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The Big Answer


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Social Action with Children and Families

a book by Crescy Cannan and Chris Warren, eds.

(our site's book review)

The authors, mostly referring to European centers, argue that “ways must be found to work together to promote environments in which children can flourish, and to develop forms of public life which are friendly to children, young people and their parents.” It applies as well to all other countries, obviously.

They make the obligatory plea for money: “day care, after-school care and safe, imaginative environments for children need public funding, because it is on that foundation that successful families and family centers rest.” One comes to expect that from social workers, sociologists, and university lecturers—the authors are the latter. What can policy makers and politicians do besides throw money at social issues, anyway?

What can policy makers and politicians do besides throw money at social issues, anyway?
What can policy makers and politicians do besides throw money at social issues, anyway?

The family centers combine day and residential provisions. These centers—when called family centers—are mostly a European phenomenon. They welcome and involve parents, offering different kinds of specialist provisions. They act as resource centers for families in need, child minders, and foster parents. They supply activities for children as well as parents. These centers supply counseling and therapeutic services. But they also provide leisure and educational activities. They focus on individuals as well as individuals’ local neighborhoods. Many family centers welcome all the generations, with activities for all ages of children, as well as for youth and for elderly people as well as for parents. The point of centers is to empower people, increasing social networks and minimizing need for professional services.

A few states have family centers per se but in the U.S. what are called Family Centers are mostly on military bases. Located on most military installations, Family Centers provide information, life skills education, and support services to military members and their families. One key function of a Family Center is to link customers with appropriate services available in the local community and/or through state and federal assistance programs such as those related to health and human services, school systems, employment assistance, law enforcement and recreation.

In the U.S., family centers—not necessarily known by this name—come in many forms and are places for all types of people to gather for myriad purposes. Four types of family centers are identified in the United States: school based, community based, culturally based, and faith based family centers. In some form or another they seem to have been around since 1857, but there was apparently an expansion of them in the U.S. in the 1980s.

The author recognizes that the U.S. seems to have been pursuing family centers of some form as well as child advocacy even before the U.K. which is strange considering how long Europe has been around. It must all trace back to the first settlers of what is now the U.S. coming here to escape European oppression by aristocracy, et al. Early immigrants were mostly of an oppression-escaping mentality as well as adventurers seeking to make their fortunes. Those that stayed behind in Europe were less activist by nature (or more cowardly or dumber or richer or whatever).

Early immigrants were mostly of an oppression-escaping mentality as well as adventurers seeking to make their fortunes
Early immigrants were mostly of an oppression-escaping mentality as well as adventurers seeking to make their fortunes

Family centers at their best are places where local families contribute as well as receive services. What parents want is flexible child care and open access to the centers as resource centers. Funding is always a struggle, but it is true that someone has to pay the electric bill. There is a self-help principle at work that says that everyone, young and old, has something to offer.

MCs agree. Everyone does have something to offer. MCs (microcommunities) are a local neighborhood phenomenon (see MCs) much like family centers except no funding or professional help is needed and childcare is optimal, not marginal or at least suboptimal. Young and old and parents all work together to create a community that fills everyone’s needs—as an optimal community should.

The Left tends to say "it takes a village" (partially correct, but implying lots of social programs to pay for). The Right tends to say "no, it takes a family, not a village" (partially correct, and implying dislike of paying for social programs for things that families ought to be dealing with). MC members tend to say "we have all the advantages of both the Left's compassionate village and the Right's family-centered values and none of the disadvantages of either of these worldviews!"

Family centers normally try to empower relatively negative environments to function more like communities, with many types of people working toward the overall goal of social functionality. MCs empower relatively normal environments that have few community-type features and poor connectedness to become microcommunities that make everyone’s lives work the way lives are meant to work, with regards to parenting, childcare, elder care, communication, connectedness and friendships.

Elder care
Elder care