Thursday, September 15, 2005

Newt the seer

Horrific tales of child abuse, much like the one unfolding in Wakeman, Ohio, come to light far too often, with foster parents treating their young wards as a cash crop, or livestock. All of which makes Newt Gingrich look like a humanitarian.

Remember 11 years ago, when he suggested that a revival of orphanages might offer a more compassionate means to provide a healthy upbringing for some children who were abandoned or abused by their parents? Gingrich was widely ridiculed by the left at the time, claiming that this was a mean-spirited Republican plan to dump poor children into warehouses. But those warehouses exist now; they're run by adults who have state approval to keep abandoned children, apparently, without having to worry about being watched by the government. To be sure, the vast majority of foster parents are loving, caring people. And we should value their commitment to provide some security to children who can rely on no one else.

But the current system also allows monsters to torture and abuse helpless kids -- at a profit.

Who could argue that an institutional setting would not provide a healthier environment for kids who don't have parents? (See this 1996 Brookings Institution study for background.) At the least, those facilities would face a lot more scrutiny than the in-home kennels some foster parents operate. Children would be safer. Isn't that the goal?

UPDATE: The Brookings study was published in 2000. My bad.

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