Editorial Boards: McDonnell's defining families push shifts focus from victims to his social views



Editorial Boards: McDonnell's defining families push shifts focus from victims to his social views

In case you missed it, two Virginia editorial boards criticized Governor Bob McDonnell's plan to create more two-parent households by shifting resources away from critical programs including those that serve victims of domestic violence. 


Roanoke Times
Editorial: Women and children shouldn't be victims of pro-family program

October 6, 2011

Cuts to domestic violence programs would burden law enforcement agencies.

Gov. Bob McDonnell believes families should be safe, stable and intact. He believes children should have a relationship with two parents. And he believes young women should receive support to make good life decisions so that they do not have a child out of wedlock before they are physically, mentally or financially able to support a family.

There is nothing wrong with the governor launching initiatives that further those goals. But McDonnell cannot allow his vision for how families should be to interfere with his support for programs that deal with the horror of how some families really are.

Organizations serving victims of domestic violence currently receive $1.2 million in left-over funds each year from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The Women's Resource Center of the New River Valley, the oldest domestic violence program in the commonwealth, gets $37,000 of that sum, which represents 20 percent of its budget. The money is used for an emergency shelter, counseling and housing and job assistance.

The Virginia Department of Social Services persuaded the legislature to roll any unspent TANF dollars into a competitive grant program. The grant criteria are based on the administration's new Strengthening Families initiative, which seeks to reduce out-of-wedlock births, reconnect children with their fathers and promote two-parent families.

Those criteria will result in reduced state support for domestic violence programs starting next summer unless alternative funding is identified. Women often suffer years of abuse to themselves and their children before they find the courage to escape a violent relationship. When these frightened and vulnerable women finally seek protection at a shelter, it would be irresponsible and criminal to send them back for more beatings.

McDonnell is not pro-domestic violence. He simply wants to shift scarce resources to programs that mesh with his top social priorities. But he must consider the implications when he takes money away from critical services.

The certainty of greater human suffering should be enough for McDonnell to hold domestic violence programs harmless. If not, the former prosecutor should consider the impact on public safety. Without a strong system of shelters and support services in place, deputies and police offers will spend more time breaking up fights and driving women and children to safe houses many miles away. Tragically, law enforcement also will spend more resources investigating brutal domestic assaults and homicides.

The governor and state lawmakers still have time this winter to correct this mistake. Virginia's police chiefs and sheriffs must let McDonnell know about the importance of domestic violence programs in their communities. Victims advocates should not be left to fend for themselves as they struggle to make sure their doors stay open.


The editorial can be found here: http://www.roanoke.com/editorials/wb/299285



Virginian Pilot
Help for families at victims' expense
October 5, 2011

The issue: The governor wants to strengthen marriage and family units as a way to curb welfare expenses. 

Where we stand: Such efforts shouldn't come at the expense of help for victims of domestic violence.


Having two parents in a household isn't the panacea to ending poverty in Virginia or elsewhere, but there's little doubt that, in many instances, it helps.

Research has shown that the stability of homes with two adults is generally more likely to provide children with a level of security and opportunity lacking in broken homes. So it's easy to see why Gov. Bob McDonnell and other state officials would pursue an initiative to promote marriage and reconciliation among estranged couples to help combat poverty across the commonwealth.

As The Pilot's Julian Walker reported, details of the Strengthening Families Initiative are still being worked out, but its goal is to place a greater emphasis on marriage and family as a way to curb state spending on welfare programs.

Nearly a third of Virginia households in poverty last year were composed of a single mother and her children. Just 4 percent consisted of married couples with children. Meanwhile, the state is spending more than $127 million on temporary financial aid to needy families and $2.7 billion on subsidized medical care each year.
If encouraging more couples to marry or stay together can help reduce those costs, state officials would be foolish not to consider doing so.

That encouragement, however, shouldn't come at the expense of other critical social programs, especially those that serve victims of domestic violence. And under the governor's plan and legislation approved this year, that's what would happen.

Shelters and other organizations providing assistance to battered women and children would have to compete with groups that fulfill the state's favored mission - promoting family stability - for grants essential to their operation.

Those programs have two profoundly different purposes, and forcing them to compete for funding would mark a callous, if not myopic, shift in Virginia's approach to social services. The one-size-fits-all approach to relationships, to put it simply, is divorced from reality.

The economy's failure to rebound will require tough choices in budget discussions for next year and perhaps beyond, but that doesn't absolve a civilized society of its responsibility to lend a hand to those who've been trapped in a cycle of abuse and dysfunction.

Funding for groups that provide such help must be preserved.

The editorial can be found: http://hamptonroads.com/2011/10/help-families-victims-expense