Celebrating Sexual Violence Awareness Month, LePage-style

April is Sexual Violence Awareness Month. Here in Maine we can celebrate Gov. Paul LePage’s decision to make it easier for people with criminal histories of sexual violence to work in licensed day care centers. Fingerprinting people who work with our children during their most vulnerable years seems obvious, but not to our governor.

(Stock photo)

(Stock photo)

On the surface, such a decision seems hard enough to believe. Dig deeper, and it gets worse. LePage, self-declared champion of welfare reform, is missing an opportunity to nip welfare costs before they even bud. How?

Traumas (and childhood sexual violence is considered a trauma) are linked to countless sources of social service and other government expenses, like mental health and substance use issues, criminality, parenting problems, educational problems, etc.  Trauma is so linked to social problems that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) has a report supporting trauma-informed care and processes in all participating/partnering agencies and organizations.

The report itself reads:

Unaddressed trauma significantly increases the risk of mental and substance use disorders and chronic physical diseases.

And:

The effects of traumatic events place a heavy burden on individuals, families and communities and create challenges for public institutions and service systems.

What can be more trauma-informed than trying to stop it before it happens whenever we can through licensing regulations like fingerprinting day-care workers? Not much.

What could reform welfare more than keeping people from needing it in the first place? Not much.

What could insure that more children become healthy, whole successful individuals participating in the Maine economy? Trying to stop potential traumatic events by any means including fingerprinting day-care workers and providers.

I did a post recently about allegations that the state did not act on reports of abuse at a day care a few years ago. It’s a disturbing story. The idea of not fingerprinting workers at day care centers that may not be policed appropriately makes the story more disturbing.

The idea of forcing poor parents to utilize day cares, spending considerable percentages of their earnings or government benefits to do so, while not policing these centers properly or fingerprinting their employees is the most disturbing of all.

Fingerprinting day care workers will not not guarantee that there is no physical and sexual abuse in those settings in entirety. However, any opportunity to stop trauma before it happens is in our children’s best interests and is in society’s best interest. And, over time it’s welfare reform.

It should be a no-brainer.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

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