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Put a (6.6 Million Dollar) Ring on It

By Amber Versola
Opinion | September 4, 2011

man-and-woman-talking-on-couch.jpgSHAWNEE, Kan. - After hearing talk about a faith based marriage initiative in Kansas, I can't help but wonder if perhaps Beyonce's "Single Ladies" is stuck on repeat on Governor Brownback's iPod.

Sitting comfortably in one of the many rooms at Cedar Crest mansion, the married father (our Governor) thinks he can curb child poverty and crime rates by encouraging single parents to get or stay married. While I want to believe his intentions are pure, his actions once again show how out of tune he is with us, the common folk.

Obviously, this man does not truly grasp the reality of our lives and the problems that single parents face.

With a baby on my hip, and lacking a college degree, I was 24 years old when I walked away from the unhealthy nightmare that was my marriage.

The situations surrounding my "circumstance" were a result of both choices I made and incidences over which I had no control. Regardless, the ultimate decision to become a single mother was both intimately personal and incredibly difficult.

Raised by divorced parents myself, that choice meant that I became another figure in a statistic that I never wanted to represent. In my own eyes, even if in no one else's, I had failed.

Seemingly countless studies demonstrate the downfalls of divorce. The numbers can be frightening.

For instance, consider that a report by a University of Utah professor points out that people who were raised by divorced parents have a far greater chance of getting their own divorces when compared to those who are raised by intact families.

According to a conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, "marriage drops the probability of child poverty by 82 percent" and married women with children suffer far less abuse than single mothers.

Another report suggests that children who are raised in single parent households (or even raised in neighborhoods where single parent households dominate) are more likely to become violent criminal offenders. The same report blatantly claims that "the worse feature of illegitimacy is that it is passed, like a virus, between generations."

If the experts' indications are correct, signing the divorce decree was a selfish offense on my behalf.

Because of it, both my son and I would probably suffer to some degree. I'm more likely to be bound by the dark cycle of poverty. When my son gets married (assuming he's not already in jail), he's more likely to get a divorce ... thus keeping our cycle going. It seems that by averting one disastrous road, I've steered us toward a horrible predicament.

If the best solution is to put a little bling on my ring finger, then I'm in trouble. Suitors aren't exactly lining the streets waiting for single moms.

Governor Brownback and Robert Siedlecki, the (divorced) Secretary of Kansas's Social and Rehabilitation Services agency, aren't worried about the little details though.

After holding a closed door meeting regarding a faith based marriage initiative, they have asked the federal government for 6.6 million dollars to fund their ideas.

The Governors' friends are adamant that I should "marry up," and they will even get the government to pay for my marriage license if I complete a class.

If only it were that simple.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against marriage. In fact, I'm not even ruling it out for the future. However, I am saying that it is a complicated venture for two people to take; it's a journey that's certainly not a solution for any problem - let alone an issue as vast and complex as poverty or crime.

Marriages sometimes fall apart, incomes aren't always secure, and life often brings you to roads for which you don't always have a roadmap. It seems only rational to equip people with the tools required to navigate the unexpected. My theory is that people create a stronger foundation for their marriage by first being able to stand on their own.

The stereotypical welfare mom doesn't have this luxury. If she enters marriage out of welfare (assuming that she is "marrying up"), she is automatically dependent on her spouse for the most basic necessities for her and her child. If she marries another low income person, they are likely to encounter more issues.

While Brownback isn't asking for my input, I would rather that he direct the 6.6 million dollars toward programs that would empower single mothers and foster independence than use it to encourage us to buy into the notion that our biggest problems will be solved when Prince Charming puts a ring on it.

While marriage provides two incomes, it doesn't necessarily provide two parents. It takes more than money to raise a child. Money may be able to provide necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing; but children also need love, time, discipline, and to feel safe.

The best scenario would be for people not to have children unless they were able and willing to provide all of these things. Since that doesn't always happen, and children can't help their circumstances - the best thing we can do for the kids is to make sure that the people who are responsible for their well being are prepared with everything it takes to give them the best life possible. Topping the list of necessities are education, childcare, and healthcare.

Single mothers shouldn't be forced away from quality paying jobs and educational opportunities because they don't have access to childcare.

Parents shouldn't be forced to wait until they are so sick that they have to go to the emergency room because they can't afford medical care or because they cannot risk taking the time off of work. Lacking childcare, education, and healthcare, many single mothers find themselves stuck in a sick cycle of poverty.

So, to the man at Cedar Crest and his divorced friends who insist that marriage will help break the feminization of poverty, I say: With all due respect, I suggest that you put down Beyonce's "Single Ladies" and pick up Ne-Yo's "Ms. Independent."

After all, "there's something about the kinda woman who want you but don't need you" that would make a man of high quality want to "put a ring on it."


Your writing is getting so good, Amber. Wow. Wonderful.

Pam -

Thank you for the compliment (and for creating a venue where I can get on my "soapbox"). :)

Good writing, Amber.

My biggest problem with Brownbacks 'faith based' marriage counseling is the hypocracy of his program.

We turn down grants for a health care program that would do very much to overcome some issues that create stress in families, that end up in divorce. We cut off government assistance (welfare) programs, because that is invading the church and individual's responsibilities. But, we can take tax dollars and give it to the churches to let them put their theology into the program. And, that isn't invading the church member's responsibility? I don't have to open my hand when the collection plate passes, if the government foots the bill. I'll guarantee, we do put theology into the program. Theology determines who the church thinks deserve help and who should take care of themselves. It is theology that upsets people on how the government picks and chooses and how much the government gives certain individuals.

Separation of Church and State does not eliminate theology. It does eliminate any single group's theology as being absolute in the program. The authors of our constitution were intent upon preventing either majority or minority forcing their theology on everyone. Our government is representative of all and that should give a proportional percentage of all religious or non religious social standards. Then if the legislative body is operating properly, a simple majority can put together the program that provides the most compatible wishes of the diversified majority. That won't always satisfy the most vocal majority of any particular sect or group, religious or otherwise.

What does Brownback think about the fact that church people, including his Catholic friends have the same statistical divorce rates as those who claim no religious (church) affiliation? What is going to make his 'faith based' program any more successful than any other? Religious institutions can refuse membership or ex-communicate individuals who don't comply with the institutions standards. Thus, they keep their purity. But, isn't that a failure of their system if that is the only way of maintaing their purity? We are sinless, cause we won't let any of you sinners be a part of us!!!

I've been acquainted with many single parents, both single mothers and single fathers. No its not easy. Having a marriage partner, even if its only for someone to help make decisions or the factor of being a built-in babysitter, is a big help.

Amber, I'm confused though. On what programs do you want funded? Health insurance? Food stamps? Childcare assistance?

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