2008-02-10

Solutions to Teen Pregnancy

There's a very interesting column in today's Banner-Herald by Melanie Wilson Daniel.

Now, I don't much care for her columns thus far based on the fact that occasionally she sounds like a shill sent straight to the Banner-Herald from James Dobson. She is anti-choice and pro-theocracy, and I think that disclaimer should be somehow worked into her bio. But she has an interesting idea in removing poor children from their parents to preclude their becoming pregnant as teens. As well as other forms of government subsidizing church activities, a concept I generally oppose.(Oh, and superfluous quotation marks piss me off, too.)

Here's the plan as she describes it:

...We can offer them total immersion in an environment that fosters education, wise choices, responsibility and the confidence to cultivate aspirations. We can create two single-sex boarding schools, 24/7 safe havens from destructive influences and hopelessness which, according to the people I spoke with, are so overwhelming they eventually prevail over initiatives and good intentions. Staffed by solid role models, these schools would provide academics, trade instruction, standards, structure, guidance and encouragement.

The barriers to this are not, as she claims, "turf wars"* -- they're legality and cost. It's very difficult to take children from people who are not abusing or neglecting them, and I am skeptical that parents who don't value their children enough to provide them a stable environment and who are generally not too trusting of authority would voluntarily hand them over to the state.

However, there is one population in which boarding schools might actually work -- and that is the population of teens in foster care. Teens in foster care are by definition at risk, and they're comparatively unlikely to find stability. Most bounce around in care until they age out. They also can be placed in a facility comparatively easily, and plenty are -- but there are not enough long-term placements of high quality for them. And they're already out of their parents' care. Also, since the state already pays a great deal of money to house them in foster care or group homes, the additional cost would be relatively minimal.

So, what if there were boarding schools for at-risk children that operated like actual boarding schools rather than stigmatized schooling for underserved populations or punitive facilities? What if children in foster care were a large part of the population, but additional children from the community could be educated there as well with parental consent and involvement? What do you guys think?

*Isn't it sneaky and coy to characterize monumental challenges of lengthy standing as "turf wars?" How cute.