Perhaps there is no area of legislation, law enforcement and social consideration of greater consideration or more hotly debated than those governing domestic considerations, especially child rearing. Legislation and child rearing have gone hand in hand before but are rarely comfortable partners. The challenge is to define that thin, narrow line between protecting children and allowing adults enough control to effectively teach and discipline youngsters. From such proverbial directives as “Sparing the rod is spoiling the child,” and “A student’s ears are on his back,” to more nurturing approaches that maintain that a child learns best in an environment of acceptance and understanding, just what to do and when to do it have long been questions.
The Scope of the Problem
At one end of the spectrum we have infant abandonment, young children left in hot cars, and shaken babies; at the other end, we have frustrated, angry young adults who return to their school or church to demonstrate their pique with guns. Babies become adults. Nurturing can make a difference, but it is still unclear just how much. The jury is still out on nature vs. nurture.
How Much Regulation is Enough and How Much is Too Much?
The big question becomes how much should legislation regulate private life? In some cultures, in the past, and to some degree in the present, every aspect of life was regulated from the day’s schedule to food consumed and to reproduction. In a current cultural atmosphere of ever-increasing freedom to choose, how does that affect the lives of children? What happens when a woman elects to become a man, but either has been or is in the process of bearing a child or giving birth? What happens when a poorly informed teen experiments with sex and gets pregnant? Should spanking ever be a corrective measure for a child? When does it turn criminal? Is sparing the rod spoiling the child?
Searching for Answers
Sociologists and psychologists wrestle with these questions every day. Forensic investigators get the fallout as they look for answers to question such as “Who was Baby June?” Forensic science has come a long way since the days when “investigation” included such practices as seeing if a witch would float, but even Sherlock Holmes would have a hard time puzzling out some of the crimes presented to forensic investigators these days. Incidentally, Holmes had several very odd practices that would likely put him on the wrong side of the modern law, but that is the difference between literature and real life as well as the difference between history and now.
No one wants school shootings, dumpster babies, or Baby June or Baby Moses mysteries. Murder is murder. In a perfect world, there would be easy answers. This is not a perfect world. It is now well known that children do best in a nurturing home environment. Removing a child from parents should only be done for supremely cogent reasons, but once the child is removed, what then? Should the parents receive training and then be given back their child? Should the child go to relatives? Should the youngster enter our foster care system? Be put up for adoption? There are no easy answers.