My local paper ran this essay this week: “Crack Baby” Study Ends With Unexpected But Clear Result. After 23 years, the study is over and the results might interest you. Turns out, cocaine is not the worst thing for you. It did not create underdeveloped children, mentally retarded children, emotionally disturbed children. Researchers found no evidence that cocaine accounted for clinically significant differences between exposed children and non-exposed children.
The Clear Result?
The clear result is not that cocaine has no negative impact (it does contribute to premature births and some other problems, but it doesn’t appear to contribute to life long problems in children born at full term.
The clear result is that both controls and exposed children were from the same environment: urban, minority, poor communities. The clear result is that POVERTY and VIOLENCE are significant contributers to things such as low IQ, exposure to traumatic experiences, etc.
Listen to some of these stats:
- At age 4, control group average IQ: 81.9; exposed children average IQ: 79.0 (both significantly lower than average IQ of national population of children same aged
- At age 6, 25% of kids in each group scored in abnormal range in math and letter/word recognition
- By age 7, 81% had seen someone arrested, 35% had seen someone shot, 19% had seen a dead body outside
- Drug use did not differ between groups: 42% had used pot (as young adults)
But some stats that astounded me:
Of the 224 kids, the researchers have kept track of 110. Here’s some additional data:
- 2 dead, 3 in prison
- 6 have college degrees, 6 on the way to getting a degree (these are the ones who they kept in touch with! I expect the percentage of college degrees to not would go down!)
- and this one: 60 children born to the 110 participants (remember the ages of the participants must be between 23 and 26!)
Mix poverty with failing schools, fractured families, and you get folks who have few options to make it. Without much hope for a future, it is easy to give in to any pleasure or comfort for the moment. Thus, you see higher drug use and babies.
Good to remember that when we see a simple equation between problem and cause, we probably have it somewhat wrong.
Cover via Amazon
At the recent PCA mercy conference, I attended Steve Corbett’s seminar on rethinking benevolence practices. If you are unfamiliar with Steve, if you are involved in mercy or diaconal ministries, you absolutely should read his book, When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty without Hurting the Poor. Or, go to this site if you want to know more about asset-based benevolence and the Chalmers Institute. The book and site will give you a clearer view of different kinds of poverty (material, being, purpose), the important distinctions between relief work, rehabilitation, and development work (and why pure relief may not be all that helpful outside of very immediate crises). What I found most helpful was his differentiation between need-based development (tends to focus on what is missing and outside resources can help) and asset-based development (which focuses more on existing assets that can be mobilized…and thus likely to be more sustainable).
Counseling that hurts?
We kindly Christians care about the world and about emotional, spiritual, cultural, and economic poverty. We want to help. Counselors want to help. It is necessary to review whether the help we offer is really all that helpful in moving individuals from passivity to activity. One of the hardest things to do in benevolence and counseling is to recognize when you are working harder than the one you are trying to help–and to then stop without withdrawing emotional support. For example, you counsel a person who is stuck in an abusive marriage. You so much want to help that person get to safety. But note several problematic responses
- Coerce. Even though what you want (safety) is good, forcing someone to safety from a violent spouse is merely replicating abuse. Yes, paternalism and control, even when done for a good cause, merely replicates inappropriate authority in the life of another adult.
- Ascribe motivation. When we get frustrated, we may desire to apply motives to the person.She doesn’t want to get out. She isn’t willing.In fact, it may be that she if afraid and cannot imagine a future outside of her current difficulty.
- Reject. There are times when we have to walk away from a counselee. However, even when we do so, we ought to communicate an open invitation for help in the future from ourselves or someone else. We are not God. We do not make final judgments.
One of the most important things to remember is that even if a person rejects our advice, we are still offering help. We are giving them opportunity to consider a new way of thinking. We are helping them weigh pros and cons. We are one safe place. If they reject our help, we will be sad. But we ought not feel guilty.
Interested in a evening of good art and consciousness raising about the poor of the world? On the 9th of November (7 pm) Linda Ruth Paskell will be at New Life Presbyterian Church (Glenside, PA)displaying some of her photographs from recent trips to Africa and Latin America and telling stories about what she learned. Check out www.newlifeglenside.com in a few weeks for more information.