Lead Stories

Conservatism and compassion

"Conservatism and compassion" Continued...

Juvenile justice and foster care
Change the trajectory of a child headed in the wrong direction and you change just about everything: lower prison expenditures, higher future employment rates and tax revenue, safer communities, healthier families, and much more.

Marriage. Conservatives should never be shy in helping people see that fatherlessness is a sociological cancer. Children from single-parent families are four times more likely to live in poverty, and are at much greater risk of teenage pregnancy, incarceration, obesity, and drug and alcohol abuse. In virtually every measurable sociological category, children from fatherless homes face longer odds to live healthy and financially independent lives. Changing marriage trends in struggling communities is no small task. But conservatives should be at the forefront of championing a wide range of community and faith-based initiatives that encourage and support marriage.

Juvenile incarceration. When unnecessary, incarceration of non-violent juvenile offenders costs the taxpayer in both monetary and social metrics. The annual costs to taxpayers can be as high as $50,000 per prisoner in many states, an amount higher than the yearly salaries for many public sector employees like teachers and police officers. And it’s not just the financial impact; the 60 percent unemployment rate and very limited earnings opportunities that face ex-convicts help create a nearly inescapable spiral of poverty as well as a high degree of recidivism. Conservatives must take the lead in efforts that divert non-violent juvenile offenders from prison to mentoring programs, tutoring, and other relationships proven to help break cycles of incarceration.

Foster care. Finally, conservatives should take the lead in addressing foster care in our communities. Across the United States, roughly 100,000 children hope against hope for adoption into a forever family, and about 300,000 others need temporary care in loving homes. Foster youth who age out of the system without being adopted—having no stable family to guide and support—often find it difficult to navigate education, jobs, and relationships. By their mid-20s, 80 percent of the young men have been arrested, and nearly 70 percent of women are on public assistance. As we’ve seen in Colorado, these numbers can be vastly improved through state reforms that make fostering and adopting easier for families, alongside private initiatives to recruit and support families through the joys and challenges of foster care and adoption.

Conservative principles lend themselves well to policies that could transform the lives of countless children, boosting the percentage of children raised by married couples, reducing incarceration, and finding loving homes for children who lack them.

Conclusion

The RNC report concludes, “Young voters are increasingly rolling their eyes at what the Party represents, and many minorities wrongly think that Republicans do not like them or want them in the country. When someone rolls their eyes at us, they are not likely to open their ears to us.”

Now is the time to reverse this watershed concern by digging deep into our historic bedrock. As a first step, we recommend that a representative of Republican leadership on and off the Hill follow up the Growth and Opportunity Project with a detailed policy agenda to provide focus for the party through the next several years until a nominee is able to better articulate our vision for all Americans.

The future success of the Republican Party and conservative movement lies not primarily in better messaging, wider outreach, and sophisticated technology, as important as these are. The future lies in our willingness to re-discover and articulate in policy a simple truth: conservatism is compassionate.

Reprinted with permission. © 2013 The Clapham Group LLC. All rights reserved.

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