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More Children Needed – Punish Your Kids, Start a Second Family 3.8.2006

By Rick Racela

Joe’s 3-8-06 Column
Headline
By JOE ZELNIK
No matter what they tell you, size matters.
One of the newer problems in this problem-plagued county is smaller school enrollment.
So many skateboard parks; so few users.
School boards, which tax us, are finding it more and more difficult to justify the size of their staff and administration.
We can moan and whine about the loss of school-age kids, or we can do something about it.
Sure, sure, young parents are moving out. But focus on the ones that are staying.
Are they doing their part?
Couldn’t many of them have a couple more kids?  Where’s the spark in their marriages?
What are schools doing to promote enrollment?
Nothing.
Why not?
Get proactive, school officials.  Send sex how-to books home with the kids in the hope parents will get the idea.
Maybe cancel some night affairs like PTA and science fairs in the hope parents staying home will find something better to do.
Offer a reward program – maybe grade inflation – for pupils who come to school and announce, “I’m going to have a baby brother (or sister)”.
And what about you older folks, the grandparents?  The 62-year-old who gave birth the other day should be an inspiration to all. Schools should do a mailing of Viagra samples to seniors – not that they all need it, mind you.
Reverse the enrollment decline. Do your part. Babies are cute. Kids can be fun. Teen-agers. Well, teenagers… Who knows, by the time they’re teens you could be someplace else…
Look at it this way.  Having a second set of children is the perfect revenge on your first set who stubbornly resist your advice on how to raise your grandchildren.  Start a second family and show the first one how they should be doing it.
Some, of course,  will choose to attack the dwindling enrollment problem by trying to figure out why people are departing, other than to make a million dollars on their teardowns.
Among possible factors could be that this is the second-worst county in the state to be a kid (Cumberland is the worst), according to a bunch of do-gooders named “Make Kids Count New Jersey.”
They report that we are the worst in the state in abuse-neglect referrals (52 per 1,000 under 18), next to worst in juvenile arrest rates (66 per 1,000).
Seven percent of our children live in families that are unemployed, and 14 percent of them live in poverty.
Cape Counseling Service’s successful application to the state for funds to have a school based youth services program at the county Technical School District offers this description of the county:
Worst in the state in regard to unemployment, median income, child abuse and neglect, juvenile arrests, juvenile crime, single parent households, and divorces.
Second worst in the state in prevalence of domestic violence and third worst in teen births. Ten percent of our births are to teen-agers. (That presents a dilemma. Do we urge teens to have babies to boost school enrollment, or do we suggest they wait so they can be better prepared?)
The highest substantiated rate of referrals for abuse neglect per 1,000 children, 26.6 percent, which is twice the statewide rate.
Highest rate in the state for DUI and teen-age DUI.
Half the children receiving counseling at the Special Services School District have been identified as victims of physical or sexual abuse.
The Cape Counseling application describes this county as having “limited employment, social and recreational opportunities in the winter…resulting in “a climate rich for behavioral health problems including substance abuse, juvenile crime and family violence.”
The Technical School District is a perfect place for the Cape Counseling program because it serves the entire county, a sort of  microcosm.
At Tech, 10 percent of the student body had received counseling services other than scheduling and college placement.
Of that 10 percent, 80 percent identified problems related to substance use (alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, prescription medication), and 80 percent identified problems related to emotion and family issues (depression, self-mutilation, family alcohol problems, conflicts with peers/break-ups in relationships). And the majority reported co-occuring substance use and emotional problems.
Since there does not seem to be any effort to change the things – unemployment, underemployment, and the resulting lack of pay and benefits – partially responsible for these conditions, maybe we should accept the inevitable.
Young families will leave and the number and percentage of older residents will increase.  With fixed income, they will be less and less able to afford growing taxes. They’ll be forced to seek jobs in the service industry.
Summer visitors lying alongside the rooftop pools in those 25-story condotels may have to get accustomed to 65-year-old lifeguards, 75-year-old waitresses, 85-year-old bartenders.
Freshen your sloe gin fizz, bub?

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