Monday, November 21, 2011

Foster Children

Today's NY Times reports that foster children as a group, are prescribed anti-psychotic medications as often as children diagnosed as psychotic. Is this how we want to manage the fall out from social neglect?
Foster children represent an end point of the consequences of social neglect. Poverty and prejudice lead to hopelessness and rage: feelings not conducive to the care of children. When parent's needs are not met, we can expect many of them to have difficulties meeting the needs of their children. We can expect many of them not to have the psychic resources to meet the demands of child care, which, as we know, entails a great deal of self sacrifice and patience. In extreme cases, children end up abused and neglected to the point where they are placed in foster care. Very often they are move through a long series of foster homes, as foster parents, too, are unable to tolerate the provocative behavior of children who, understandably, have little if any trust that anyone can handle their rage and despair.
So foster children are difficult, and we as a society are not willing to put the resources into supporting families, reducing poverty and discrimination, or supporting foster parents. Enter the drug companies and the "quick fix" solution: tranquilize the children, whatever the side effects or long term consequences.
The way foster care is handled is an important barometer of the humanity of a society; today's article in the NY Times gives evidence of how we are failing.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Today's New York Times reports that British Prime Minister David Cameron said that the "decades old policy of multi-culturalism" has encouraged "segregated communities" where "Islamic extremism can thrive". He criticized a policy in Britain and elsewhere in Europe that "encouraged Muslims and other immigrant groups to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream". He reportedly said that the "multi-culturalism policy had failed to promote a sense of common identity centered on values of human rights, democracy, social integration, and equality before the law". (NY Times, Feb. 6, 2011 p. 6).
Cameron's remarks remind me of what a friend and colleague of mine said he heard a French person say in denying that the French are prejudiced: that the French believe "anyone can become French". It seems to me that there is an assumption here that European cultures are superior to other cultures (Europeans uphold values of "human rights, democracy, social integration and equality before the law"). This is the assumption that served to rationalize and justify murder and theft of peoples' land under colonialism (By the way, where were concerns about human rights, democracy, social integration and equality before the law under colonial domination?). Did British colonists think they needed to integrate into the "mainstream" cultures of the lands into which they intruded? Why then should people from the formerly colonized lands integrate into "mainstream" British culture?
What Cameron is calling "multiculturalism" is, in my view, actually a way in which cultures can live together with mutual respect, rather than with the implicit assumption that there is a "standard" culture from which other cultures become "deviant", or a superior culture in relation to which other cultures show up as inferior. It is this lack of respect that, in my view, fosters extremism, not the demand that everyone be "like me".