Thursday, October 26, 2006

Breaking the Violence Cycles at Last

This bit of news from the Department of Peace Campaign is especially interesting to me in light of Gandhi's advice that, if we are to truly create peace, we must begin with our children. I think the only way to stop the generational cycles of violence, both within families, and between cultures and nations, is to make sure that all children are properly cared for, in both physical and spiritual ways. And that means supporting the mothers and fathers who are raising all children, which is what this program is about.

Hope on the Horizon: Introduction

Imagine reducing child abuse and neglect by 79%.
Imagine reducing maternal behavioral problems due to alcohol and drug abuse by 44%.
Imagine reducing the duration of dependency on Aid to Families with Dependent Children by 30 months.

How many tax dollars are these social benefits worth?
$100,000 per at-risk family? $50,000 per family? $10,000 per family?

Now, what if it were possible to save money with such a program?
Imagine a net savings to taxpayers of over $17,000 per at-risk family.

Does this sound like a far off utopia? Well, it’s not. Such success has been achieved by the Nurse Family Partnership. The program has existed for over 20 years and been rigorously assessed by public policy experts. It provides nurses who work with families in their homes during pregnancy and the first two years of a child’s life. The program is designed to help women improve their prenatal health and the outcomes of pregnancy; enhance the care provided to infants and toddlers in an effort to ameliorate the children’s health and development; and advance women’s own personal development, giving particular attention to the planning of future pregnancies, women’s educational achievement, and parents’ participation in the work force.

The Washington State Institute of Public Policy estimates the costs of the program at about $9,000 tax-dollars per at-risk family. The benefits, however, it estimates at over $26,000 to taxpayers. These benefits include not only the direct outcomes listed above but also longer term ones, such as reduced dependency on welfare and Medicare, lower rates of incarceration, lower rates of family violence, and improved scholastic attendance. This means fewer tax dollars are spent, accruing a net savings for the taxpayer.

This is just one of many programs that actually help reduce and prevent violence and improve overall well being while saving tax dollars. Other such programs address juvenile delinquency, gang violence, youth and school violence, family violence, hate crimes, and provide less expensive, effective alternatives to the current penal system.

This paper provides a snapshot of the current state of violence in the United States and a sampling of proven, statistically verifiable programs that successfully prevent and reduce violence. While these programs remain hampered by inadequate and inconsistent funding, lack of resources and limited geographic reach, the fact remains that they are beneficial for Americans’ social well-being and for Americans’ financial bottom line.

The good news about violence in the United States is that Americans have found incredibly innovative and resourceful ways to address violence and its root causes. All that is missing is an infrastructure to give these programs more visibility and viability, allocate them more funding resources, and to make them a matter of local, state, and national policy.


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