BDN gives primer on increasing childhood poverty, other social ills

I hope my readers don’t think that I am kissing butt, but I’ve been blown away by the recent work of Matt Stone and Erin Rhoda at the BDN. Given how many times they’ve been on the receiving end of my “begging to differ,” Rhoda and Stone would probably affirm that I am NOT a butt kisser; or at the absolute least, if I am, I am no good at it!

Stone and Rhoda have been taking a closer look at the LePage’s administration of programs, contracts, and funding related to children and families. The view they expose is troubling. So far this team has helped to shed light on the questionable use of TANF funds, the decimation of the public health nursing program, the questionable transfer of the administration of a home visiting program (Maine Families) to a private organization, and the neglect of said home visit program, which is having a negative, domino-like effect on other programs with which it is inter-related.

I’m thinking these high-quality, in-depth looks at the underpinnings of the LePage administration could be put in a collection called: What the 127th Legislature should have been paying attention to instead of the Rep. Eves/Good Will-Hinckley debacle. Or:  Easy steps to increasing childhood poverty and other societal ills.

It’s no wonder 6,000 more kids got added to the poverty rolls between 2008 and 2014.

The collective also shows the extent to which Governor LePage and DHHS Commissioner don’t get the big picture as they selectively pick and choose winners and losers in their social service game.

Like I heard Mayhew on Maine Public Radio. She was talking about the dire need for foster care, largely due to the addiction epidemic, yet Stone and Rhoda’s work clearly shows her neglect of early intervention programming like public health nursing and Maine Families. Early intervention programming is designed to intervene early in children’s lives with the hope of avoiding heightened levels of state involvement in later years.

Stock photo.

Stock photo.

And how many times have we heard LePage go on and on about the number of drug-affected babies in Maine? You’d think programs that are geared toward this population would be among his favorites. Hello?!?

As for the privatization of all things social service? I think we should check in on how all the prior privatization pushes are functioning before we continue down that road. Like I wonder what all the mentally ill and/or addicted people in jail would say if they were asked how they think the privatization of mental health services in the wake of deinstitutionalization is working out? Probably not so much.

I’ve long had some major beefs with the mainstream media. My latest two involve their enabling Trump’s reducing a presidential election cycle to 140 character campaigning, along with making Clinton look desirable by comparison. Oops — there’s a third newbie:  the media is not paying anywhere near enough attention to the Johnson/Weld ticket.

The last few years have not necessarily been our media’s finest hour. The focus is on surface minutia when Americans need to come to terms with what is going on behind the scenes.

Rhoda, Stone, and the folks supporting them at the BDN are going against that tide — thankfully so. They are taking the time to show us what is going on behind the scenes, behind the soundbites and the minutia. That level of investigation helps us to know what to demand of our elected officials. Good journalism leads to informed conversations about real policies and how they are affecting real people.

This team is providing us, the citizens of Maine, with a powerful service, and I for one, am grateful.

And I, for one, am hoping the future members of the 128th Legislature are paying attention.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.