are many community organizations and social movements in the United States working together to find solutions to reduce homelessness. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in connection with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are the key federal organizations which attribute to a significant decrease of homeless persons. They have sought to counteract the causes and reduce the consequences by starting initiatives that help homeless people to transition to self-sufficiency. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness (2015);   
"On a single night in January 2014, 578,424 people were experiencing homelessness—meaning they were sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. From 2013 to 2014, a period of ongoing recovery from the Great Recession, overall homelessness decreased by 2.3 percent and homelessness decreased among every major subpopulation: unsheltered persons (10 percent), families (2.7 percent), chronically homeless individuals (2.5 percent), and veterans (10.5 percent)" 
(NAEH, p. 3).

Overall there have been great strides to alleviate the issue of homelessness, yet there is still a large number of individuals without shelter. Often times, the main issue revolves around program funding and available locations for housing. One solution by policy makers was to establish shelters meant to aid the homeless and some laws put in place to prevent impoverished persons from losing their home or obtaining one at their rate of income. Section 8 housing vouchers are utilized to assist persons in poverty with government subsidies to assist in paying for rent or housing, but are often time consuming and difficult to obtain. There are certain rules and requirements in place to warrant honesty and necessity amongst the many applicants. The hope, with government aid, is to rid society of the status of homelessness.

Currently, it is harder to find adequate shelter or available beds for the homeless. Most places that are established as shelters also have rules in place to prevent vagrancy and crime. Often times, men are turned away from many shelters due to the establishment only allowing women and children (under a set age). If these turned away individuals are without assistance from the government, where do they go? This slowly precipitates into incarceration, which is a success to some homeless persons seeking shelter.

The solution should be to educate and attempt to establish employment in succession with providing temporary shelter and/or medical care if needed. Almost no employers will legally hire a homeless person without a reoccurring address. The law is in place to prevent fraud and ensure proper taxation amongst the workforce. Policy makers may need to look past the current status of homelessness and look inward as to why.

Having a mailing address allows the person to receive mail and even the ability to maintain proper identification cards like a state I.D. and Social Security card. Employers also require proper identification to ensure citizenship and to prevent personnel fraud. Allowing government or church shelters the ability to provide a legal mailing address would ensure a greater chance of finding employment. The individual's quality of life may improve once employment is obtained, and with the end result being finding an adequate home or shelter. The policy should also include job training/education, along with supplying the address, to ensure the person is able and willing to work effectively.

The Federal government has many, many programs for promoting affordable housing, community development, and ending homelessness.  But, they are all relatively small (well, housing choice vouchers and public housing programs aren't really all that small: about 2.2 million persons live in public housing or public tribal housing, and over 5 million persons live in housing where housing choice vouchers (Section 8) are used.  But, there are no mandatory programs that deliver affordable housing. As your reaction paper shows, there are insufficient spaces (beds) in shelters for those who are homeless.  And, an emphasis on temporary housing in shelters or transitional housing is an inferior second-choice policy option to an emphasis on providing immediate permanent housing solutions.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sundown Towns in brief.

Sundown Towns

Today in Illinois, there is estimated to be at least 500 sundown towns.  I have always heard that my home town of Pekin was one, but really never knew the history, until now. I mean, we did have the Pekin Chinks [the name of the school team was “chinks” rather than “railsplitters” or “trojans” or “tornadoes” or something like that]; nothing weird about that.  I did have one black girl in my graduating class; that’s about right; isn't it?  Even today, our football team does not play Peoria teams because of the racism involved; only white teams for us!
A sundown town is any organized town or jurisdiction that keeps African Americans or other minorities out;  or keeps towns all white, on purpose.   Many times it was done by force, such as chasing or harassing minorities out of town, and sometimes it would be done informally.  African Americans just knew not to come to Pekin.  Before 1968, my town would have signs at the entrance that stated:  N* Don't Let the Sun Go down on you in Pekin.  I have always heard the police would run blacks out of town if they were found; but, I have never seen this happen, this was just common knowledge.   As of 1968, the federal government passed the Civil Rights Act; commonly referred to as the “Fair Housing Act”. The action of keeping blacks out of communities went underground after that.  Sundown Towns had to take their signs down, and harass minorities informally.  
I thought this was interesting; in 1940, Victor Green wrote the “Negro Motorist Green Book.”  Victor Green was a travel agent in 1940.  He wrote a guide book that gave Blacks a way to avoid Sundown Towns when they traveled; which included hotels, taverns, garages, night-clubs, restaurants, and service-stations where Black readers of the guide would be warned of hostility and danger or assured a welcome in safety.
Sundown Towns varied in size, from very tiny Ava, IL which has 662 people to Arlington Heights, IL with has 76,000 people.    

Many communities remain all white today; whether blacks can live at ease and comfortable within them, I feel, that I remain doubtful.    

I am glad you have addressed this topic, and being from Pekin, a notorious sundown town, it is especially gratifying to know that you investigated James Loewen's website and/or book on the topic.  My own experience with this was one that involved my exposure to racism in housing and culture in stages.  As a young child growing up in a very progressive family in southern California, I did not notice racism, and had very little understanding of it.  As a child growing up in Indianapolis, I was not yet in a place that had quite the history of racial discrimination, although I remember my parents marking with scorn that the Elks Club near our neighborhood was a prejudiced place that would not allow African-Americans to join (this was in the 1970s).  By the time I was in middle school, I was exposed to several some very progressive teachers (Jack Monninger and Fred Farrell stand out in my memory) who taught things that were not in textbooks (about a Ku Klux Klan governor in Indiana, or the discrimination against veterans who were African-American or Hispanic).  Then, when I moved to Saint Louis in 1982 as a 14-year-old, I encountered the strange southern legacy... Missouri had been a slave state, and it seemed very different from Indiana.  I remember once riding on a greyhound bus from Indianapolis to Saint Louis, how the (African-American) woman next to me explained to me that when she had been a girl and her family rode the bus to Saint Louis, the rule had been that all the African-American passengers had to move to the back of the bus when they crossed the Mississippi and entered Missouri.  In Saint Louis I met classmates and adults who possessed quaint notions of virulent race hatred and base racism of the worst kind.  African-American friends and a Native American friend told me about towns in Missouri that were "no go" places for them.  A Jewish friend mentioned how her family had been essentially chased out of Sullivan, Missouri.  I remember getting physically ill when exposed to some of these overtly racist persons who seemed obsessed with their prejudices against a whole class of people.  But this was all over 30 years ago.  I really do wonder what has changed in the attitudes of some of these people, if anything.  

Of course, now as an adult I know more about how to address prejudice and racism when it is exhibited around me.  And, having lived as a racial minority (among Africans in Kenya; among East Asians in Taiwan and China), I have a better sense of what it is like to be a minority, although I can't experience being a member of an historically oppressed minority unless I try to go live in Iran and flaunt my religious identity there. Still, I must admit, the struggle to end racism and deconstruct prejudices has not been the main cause in my life.  I care about it, and have been involved to some degree, but it is a more difficult challenge than, for example, trying to end the deprivation of poverty.  I continue to believe that the main way to reduce prejudices is to increase cooperative contact across races, getting people with different backgrounds to work together for common goals, so that natural friendships and alliances build from that.  Then, I expect natural friendships to develop, and from that, prejudice to be reduced.  I've had some interest in the intellectual movements against prejudices, including the post-modernists, the feminists, the LGBTQ social critics, the political radicals, the leftist or anarchist counter-cultures, and some of the more progressive religious movements (I would count mainstream Western Islam here as one of those). The recent rhetoric after the election of Trump has not surprised me, and I'm sort of glad to see more of the hidden things come out into the light of day where we can see how people really feel.  There have been some problems in the grand strategies and rhetoric and thought processes used by intellectuals in the struggle against prejudices, and I hope that the era we now enter will see more of the anti-racist work take a more practical and applied direction.  We shall see.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

A reaction to Oregon's Death with Dignity Act

Here is a student's reaction paper about a law that allows terminally ill people to commit suicide when they are facing a long and painful death.
Oregon's Death with Dignity Act
In October of 1997, Oregon passed the Death with Dignity Act (Oregon Health Authority, 2016). This legalizes assisted suicide for terminally ill residents in Oregon. Terminally Ill residents are prescribed lethal medications by a physician, which will be self-administered (CGA, 2002). In order to begin this process, they must first meet the following requirements: Must be a Resident of Oregon, be 18 or older, capable and able to make health care decisions, diagnosed with a terminal illness that will lead to death within six months (CGA, 2002). After meeting these requirements, the individual must meet the following requirements to obtain a prescription for the lethal drug: Must orally make two requests to the physician (each request must be 15 days apart), Must make written request, with two witnesses present, to the physician; the diagnosis, prognosis, and patient's capability must be confirmed; patient must be informed or alternatives; and the physician must request that the patient notify his next of kin of this request (CGA, 2002). 
This is a beneficial law because it allows the terminally ill to die with dignity. It allows them to make the choice of living through something very painful or ending their lives. I fully support this and wish that it was legal everywhere. Each person should be able to make this decision for themselves. They should not be forced to live through such a painful end of their life if they do not wish to. Terminally ill patients are usually facing a lot of pain, costly medical bills, and dependency on others. Instead of waiting for their lives to painfully end, they should be able to avoid it and end it when they wish to. 
Though I believe that this should be legal, I understand that there are a lot of ethical issues surrounding this topic. Some people believe that death should be natural and that there might be a possibility of the patient recovering. Though this might be true, each person should be able to decide this for themselves. No one should be forced to suffer through this pain because someone else is sensitive to the topic. They are not the ones that have to endure the pain or the other negative effects of a terminal illness.


I will point out a few things about this.
For some chronic illnesses that kill very slowly, such as Alzheimer's Disease, this won't quite allow suicide, because in those cases a person will lose the ability to make health care decisions more than six months before death is likely to occur.  Also, there are sudden quick declines (for example, with strokes) where the 15 days between requests will exceed the time it takes to die (it might take a week or two).  But, for persons with late-stage cancer, or persons with organs failing or a degenerative disease that is destroying their body, but not their mind, this sort of option can reduce suffering.
I wonder about the terms "murder" and "suicide" in relation to persons who are near death.  If a person is in horrible agony, and will die in a matter of minutes, hours, or perhaps days, and someone kills that person out of mercy, it doesn't seem like murder to me.  Likewise, if someone will be dying soon, and will suffer unimaginable torment in the final weeks or months of that dying process, this sort of self-killing doesn't seem the same as a suicide. 
In 2015, only 132 persons used this act to end their lives (See the annual report in PDF).  That is a substantial number, but not really a very large number. There were, in total, 32.737 deaths in all of Oregon in 2015, and  761 suicides (see the report here).  If those death with dignity deaths are classified as suicides, that's 132 of 761. Nearly one-out-of-six suicides in the state that year.  But, I'm not satisfied with classifying these as suicides.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Adoption and Safe Family Act of 1997

Here is a student paper about the Adoption and Safe Family Act.

The Adoption and Safe Families Act was signed on November 19, 1997. This law says that the health and safety of children should be the main concern of adoption agencies. They should also focus on making sure that they move children from foster care into permanent homes very quickly.
This act helps young children who are in foster care and need a permanent home. With this act, more children are being put in homes instead of having to live in foster care until they turn eighteen and age out. If a child is in a home that puts them at risk they should be taken out of that environment. With this act, the federal government puts pressure on child protection agencies to work more quickly to make good decisions about removing children from families and reuniting them with their families. If social workers and family courts decide that a child should not be put back into their home environment, this act also helps speed up the process for the child to be placed in foster care or a permanent adoptive home.

When a child is taken out of their home, there are specific things that need to be taken into account when deciding if the parental rights should be terminated. When considering the last 22 months, if the child has been in foster care for at least 15 months, they should not be put back into their homes. If the courts decide that an infant has, by law, been abandoned, then they must be taken away from their parents. Adults’ parental rights will be terminated if they are found guilty of injuring or killing one (or more) of their children.

When there is a child that is being placed into their new permanent home, a hearing will take place. This act also helps to make sure that these hearings are done quickly so that the child does not have to stay in foster care for too long while waiting for a hearing. Once the hearing has taken place to determine where the child should be placed, there are strict time limits on when the child should be placed in their new home. This new home could be with their parents, a relative, or a foster home.
If the family court decides that the child should be reunited with his or her family, there are many services available to that family. They can go through counseling, substance abuse treatment, mental health services, and assistance for domestic violence. This will help the agency (and all the rest of us who depend on professional child protection workers to prevent child abuse and child murder in our society) feel comfortable with placing the child back in their home with their parents.

 The adoption agencies receive incentive payments from the state so that the agencies can place these children in permanent homes. They get paid about $4,000 dollars per foster child that they place. With these incentive payments, agencies have made $20 million from government pay-outs since the law was enacted. These incentive payments help to provide the children with any service they might need before being placed in their new home.

The Adoption and Safe Families Act helps keep children in the safest environment for them. If the child has to be taken out of their home, then this makes it an easier and faster process for putting them in their permanent (adoptive) home. If the child will eventually be put back in the home with their parents, then this act also makes it easier and faster to be put back into their home.

Death With Dignity

This is a student paper about laws to allow terminally ill persons to kill themselves. 

What is Death with Dignity?

            If you live in Oregon, California, Washington, Vermont, or Montana, you have choices available to you if you are diagnosed with a terminal illness. According to the organization, Death with Dignity, these states have legislation in place which allows people with certain terminal illness diagnoses options for ending their lives while they still retain human dignity. But just receiving a diagnosis is not all that is needed. The states have outlined certain criteria that must be met in order to qualify for assisted suicide.
            All states have some of the same general requirements. First, a person must be a resident of the state in which they are seeking to end their lives. Also, each state requires the person be over the age of 18 and mentally competent, which might require a psychological evaluation at the order of the person’s physician. Lastly, the terminal diagnosis must be expected to lead to the individual’s death within six months.
            In Oregon, the first state to pass legalized assisted suicide legislation, there are very specific requirements to make before a patient is allowed to complete their desired departure from their physical life. The above conditions must be met, but then they must also do the following:  make three requests, two verbal and one written and signed by witnesses, to their physician at least 15 days apart; their diagnosis must be confirmed by the physician prescribing the lethal medication and a consulting physician; the prescribing physician must confirm that the patient is capable of self-administering the medication; and the physician is legally obligated to inform their patient of alternatives available for end-of-life care (Oregon Health Authority, n.d). All of these requirements must be met before the prescribing doctor can issue the prescription(s) to the patient, and then the physician must submit all the required forms and proof to the Oregon Health Authority.
            California, the most recent state to pass the End of Life Option Act [until a referrendum in Colorado passed in November of 2016], has many of the same guidelines as Oregon. As detailed by the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California (2016), multiple requests must be made to the physician, written and oral, and one of the requests must be made privately to the physician with no one else in the room (unless an interpreter is necessary). The patient must also have a second physician confirm the terminal diagnosis and estimated life expectancy, and they must also be capable of self-administering the medication(s) prescribed. California also requires the physician discuss several topics with their patient, like alternative care methods, whether the patient will notify family of their decision, if they will have someone with them at the time of taking the medication(s), the prohibition of taking the drug in public, and that they can cancel their request at any time. Patients in California must also sign a form called the Final Attestation for Aid-in-Dying before self-administering the medications dispensed to them, verifying they are voluntarily ending their lives.
            In addition to Oregon and Colorado, Washington and Vermont also have aid-in-dying legislation governing the requirements for physician assisted suicide. Their laws are similar to those of other states. According to the Washington State Department of Health’s website (n.d.), state residents must make 3 official requests, one oral, one written, and then at least fifteen days later, another oral request. The written request must have two witnesses, of whom they cannot be related to, have the intention to bequeath the individual any property or possessions in their will, or be a physician or health care facility employee. Vermont’s policy is called the Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act. Like Washington, the Vermont Ethics Network (2011) says the patient must be a resident of Vermont, have two oral requests, and one written request with 2 witnesses following the same criteria. Both states also require a second physician evaluation as well.
            Montana, however, is different from the other states with assisted suicide legislation. In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled to expand the Rights of the Terminally Ill Act to include physician-assisted suicide, but did not make clear guidelines on how the ruling functioned (Patient Rights Council, n.d). It is often viewed as simply protecting physicians from prosecution if they choose to assist a patient in compassionate suicide (Patient Rights Council, n.d.).  
            With this information, it is possible to see responsible legislation being developed by states, most modeling after Oregon’s pioneering and effective implementation of the Death with Dignity Act. More states will soon see voters requesting similar legislation be passed. It is important to be armed with the knowledge of what these laws do and what they do-not do before you head to the ballot box.

Another source to learn about these policies is the Oregon Health Authority's annual reports.  In 2014 (the most recent year for which I can find information, in the 2015 report), it seems 155 persons went through the process of getting the lethal dose of medicine, and 105 actually ended their lives. 

Colorado passed the initiative 106, which means they will follow the lead of Oregon and other states.  The voters passed this option with nearly 65% voting in favor

Coalition for Compassionate Care of California. (2016) End of Life Option Act in California. Retrieved on October 1, 2016 from
Death with Dignity. (n.d.) How to Access and Use Death with Dignity Laws. Retrieved on October 1, 2016 from
Oregon Health Authority. (n.d.). Death with Dignity Act Requirements. Retrieved on October 1, 2016 from Research/DeathwithDignityAct/Documents/requirements.pdf.
Patients Rights Council. (n.d.) Montana. Retrieved on October 1, 2016 from
Vermont Ethics Network. (2011). Physician Assisted Death. Retrieved on October 1, 2016 from

Washington State Department of Health. (n.d.) Death with Dignity Act – Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved on October 1, 2016 from IllnessandDisease/DeathwithDignityAct/FrequentlyAskedQuestions

Medicaid as Part of the War on Poverty.

This is a student paper about Medicaid.

“This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America.” these words spoken by President Lyndon B. Johnson began an era of change for our country. It was during his first State of the Union address that he spoke them and started the War on Poverty. This war would continue to rage on for years. New programs would be formed such as Head Start, which would make sure that some children of poor families had access to early education, and the Food Stamps Program, whose goal was to provide nourishment for those who could not afford it. Another of these programs was the Medicaid program. This program would provide healthcare at no cost to those that desperately needed it. Children of poor families, the elderly, and the disabled would all be covered under this new program. 

It was in 1964, after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, that Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn into office. During the time of Johnson’s presidency, the war in Vietnam was in full swing. Soldiers were dying in record numbers and Johnson signed a bill to send more soldiers to fight. These soldiers would often return from war and need medical care. Also, the Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum. Martin Luther King Jr. was becoming a well known name, and in 1965 he led the now famous march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. It was that year Johnson signed bills that would help change American history forever. One of those was the Voting Rights Act, which gave African Americans the (practical) right to vote (which they had had in theory since the passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870). Another was the bill that amended the Social Security Act of 1935 and created the Medicaid program. This program was designed to ensure that with the help of the federal government, individuals that lived below the federal poverty line would be given free healthcare by their state. After this legislation was passed, Illinois, along with many other states, accepted the program. 
While the original purpose of the program was only to provide healthcare for the children of poor families, the elderly, and the disabled living in poverty, many reforms were made over the years to increase the number of people that receive the benefits of the program. Over the years, many changes to the program have been made at the federal level and the states have had the opportunity to expand on those changes and cover more people than the federal government requires. Many times, Illinois has been one of the states that has gone above and beyond by opening the program to more people. For example, the federal requirement for eligibility states that: 

"The minimum income level of 133% of the federal poverty level for nearly all people under 65" qualifies a person for medicaid. In Illinois, those percentages go as high as 208% of the federal poverty level." (
In fact, as of 2016, the eligibility requirements for Medicaid in the state of Illinois are as follows: 

     "Children ages 0-18 with family income levels up to 142% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). 

      Pregnant women with family income up to 208% of the FPL. 

      Adults with family income up to 133% of the FPL." (

As long as a person meets the income requirements put forth by the state and is under the age of 65, he or she is eligible for enrollment in the Medicaid program. 

Once a person is enrolled in the Medicaid program he or she will begin receiving a wide range of benefits. These benefits may include, but are not limited to: necessary doctors visits, prescriptions for both drugs and medical devices, yearly check-ups, required immunizations, preventative health screenings and family planning. All of these services and more, such as dental work, are all offered to the Medicaid client at no cost to him or her. Each states' medicaid program is funded by the state and federal government. While it varies by state the federal government funds, on average, a little more than half of the program and the state covers the rest. A bill to fund the Medicaid program through the use of block grants was vetoed by President Bill Clinton in 1995. 

Illinois Medicaid has issues with their program. One of these is that it is hard to find providers that take the insurance provided by the Medicaid program. Clients that use the program are having to sometimes travel an upwards of 100 miles away from their homes in order to find a doctor. Another issue is the limited coverage. While Illinois allows more people to be eligible for the program, the services that are offered, such as dental, are the bare minimum. For instance; the dental plan in Illinois only covers preventative care and cleaning. If the client is in need of any type of orthodontic services or dentures, he or she is unable to receive them under the current Medicaid plan. This is also true of their general health plan. Anything that the state deems as cosmetic or unnecessary, is not covered.

There are many good things and a few bad things about the current Illinois Medicaid plans. Since it was implemented in the 60s, the program has helped thousands of people receive health care coverage. While the plan may need to be overhauled and coverage expanded, it is still a much needed program that helps ensure that all those in Illinois that were previously unable to afford health care are covered. 

  Here are some more details about the relative size of Medicaid nationally and in Illinois:

Nationally, I think about 72 million people are getting health insurance through Medicaid (The figure of 72 million comes from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation ). 

Some older numbers from back before the ACA boosted enrollment by so many millions in states where the program expanded, when the enrollment was merely 59 million, showed a break-down of enrollments like this: 
31 million children
11 million non-elderly non-disabled adults
8.8 million non-elderly individuals with disabilities
3.7 million people with disabilities who are enrolled in Medicare (elderly)
4.6 million low-income seniors   (see )
The expansion of Medicaid will have increased the proportion of recipients who are adults; this is because before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, poor families with children or disabled persons could often benefit from Medicaid, but poor households in which no one was disabled and no children were living could usually not qualify for Medicaid.  Medicaid expansion allowed many of these low-income non-disabled adults who have no dependent children to qualify for Medicaid. 

Federal Medicaid expenditure in 2015 were about $332 billion (

There are about 3.2 million people in Illinois who receive health insurance through Medicaid.

I believe in Illinois about $8 billion (or perhaps it's up to $8.5 billion now) gets allocated for health care expenditures, and the vast majority of that goes to Medicaid or the Health Care Management Organizations that handle health insurance for nearly two-thirds of Illinois persons receiving Medicaid.  That is about a quarter of the state budget. Even so, the last I heard, the state has debts approaching $600 million that it owes to health care providers who have accepted Medicaid payments for services.  

Websites with good information about Medicaid.  These were sources for this article.

Web Page about the Safe Passage Initiative

You can follow this link to a website designed by a policy course student with a purpose of informing visitors about the safe passage initiative's approach to helping prevent addiction and abuse of substances.

The need for a policy to deal with custody disputes before the family court makes its determination

This paper describes an actual situation the student was aware of. The student discovered that the state can take too long to make a custody determination in cases where the parents are disagreeing about custody. 

What About the Children?

            A marriage, by all accounts, appears on the surface to be fine, void of any obvious problems, except for the typical bickering occasionally observed. Two young children, ages six and three, are a product of this marriage and live relatively happy lives. A weak attachment between the mother and six year-old daughter has been apparent for many years, but nothing significant enough to alert authorities. One day, the mother decides she’s had enough of the marriage— and children apparently—and leaves her husband for other men, leaving the children with their father. Barely able to process what just took place, the father does his best to keep the children’s lives as normal as possible. A week or so later the mother decides she actually wants only their son, not their daughter, and believes since she’s the mother, is entitled to whatever she wishes. Homeless and flitting from place to place, the mother realizes she cannot keep her son under these conditions, and gives him back to the father.  A short time passes and the mother is able to secure a small one bedroom apartment. Now she’s decided she actually wants both kids since she has a place of her own and new live-in boyfriend to help with childcare duties. The mother picks up her kids from school one day and over the course of eight days, refuses to let the father take them, only allowing him to visit for brief periods during this time. Police won’t intervene as this is considered a “civil matter” and needs to be handled through the court. While in the mother’s care for eight days, the six-year old was not bathed and claimed she had chips each morning for breakfast. No physical abuse was apparent, but the psychological damage is nonetheless taking place. The older child isn’t getting her school work done while with her mother, and both children were forced to call the new boyfriend “Daddy,” and both children often appeared tired. Discipline consisted of yelling at the children.  The children never asked to be put in this position, and all the father wants to do is keep them in their natural home in their own rooms on their accustomed routine. Each day is an unknown since both parents have equal rights until the court states otherwise, and as a result, the children are catapulted into this custody battle—not knowing whom they will be with the next day—experiencing vastly different situations between time around their mother and father. Unless the children have been physically injured—psychological damage is not taken into consideration here—the children have to be subjected to this unpredictable lifestyle until a court date, which is typically at least one month out from the time one parent files a motion for custody, determines custody arrangements.
            Illinois law states that unless a crime has been committed, both parents have equal rights to their children until the court makes a custody ruling. Is this fair to the millions of children living in Illinois who, at any time could find themselves in this situation? After the matter goes to court, it can be handled appropriately, and hopefully the judge will accurately assert what parent provides the children with the best environment conducive to their physical and emotional health.
            Is it fair that children should be subjected to an inconsistent routine, being passed from place to place because there is nothing in the courts to immediately enforce anything different? According to a census during 2010-2011, 33,789 divorces occurred in Illinois, and in 2013 there were 29,331 divorces and annulments in the state, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The percentage of these divorces in which children are involved is not reported, but it’s relatively safe to assume a good percentage had children.  The state of Washington does keep track of what percentage of the divorces in that state involve children, and the number has consistently been close to 50%, and there is no reason to assume that Illinois would be radically different from Washington, so a guess of about 15,000 divorces each year in Illinois in which children are involved seems reasonable. In most of these divorces the adults amicably make agreements about custody, and there are no custody disputes or battles to win sole custody.  However, in an unknown fraction of divorces with children, the parents do not agree about custody, and they use lawyers, psychologists, and others to fight for the right to have time with their children, or the right to have sole custody and control the access of the other parent. Even if custody battles only occur in 5% of divorces involving children, that would still be approximately 750 divorces per year in this state, and presumably in a large fraction of these divorces there could be conflict about who should have custody of the children while waiting for the family court to make its determination.
            Understandably, when children are whipped around from house to house, this imposes significant stress on them. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to obtain an emergency temporary custody order. According to Illinois law, in order to obtain an emergency hearing, a petition must first be filed with the court indicating why it constitutes as an “emergency.” Courts typically do not view visitation disputes as “emergencies” and usually the only situations that will be heard are if the child(s) welfare is at risk: as in cases of child abuse/neglect, presence of a sex offender in the home, or substance abuse by the parent, or a parent’s refusal to allow the other parent to see the child(ren).
            Effective July 1, 2004, the Illinois Supreme Court adopted Rule 306A, which states “except for good cause shown, the appellate court shall issue its decision within 150 days after the filing of the notice of appeal.” The appeal is regarding an emergency custody hearing. After the completion of trial or hearing, the allocation of parental responsibilities (used to be called ‘custody’) proceedings will be determined by a judge no later than 60 days. From the date the first petition or complaint is filed regarding parental responsibilities, the court is obligated to resolve the matter within 18 months. Additionally, the Supreme Court and legislature have exhaustively stressed the need for allocation of parental responsibilities to be handled expediently; focusing on the best interest of the child. In the Juvenile Court Act of 1987 (705 ILCS 405/2-14(a)), the law states the importance of “seeking permanency for children in a ‘just and speedy’ manner.” Rule 901 part (a) illustrates how imperative allocation of parental responsibilities be handled “expeditiously.”
            The court cost involved with seeking sole parental responsibilities is shockingly expensive. Typically in a case where one or both parties cannot afford legal counsel, one will be appointed for them, but if one has the means to hire an attorney, costs can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands and more, depending on the complexity of the case.
            These policies do not appear to be effective as they stand today. Many children are caught in the middle of angry, vicious, tension-filled informal custody battles until the case is finally heard before a judge. There are probably hundreds of cases like this each year in Illinois. While the Supreme Court has issued policies on this matter, these cases do not appear to be handled “expeditiously.” Perhaps, in the courts’ eyes, a case being handled expediently is within six months; but severe psychological damage could have and quite possibly will have already been inflicted on a child within that time frame. What more can be done to protect children caught in the middle of big people problems? Who is their voice? What more can be done to ensure that really…children’s best interest is really the primal concern in domestic situations?