John F Kennedy would be 100. It’s a celebration of a birthday many of us never see. JFK lives on because of his many good works and ideas.
I remember being about eleven and being glued to the television, watching the events transpired in Dallas, Texas. I was heartbroken but didn’t know why. I had written to Jackie Kennedy and invited her and the children to visit. When I didn’t get a response, I wrote again and received a reply explaining that it would not be possible. The response lifted my spirits, and, in retrospect, I marvel that they responded to the request of a child.
The Years passed, and my view became more jaded. I looked at the Kennedys as silver-spoon babies. I was wrong. The Kennedys I knew were true humanitarians.
In researching laws protecting children, I found that JFK was one of the best children’s activists we had at the time. He saw our children as the future. He was the architect of the dreaded and maligned Welfare. (This article can no longer be found online. I suggest you grab it if you are a Kennedy aficionado.) But if you look up the definition of welfare, it reads as thus:
the health, happiness, and fortunes of a person or group.
“they don’t give a damn about the welfare of their families”
synonyms: well-being, health, comfort, security, safety, protection, prosperity, success, fortune; More
statutory procedure or social effort designed to promote the basic physical and material well-being of people in need.
“the protection of rights to education, housing, and welfare”
financial support given to people in need.
synonyms: social security, social assistance, benefit, public assistance; More
Kennedy’s dream was that all children have enough to eat; that they have medical care; education, etc. I hear many stories about how a system he lauded was/is defrauded. My experience with the system was different.
It was after I left my husband—I saw him as dangerous. I saw my children as my responsibility. I went to work in an era where women with children weren’t supposed to do so. There was no support. My husband came from a powerful family and had skirted support for a child from a previous marriage. I would not lower myself to allow him to do it to me. I asked for nothing, and I got nothing.
In the beginning, I made $5.00 an hour. That’s $200.00 net a week. I forget what I brought home after taxes. I was paid less because I was a woman, but I worked in a field that was a frontier in today’s technology—semiconductor electronics. I paid $50.00 a week for substandard child care and $55.00 a week in rent. I could not afford a phone. It was the height of the oil embargo and prices for gas and heating oil were astronomical.
Before working, I had been on welfare and got the feeling they were appalled I wanted to support my children. I qualified for food stamps, and all the good stuff living on $155.00 twice a month afforded. In going to work for what amounted to a pittance, I lost it all. I became the working poor. Poverty levels then and now are so low that a woman going to work can mean starvation and/or freezing to death. We almost did both. Not every story is one of corruption. The system works for the most part.
But back to Kennedy.
He seemed to have a love for children and recognized that there were dangerous times ahead for children. Before he died, he set in motion protections for children. He died before one of his dreams came to fruition—child protections.
Mandatory reporting laws were finally encouraged by the Federal Government in 1974. States would get grants for putting them on the books. Most states did so and some already had laws on the books. But those laws are now being neutered. At least 28 states have frivolous reporting clauses in their laws. Most reporting is done in states anonymously, so this can only serve to hamper reporting by professionals. If a mandated reporter reports and the non-defined frivolity clause is put in place, he or she can face jail time. I wouldn’t report–would you?
Kennedy’s dreams for children are being dismantled piece by piece. He’s probably rolling over in that grave of his.
Copyright 2017 by Joyce Bowen. Violate copyright and I’ll sic Gerald Hecht on you.