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Government Isn't the Parent
Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario. Here's this week's, which was inspired by a blog post I wrote last week.

In San Francisco, many formerly happy children are now very sad. A few months ago, the Board of Supervisors decided to ban Happy Meals, because they offer toys to entice children to eat something unhealthy (never mind the fact that McDonald’s offers milk and fruit as an option). All restaurants that offer toys as incentives for unhealthy meals must now cease and desist.

Personally, I don’t think Happy Meals are great nutritional choices for children, either, though the occasional one will do no harm. Nevertheless, what concerns me more is this propensity of government to step into what is essentially a
parent’s job.

Society works best when the family is the main social unit. Even dictators across the ages have known this, since one of the first things they do to increase their control is to weaken the family. In Mao Zedong’s Great March across China, female soldiers who gave birth on the 6000 mile trek were encouraged to leave their babies with peasants, for the good of the revolution. Today China forces women to abort second and third children, for the good of the country. In the Southern United States, during slavery, children were sold away from their parents to sever bonds. Dictators hate the family, because families form allegiances tighter than the ones we have to the state. And then we’re less likely to listen to what the state tells us to do.

For a society to be strong and free, then, the family has to be strong. But the more society starts doing parents’ jobs, the less parents will feel the need to do them.

To use another example, Michelle Obama, in her quest to slim the waistlines of America’s children, has expanded the feeding program for poor children, so that now up to 2,000,000 children will be eligible not just for school breakfasts or lunches, but for three meals a day, 365 days a year. The government will feed your kids!

Isn’t feeding children a rather basic responsibility of parenting? Besides, you can feed a family of four on $150 a week, if you cook from scratch, don’t buy cereal and ice cream, and plan carefully. And food banks are available to make up the difference.

Yet Ms. Obama thinks the government would do a better job. Has she considered the cost? It’s not just the people preparing the food, buying the food, and serving the food. It’s the army of nutritionists who plan the menus. The consultants hired to figure out what green vegetables kids will eat. The commodity experts hired to give their opinion on what prices will be in a few months. The state bureaucrats hired to lobby the federal government for a greater share of the pie. The federal bureaucrats hired to oversee the budget and decide what states get it.

Or we could just ask parents to feed their kids.

Lest you think this is just an American phenomenon, our own premiere is expanding kindergarten so that parents don’t have to care for their children barely out of toddlerhood, either.

Some parents are really and truly awful. But the more the government steps in, the more we tell those parents, “You don’t even need to try.” More and more, governments are doing what parents should do. They are teaching kids about sex. They are teaching them values. They are baby-sitting them. And yes, they are feeding them. And then we wonder why parents don’t step up to the plate.

We can’t afford a society where parents aren’t responsible. We can’t afford it fiscally, and we can’t afford it morally or socially. So I think it’s time we say to parents, “You’re the parent. Act like it.” I wish some politician would say that. That would be a politician I could get behind.

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At 8:17 AM , Blogger Llama Momma said…

I was just reading an article about the "feeding program" in my local paper -- already going in the big city nearby.

Sometimes, it's necessary. For kids getting dropped off at 7 a.m. and picked up at 6:30 p.m., they need to be fed.

And yet, for so many others...I wonder how we could come alongside parents better? Offer healthy cooking classes on a budget? Budgeting classes even?

The situation is complex, but I agree -- more government is not the solution.


At 9:57 AM , Blogger Stacey said…

The more I read your blog, the more I LOVE it! It's so hard to find people with a level head these days, and you seem to think things through.

All this talk of government meddling with my kids makes me seriously want to home school. If only I could convince my husband :)


At 11:07 AM , Blogger Mary R. said…

A sorry situation indeed. It is scary to see the demise of the family. This is demonic in origin. The government steps in to fill the void. God have mercy on both of our countries.


At 12:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

"[...]expanding kindergarten so that parents don’t have to care for their children barely out of toddlerhood [...].

I know you homeschool (and I fully support the right of parents to choose the best education for their children). The above statemwet makes me wonder if you feel that any form of education other than homeschooling is wrong or at least bad parenting?

Nurse Bee


At 1:03 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Nurse Bee--

That's a tough question! I guess what I would say is that there's a world of difference between a 7-year-old or a 10-year-old going to school all day and a 3-year-old or a 4-year-old going to school all day, everyday. First, there's no need for a 3 or 4 year old to be in school; they can't even read until they're 6, and to turn a child's life into school that young seems grossly unfair. They should be allowed to be kids.

Putting them in full-time at that age, then, is not about school; it's about day care. And children do better with their parents, and 86% of working parents even agree that children do better with a parent for a caregiver.

What I would like to see is instead of the government offering full-day school for kids that young that they just give parents vouchers to spend how they want. That would allow more women (or men) to say home, at least part-time.


At 1:04 PM , Blogger Sheila said…


Thanks for the kind words! Looking forward to getting to know you better.

And Llama Momma, good question about how we can help parents more. I think that's the key--that WE help, rather than the government. But it still leaves it open: what should we do?

Mary R., thanks for your comment!


At 1:05 PM , Anonymous Eve said…

Really makes me wonder what the point of having children is if you just hand them over to somebody else to raise...

Although my kids can (and do) drive me nuts sometimes, I really enjoy having them around, spending time with them, cooking together and even doing boring things like dishes together.

It's very sad what parents are missing out on. This is time that is gone so fast - too fast.

I understand that some parents have no choice and must work and that their kids need somewhere safe to be - I had some friends when I were in school who were in this situation - but can't the parents pack a lunchbox/snackbox?

Terrifying having government so involved!


At 8:23 PM , Blogger Mary R. said…

This situation exists, I think, because families no longer live in community like they used to many years ago, with grandma and grandpa living next door, aunts and uncles and cousins right across the street, and everybody pitched in to help if there was illness, or if a wife needed to work in an emergency.

Nowadays, even intact nuclear families must move to where the jobs are, and the natural support system is gone. If the family is broken up by death or divorce, or if there is a family where the mother has never been married, it is even worse.

The government steps in to fill this vacuum, because somebody must fill it. You can't leave children to starve, or stay alone. Not if you don't want the same government to step in and remove the children from the home.

I was moved by the commenter who wondered what we can do? As a society, as a church? Should we offer to babysit for free for a single working mother and homeschool her children for her? Would this be enabling young mothers to divorce or to have children out of wedlock, just like the government enables them to do? I'm just asking, because I don't have the answers.

If things get bad and the government funding goes away, I assume families will have to buddy up and help each other.

I know a man whose wife left him with the children. She married another man and in a few years, left HIM with the children that she had with him.

The two dads buddied up (after all, their children were half-siblings to each other) and one got all the kids off to school; the other picked them all up. The mother was angry that her two ex-husbands got together, but they were concerned for the children. I guess there was no free school breakfast or after school care.

I think people will have to start doing things like this -- helping each other.

When my mother left my dad and became a single mother, she moved in with another single mom and they shared the responsibility for all of the children. It worked well. These days, young unmarried mothers don't like to do that. They prefer their own place and the government helps them to have it. People today don't HAVE to get along with each other.

(Start singing "People Who Need People" here, lol.)


At 9:38 AM , Blogger Katy-Anne said…

Wow you sure have a very entitled, know it all opinion.

I could read when I was 4. Just because maybe YOUR kids couldn't read till they were 6 doesn't mean that "6" is the age at which children learn to read.

School lunches are NOT free. You pay for them. So therefore as a parent I'm taking the responsibility to feed my kid, I'm paying for his food.

My 3 year old goes to school 3 days a week, but not for babysitting as you and the hoity toity "we are so much better than everyone else" home schoolers think, but because he's special needs. School has made a world of difference for his special needs too.

Why can't people actually speak with knowledge if they are going to knock stuff like this?


At 9:46 AM , Blogger Sheila said…


Why do you insist on being so rude on this blog? I'm really at a loss.

First, of course I'm opinionated! This is my blog! I am also paid to be an opinion columnist, and the comment you were referring to was asking my opinion on something!

Also, my oldest daughter could read at 4. So could I. But research shows that this is abnormal. Girls, on average, tend to learn to read around 5 1/2. Boys are often not ready until 7 or 7 1/2. That is research; I picked 6 as an average. Please do not base everything on your own personal experience.

As for school lunches, that is not what we are talking about here. This is a feeding program, where the government feeds children 3 meals a day at no cost to the parents. That is completely different from a school lunch where the parents pay.

Going to school 3 days a week is completely different from going to school 5 days a week, when your child does not have special needs. Can you not see the difference?

I have warned you several times before about your tone when you comment on this blog. Often you are insulting others; today you just insulted me. If you continue to use words like "hoity toity" and "very entitled", you will be blocked. Consider this your last warning. I don't want this to be a place where we insult each other; I would like it to be a place where we talk to each other reasonably and calmly. No one has to agree with me, but a certain level of politeness is required, or else this blog does not become a place which is edifying at all.

Please respect that.


At 10:23 AM , Blogger deb said…

There have always been poverty. I remember being shocked to read that in Victorian England, it was not uncommon for kids to starve to death. My point is that this is not a new phenomena.

Some parents have to work long hours. Neither parent can be home. Whether you think that they have made the correct decisions or not, doesn't matter. Their children need food.

Some families are lucky and have a loving relative to help them. Not all families are so blessed. In some families relatives might not be safe individuals to leave children with.

What Michelle has offered is wonderful. Children shouldn't go without food. I am all for letting adults suffer the consequences of their actions but not kids.


At 10:32 AM , Blogger Sheila said…


I totally understand what you're saying, but here's the problem I have (with which I can't see a good solution): the more the government steps in, the more it exacerbates the problem. When welfare was extended to single mothers, for instance, child poverty increased exponentially, and marriage decreased exponentially, among lower-class communities. When welfare was scaled back, poverty decreased because more people got jobs.

Government may be trying to help those who are suffering now, but by stepping in, they create a larger problem later. So how do we help those who are suffering now without creating a mountain of problems in the future? Yes, poverty has always been with us, but the dysfunction and family breakdown have not, and that is largely because the government has stepped in to displace the family. When family was necessary, people helped each other. When it wasn't, people stopped helping, men abandoned families, and the problems grew worse.

Government can try to help, but it can't replace the family, and the more it tries, the more families breakdown. So I guess I'm stuck with the same question we started with: how do we help the kids who are suffering now without creating more kids who will suffer in the future? And the only solution that I see is for private charity to step up to the plate, and for people to demand government stop just doing handouts, and start doing more training and work requirements (and perhaps group homes for young moms, as I mentioned in an earlier post).

I don't think that's a great solution, but it's all I've got.


At 12:45 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Yes, isn't it tragic that the government wants to feed children that might have nothing to eat! STOP THE INSANITY!

How do you explain the fact that many Israeli children grew up in Kibbutz, where the parenting was equally shared? My husband did. He was quite loved, and is a successful doctor today.

If something happened to any of you, I feel absolutely sure you'd get onto government programs with lightning speed. A tornado, a hurricane, the inability to work - you think a poor church will carry you forever? I don't think so. I'm laughing at that! Please.


At 12:49 PM , Anonymous Open Minds Open Hearts said…

I've never commented here, and don't plan to again (nothing against anyone, I just don't really write comments unless I'm very motivated). I came here because Katy-Anne wrote on another blog about this post.

I have to say, while I typically agree with what K-A says on the other blog, I can't agree with her here. There is nothing hoity-toity or entitled about believing that public welfare is bad for our country. And while I and many others may disagree with Sheila says in regard to how toddlers and young kids should be raised (I actually agree with you, here, K-A), I'm not going to point fingers and tell someone they're wrong for believing it. Being rude is no way to inspire change in another. That is an ignorant response to what you perceive to be an ignorant assertion.

On to the topic at hand... I think the welfare argument can be summed up with these two snippets-- one from a fellow commenter and the other from Sheila's post.

What Michelle has offered is wonderful. Children shouldn't go without food. I am all for letting adults suffer the consequences of their actions but not kids.
We can’t afford a society where parents aren’t responsible. We can’t afford it fiscally, and we can’t afford it morally or socially. So I think it’s time we say to parents, “You’re the parent. Act like it.”

It's sad when a child has to suffer because of the choices of their parent. No one likes seeing mistreated and malnourished kids. However, if programs exist to protect these children, what reason do negligent or potentially negligent parents have to use birth control and keep from adding to the numbers of disadvantaged children? We're not cats and dogs that get spayed-- we humans typically have a choice to do what we want with our bodies, including making intelligent decisions that could better the lives of our fellow humans (our children included). The government can not keep taking care of those who do not care for themselves.

I understand that some families need help. I'm all for short-term welfare, with stringent and enforced rules for the recipient. If people continually have the option for long-term welfare, what reason do they have to get off of welfare? After all, if the government will support you no matter what, does it matter if you don't try? I'm not saying everyone on welfare does this-- but if I had less conviction to be a good person and follow the core set of morals I believe in, which includes sacrifice and personal responsibility, I could see using the system to benefit myself.


At 1:08 PM , Blogger mirele said…

I don't understand why it's so wrong to feed kids who are not getting three meals a day. Or two meals, or even one.

I love how you say you can feed a family of four on $150 a week if you can cook from scratch and not buy cereal or ice cream. Do you have any idea how much money poor families MAKE? The minimum wage in the USA is $7.25/hour, which works out to a whopping $290/week BEFORE TAXES. So your family of four spends $150 on food, and has much less than $140 to pay for a place to live, clothes for their bodies and shoes for their feet. I can tell you that the poor are working multiple jobs to make ends meet--when they can find jobs. (My own sibling has been out of work since July 2008 and it's not been for lack of looking.)

Basically, you like under a rock, in a cave or in some sort of bubble. Come to my city, Mesa, Arizona, and I'll show you what it's like here. We have rich people and we have the poor as well. And, frankly, I'd rather have the children fed three squares than being hungry and stealing from grocery stores and so on due to hunger.

I expect your next blog post will be asking "where are the orphanages? the workhouses?" You're just that kind of cruel. Thank God most Canadians I know are not as ignorant as you.

--Deana M. Holmes


At 1:08 PM , Blogger Persuaded said…

You know a few years ago I might have agreed with you... then I worked for a while in a federally mandated pre-school program for low-income families (you know the one;-}) I remember my first few days I walked through the hallways feeling like an incredible hypocrite for working to get 3 and 4yo kids into the program. Kids this age should be home with their mama's! That was my firm belief. Then I went into the homes and saw the life that some of these children live; I'll always remember the first really awful one I did... a headlice check on a toddler girl. She had been out of program for over a month because her parents couldn't or wouldn't give her the treatments and bring her in for a clear check. I knocked on the front door only to have it swing open because the latch had been broken- and this was in the middle of our bitter NY winter. An older sister sat watching tv in the front room wrapped in blankets. After repeatedly calling, the child slowly came down the stairs, dressed only in a pair of cotton underpants. When I asked her if she had eaten that day, she pointed to a jar of peanut butter on the kitchen floor and I saw that she had peanut butter under her fingernails... she must have dug out a mouthful or two of pb and sucked it off her hands. I checked her head in the only available chair in the house which was in the dining room right in the middle of a filthy overturned cat box. I checked her head, went to the store and bought a treatment out of my own money and brought it back to the house and showed the sister how to use it and how to pull the nits out of her hair. I went back every day for a week... sometimes twice a day and believe me I got that kid back into program! She needed to be there. She needed to have a couple of decent meals and she needed a safe place.

Of course most low income families are not as neglectful as this particular one. Most are fine "normal" families who just happen to have a low income. But there are many many children whose families are not able to meet their needs- maybe the parents have addiction issues, maybe they are emotionally damaged, maybe they are mentally retarded or mentally ill. Maybe they really are selfish and just don't care. We can say those parents should be meeting their kids' needs and of course they should. We can insist all we want that it is their responsibility to feed their kid and make sure he's safe, and of course it is their responsibility. But all of our insisting doesn't change the fact that there are children out there who are not getting their needs met. Kids who can't wait for a couple of years until some other solution is found, or for us in the faith community to get our acts together and start caring for the poor as we probably should. Those kids need help now. Today. Yesterday for many of them.

I hate the idea of tiny children being away from the safety and security of home and mama, but more than that I hate living in a world where safety and security are better found away from home and mama. Sadly, that is the truth of our current world. Honestly Sheila, I agree with you on one point- ideally these children and families' needs would be met by us in the Christian community... but the only reason why the government has stepped into the role of feeding these children is because no one else was doing it. I don't like the government taking on the role of feeding children, but I vastly prefer it to the alternative, which is children going hungry. As a previous commenter mentioned, in past times poor children starved to death. Instead of criticizing the unbelievers who are stepping up and trying to fill the real needs of these children, we should applaud them for caring enough to step up. We should be humbled and chastened by the fact that they did the job that we were commanded to do. We should change our ways, step up and do that job, and do it so well that the government programs are no longer necessary.

That's what I think☺


At 1:17 PM , Blogger Sheila said…


I understand what you're saying, I really do. But here's my question: why weren't those children removed from the home? Welfare payments and subsidized housing are enough that people can keep their kids clothed and fed with the electricity on. If you're on welfare, and you can't meet your bills, there are places you can go.

If the parents, then, decide not to give their children a safe environment with food, then why are the kids in that home?

What I would like to see is a completely different type of social safety net, where instead of paying these parents to have their own apartments where they can spend their money on things other than their children, we instead put people in large group homes where they are taught how to parent. That would make single parenthood much less attractive (and it is attractive to some), and would require families to step up to the plate.

And my previous question remains: I know we have an obligation to the children living in poverty NOW, but if, by helping the children NOW, we create more of these problems in the future, then are we really helping? Maybe we need a different model. It's been shown that programs designed to "help the kids" usually weaken the family in some way--by government stepping in and doing what parents should do, thus decreasing the cultural norm of parents actually acting as parents.

I just don't think we can continue to do this. There has to be another way. Faith communities definitely should play a role, but we can't compete or fix things when the government is still giving out so much money and programs with basically no accountability on the part of the people who receive these benefits. And that's where I'm stuck.


At 1:36 PM , Blogger Persuaded said…

Thanks for answering my comment Sheila☺

Why weren't the kids removed from that home? Because, believe it or not, things were not bad enough to warrant removal. The house had heat. There was food in the house.. not much, but there was food there. She had a "competent" individual caring for her. She wasn't being beaten. It is really really difficult to get kids removed from a home, even on a temporary basis... and really that is for the best as a general rule.

As for welfare... this child's parents were not on welfare. They both worked at minimum wage-type jobs. They were away from home most of the time... sometimes due to work and sometimes due to partying. They didn't have much money and often chose to spend that money poorly due (I suspect) to addiction issues. If daddy chooses to spend his money at the bar instead of bringing it home, the paycheck doesn't cover much in the way of food or treatments for headlice.

Another issue is the idea of attaching restrictions and demands to welfare payments. Are you aware of the tremendous number of hoops that the typical welfare recipient must jump through already? They need to go to hours of "job training" programs and take classes and all kinds of stuff. Their children end up spending long hours in daycare (usually substandard inadequate daycare due to cost issues) while parents are attending to all of the requirements. I don't think piling more requirements and demands on these already incredibly stressed families is really a terribly productive solution, personally.

You say that we in the faith community "can't compete" with government programs.... why not? The God that we follow is the all-powerful Creator of the universe and the loving Creator of these children. He has commanded us to minister to their needs, to serve them and to show them His love. Do you really think that He will neglect to empower us as we strive to obey His commands? We can sit here wringing our hands at the horror of government stepping up and feeding needy children, or we can dust off our faith and get to work feeding them ourselves. Honestly, I think the government is the entity at a disadvantage... all they have is money;-}


At 1:50 PM , Blogger Sheila said…


Good points! I love discussions like this!

What I mean about the faith communities not being able to compete is this: Let's say that The Salvation Army, or a church, or whatever, wanted to set up a "group home" type situation for single, teenage moms. They wanted to instill accountability, require the girls to attend parenting classes, require that they finish high school, and require that they each share chores.

Such a home would likely do a whole lot of good. But what happens if a girl decides she doesn't like the restrictions? Currently she can go out and get welfare and get her own apartment. There's no necessity that she stay. She always has an "easy way out". And I guess that's what I mean: faith based communities provide much better services (which is why President Bush did the Faith Based Initiative, for example), but it's difficult to get people to finish rehab, or finish such a group home experience, because there are alternatives.

I think the issue with welfare is that the hoops you have to go through vary by jurisdiction.

I'd agree that it is hard to remove kids; I've seen firsthand what the foster parent system is like (and have done relief foster work), and it is really difficult. But I don't think leaving children in a home where parents make poor choices and spend money on partying instead of food for the children is good enough. And papering over the problems through a feeding program isn't good enough, either. We need to change the culture that allows such things to happen.

And so we're back to square one, which I think is where you and I agree: how do you change that culture? We both believe faith has to play a large role, but part of the message that the faith based community has is that family matters. Without a commitment to the nuclear family, society falls apart.

So we need to create a culture with a commitment to the nuclear family. We in the church can do that, first and foremost, BY NOT GETTING DIVORCED OURSELVES! The church has really let society down here.

But it has to go beyond that, and I think that has to be restoring the family to the central place of responsibility again. I don't know how to do that; I truly don't. I'm at a loss. But I do believe that many government programs that try to help end up exacerbating the problem. And now I have no more solutions, other than every Christian family that's able to start fostering kids, so that we rescue those we can, and make more homes available. That's what God's been telling me lately, and I'm just waiting for Him to work on my kids!


At 2:36 PM , Blogger Mary R. said…

No, I don't have the solutions. I have enjoyed reading the comments here. Faith-based charities have restrictions, as you said, Sheila. They would want the families to attend worship services, not use alcohol or tobacco or illegal drugs, not have shack-up arrangements, etc, and many today would not want to live in the church-sponsored group homes if they had these regulations. But, a church-supported charity could not allow such goings-on as I mentioned above.

If the government is enabling dependency among healthy people who could work via welfare, and unwed motherhood, and we don't like our tax money going for that, why would we want the church to enable such dependency? Why would we want our tithe money going for that? Same thing.

Ministers can tell you that there are people in cities who won't work and completely make their living off of churches, going from one to the next, each month, having the churches pay their bills. The ministers in the ministerial alliances call them "frequent fliers." The churches just give them the money if they have it.

I know several unwed mothers personally. I encourage them to marry the baby's father, who usually wants to marry her. They just snort at me. Not interested.

Anyway, this is complicated. I guess it will continue in the way it is going until it can't.


At 2:49 PM , Blogger Mary R. said…

Please pardon my multiple comments.

The job of the church is not to establish welfare programs. That is the social gospel. They may help with things like this, and should, but when that's ALL they do, they cease to be a church. The main job of the church is to preach the Gospel, seek and save that which was lost, and teach the Word. There is no biblical precedent for the church at large to establish widespread welfare programs. That would be a distraction from its main mission.

There are examples in the bible of churches helping their own (like "widows indeed") -- "especially those of the household of faith," and of individuals doing charitable works, and we can always do that and should. Most churches that I know use their money or take up special offerings to help out poor people.

I just take exception to the idea that "floats around" out there that the main function of the Christian church at large is to establish welfare programs and help the poor. It is not.

I would think that churches banding together to fund city-wide welfare programs wouldn't do any more than the government is doing -- enabling bad behavior. The church is not to be a social-welfare system for people in place of the government.


At 2:50 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Mary, Very true, although reading your comment is almost as depressing as reading mine!

I would say, though, that faith based charities definitely play a role if they can teach parenting, life skills, etc. Handing out things for free, with no strings attached, does not contribute to good behaviour. No, we don't want to further entrench dysfunction, but we also, I think, can find creative solutions that help people out of the mess they've gotten themselves in. If we can't do that, then we're essentially saying God isn't transforming!

But it's how to find that balance that is tough indeed.


At 2:53 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Sorry, Mary, my comment was written at the same time as your last one!

Yes, I agree. A church program that recreates welfare isn't any better than a government one.

But I do think churches have a role in helping people learn life skills, and empowering people to live up to their responsibilities. They will learn this, first and foremost, when they meet God.

I would argue that we do have an obligation to help the poor, as both the New Testaments and Old Testaments taught this. But helping the poor does not mean entrenching dysfunction.

Finding creative ways to do this is a challenge.


At 3:23 PM , Blogger Mary R. said…

Yes, Sheila, my comments are depressing. I feel at a loss. Helping the poor is not the church's "job description." Not it's main function, although, yes, we can help the poor any time we want to, and we should. I just object to the idea that helping the poor is to be the church's MAIN thing. Then it is no longer the church. Even in the O.T., while they were to help the poor, that was not the main function of Israel.

Too many insist that the main function of the church is the social gospel. It is not; it becomes a distraction from its main purpose. Look at the Salvation Army. They do much good, but most people don't even know it is a church.

You are so right in that God transforms! He does. He came to seek and save that which was lost. Nearly all of the unwed mothers I personally know, though, got that way deliberately and truly feel like they have "the good life." Unbelievable but true. They last thing they feel is "lost." They avoid churches and church people. None have been interested in coming to church. You cannot transform people who do not want to be spiritually transformed.

I see the family as the solution to all the welfare. It always was. The Bible says that families first and foremost are to take responsibility for those of their household so that the church not be burdened, or else they are worse than infidels.

But our families have fallen apart, in the church and out, like you have said. How do we combat that? Strong families can help themselves and their loved ones, and then reach out and help the poor. Nearly all Christians know what the Bible says about divorce for frivolous reasons, but we do it anyway.

How do you get unwed mothers of today to see that they have gotten themselves into a mess? They don't think they have. You have to know you are in a mess, lost, before you turn to God for answers, not just to a church or the govt. for a handout.

I didn't say that the church should not help the poor, just that it is not the MAIN function of the church, and should never enable disfunction as you said.

I try to be nice to these girls, and they will allow me to put them on my facebook, things like that, but cut me off when I want to talk about God, or invite them to church.

Church-based charities rightly want to see changed lives in those they help; government welfare puts no such expectations on people.

I think if the government welfare went away, you would just see more abortions. These are kids who don't think.


At 3:33 PM , Anonymous Eve said…

Just a quick question... I'm new(ish) to Canada - why do teen moms get welfare in the first place? As teenages, mothers or not, aren't they minors? Why are they being encourage/helped to leave home?


At 4:19 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Mary R., thank you for your insightful comments, even if they are depressing :). All we can really do is reach out. Which reminds me, a new teen mom I know has a baby shower tomorrow afternoon....

Eve, it depends what jurisdiction you're in in Canada, and I'm not sure of all the specifics. I think it depends on the definition of "teen mom", too. Legally, you can live on your own at 16. Whether or not you can get welfare at that age for a baby, I don't know, but I would assume there are programs. At 18, you are eligible for everything.

But I think it varies by province, and I really don't know all the ins and outs!


At 4:40 PM , Blogger Mary R. said…

Thanks, Sheila. One of the girls I know just had a baby today. We do have to reach out. Maybe these girls don't know they are lost, but they are.


At 7:56 PM , Blogger Persuaded said…

I like these kinds of discussions too Sheila☺

You wrote: "What I mean about the faith communities not being able to compete is this: Let's say that The Salvation Army, or a church, or whatever, wanted to set up a "group home" type situation for single, teenage moms. They wanted to instill accountability, require the girls to attend parenting classes, require that they finish high school, and require that they each share chores.Such a home would likely do a whole lot of good. But what happens if a girl decides she doesn't like the restrictions? Currently she can go out and get welfare and get her own apartment. There's no necessity that she stay. She always has an "easy way out"."
Yeah... I kinda figured that was what you meant:-D And I'd agree with you if all we as believers had to offer was a bunch of rules and training folks to lead more "responsible" lives. But that's not all we have, in fact if we are approaching the problem with the idea that rules and training is the solution then it's no wonder that we're failing. We have the God of all love behind us and He promises to empower us to do His will. He is the master life-changer and He desires these people to have fulfilling and productive lives more than we can imagine. Do you doubt that He will act to help them? Really?

You wrote: "I think the issue with welfare is that the hoops you have to go through vary by jurisdiction."
True.. but I should point out that I live in NY state, undeniably one of the most "liberal" in the country on these issues, and I have seen families struggling mightily and children suffering under the current demands and restrictions placed on them in order to receive welfare benefits. I think folks are under the delusion that a family goes on welfare and then just lolls back and watches the money roll in. This is most definitely not the case... at least in the (hundreds of) families I have seen. It's tough and honestly... it's pretty degrading.

more below...


At 7:57 PM , Blogger Persuaded said…

You wrote: "But I don't think leaving children in a home where parents make poor choices and spend money on partying instead of food for the children is good enough. And papering over the problems through a feeding program isn't good enough, either. We need to change the culture that allows such things to happen."
Ironically, I think if the regulations were changed to make it easier to remove children from families of origin, the Christians would be among the most vociferously opposed. The thing is, if we increase the power of child protective workers to remove children from homes such as the one I mentioned, then they will also have more power to remove children from other families... maybe some Christian families that we think are doing a fine job. Do we really want to increase the control that social service departments have on families? I'm not so sure that would be a good idea...

Feeding the children who are unfortunate enough to be born into these struggling families isn't papering over the problems.... it's just making sure their most basic needs are met. How can we... probably the most wealthy society in the history of the world, allow our most vulnerable members to go hungry? Are we as believers really trying to justify such a thing?

You wrote: "So we need to create a culture with a commitment to the nuclear family. We in the church can do that, first and foremost, BY NOT GETTING DIVORCED OURSELVES! The church has really let society down here."
Amen sistah! You'll get no argument from me on this account! ☺

more below...


At 7:57 PM , Blogger Persuaded said…

You wrote: "But it has to go beyond that, and I think that has to be restoring the family to the central place of responsibility again. I don't know how to do that; I truly don't. I'm at a loss. But I do believe that many government programs that try to help end up exacerbating the problem. And now I have no more solutions, other than every Christian family that's able to start fostering kids, so that we rescue those we can, and make more homes available. That's what God's been telling me lately, and I'm just waiting for Him to work on my kids!"
That's the ticket Sheila! Seriously, we don't have to come up with some grand scheme for solving all of the world's problems- frankly that's not our job, lol. What is our job is doing what we can with the resources at our disposal. Listening to the Lord and being obedient.. sacrificially obedient. Fostering children is an excellent example, but there are lots of other things we can do. Here's an example: our church has a children's program every Wednesday night. (I wrote about it here: ) The kids from our church attend and so do the children of local migrant farm workers. Various families commit to picking up the children and driving them in. We noticed that the kids were hungry so, we started feeding them dinner and sending them home with additional food. We bought them Bibles and teach them about Jesus, His love for them and His will for their lives. They play games and sing songs and over the years we have forged strong relationships. I'm sure many would look at our little church and our little program and think Big. Freakin'. Deal. So you fed a couple dozen kids one meal a week.. in the whole scheme of things what good does that do?? From an earthly perspective I suppose that kind of dismissal is warranted. But you know what? Our program means a couple of dozen kids don't have to attend the after school program in order to get their dinner on at least one night a week. It means that those kids are being taught about God and His love for them. They are being shown that love in a tangible real way. One of my little guys went back to Mexico a couple of months ago. He went with the knowledge that here is a chubby little old woman up here who loves his adorable little face, lol. He knows that I am praying for him... and he knows that prayer changes things because we've prayed together about many things over the years and he has seen answered prayer in his life. He brought a Bible back with him and he knows how to read it and how to look up verses, because he has been taught all of that in our tiny little church's one night a week program.

Our church is tiny... maybe 50-60 folks on a Sunday morning, and there's not a lot of money; most of us live week-to-week. We can't do much, but we can do this one small thing, so we do it! I think if everyone, all over the country was willing to do the one small thing that was in front of them, then we'd see some societal changes. If we were humbly obedient, then I think we'd see the Lord work and work mightily. We shouldn't sit back and do nothing. And we especially shouldn't be criticizing and condemning those who are only trying to help... while we are sitting back and doing that nothing that we're doing.


At 8:02 PM , Blogger Sheila said…


That's a lovely example of Christian outreach!

It reminds me of our attitude when we go to Kenya; we can't save everyone, so we focus on one orphanage, and we train those girls and equip them to live a better life. You can't save the whole world! But if we each did the little we could, life would be better.

I certainly don't mean to criticize those from the church who are trying to help; I think your program is great. But like I said, I just think there's a world of difference between the government doing something (and thus establishing a norm that parents do not have to act like parents), and the church reaching out with love and practical help and the gospel. I'd like to see more of the latter, and much less of the former, personally.


At 8:17 PM , Blogger Persuaded said…

But you see Sheila, I don't think that we should be criticizing Mrs. Obama and her efforts. I don't think that we should be criticizing the government for feeding hungry children. In my opinion, those children have gone hungry on our watch... those government programs started up because the church wasn't stepping up. Those programs continue and increase because we have not stepped up and made them unnecessary. Personally, I feel that condemnation of others' actions, especially such well-meaning actions as the feeding of hungry children, is a waste of valuable time and energy. I'd rather expend my energy in making the situation better... in sharing my own wealth and most importantly sharing the love of God. And I firmly believe that if we all did our share, then all that would need to get done would get done.


At 10:33 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Thank you for further explaining the expanding of kindergarten. I do agree with you that 3 and 4 years old are too young to be in a school environment full-time.

Nurse Bee


At 11:15 PM , Blogger TheFiveDays said…

I agree, completely. Great post. I have two children with autism and the school district is AMAZED when I turn down feeding programs or having them bussed to school. They seem shocked that I actually want to pack their own food, and make sure I touch base with their aides every time I drop them off or pick them up. They have pushed me to send my 3-year-old to more hours of preschool, which I have declined. They tell me to "imagine everything I could do" if they were just taking care of my kids instead of me. Sorry, but I had kids because I like them and actually think it's my responsibility to do as much as I can. Yes, we do need to lean on school services more than we'd like because our kids have special needs and we don't have the training we'd need to provide it all. But I can still feed and transport them!


At 11:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Hm. This is a difficult issue, and I can see both sides, but really, I don't have any objection to the government feeding children with my tax money. I believe that God asks me to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and He never mentioned how much of "my" money is Caesar's! A lot of times I think people are just upset that what they think is rightfully theirs is being taken from them through taxation and forget that all their money belongs to God. I am certainly not above this, but I truly believe that feeding children is probably one of the best things that could be done with my tax money. While a so-called welfare state may not be the best thing to have, once people are used to it, we can't just cut it off and tell people to suck it up and "get a job." Certainly, better programs could be created, but if we just cut off funding, I think people would actually die from want of food or shelter.


At 3:55 PM , Blogger Mary R. said…

Touching story of church outreach by Persuaded. Most churches I know are involved in outreaches like this.

With her story of the family with the neglected children, I wonder: where were the grandparents? the aunts and uncles and cousins? The family needs to step in when it comes to situations like this. Same thing in the case of battered women. Where are their male family members to rescue her?

The government steps in to fill the vacuum left by the family. The family is so important. It is a shame so many family members are estranged from one another, sometimes simply because they live far away from each other.


At 9:20 PM , Anonymous Sharon said…

This is a great article!

BTW, we have a family of 7 on one income (and we're talking an income lower than $50000 a year). I feed my family on less than $100 a week (it's probably about $80 a week)...It means learning some creativity on things to do with ground beef and cheap chicken pieces and an awful lot of potatoes and rice, but those are good for you anyway. But if I can do it anyone can.

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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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