Chicago Parent Staff


Illinois needs more midwives

Recently I attended a dinner, hosted by Chicago Community Midwives, honoring the eight founding mothers of La Leche League International. I enjoyed listening to the stories of the founding mothers whose collective experiences are part of Illinois’ proud history of promoting wellness through natural parenting. I learned homebirth was central to the founding of the organization.

Homebirth is part of the healthy, natural-parenting equation. Illinois needs more midwives to keep homebirth a healthy option. Licensed homebirth providers are found in only five of 102 Illinois counties. State licensure of certified professional midwives will assure access to qualified homebirth professionals.

Michelle S. Breen
Coalition For Illinois Midwifery

Age-appropriate sex education

The recent flap over comments by Sen. Barack Obama regarding age-appropriate sex education for kindergarten students begs the question of what exactly is appropriate to teach 5-year-olds.

While there are some who believe that any discussion of human reproductive anatomy at any age is inappropriate, there is great consensus among health educators. Age-appropriate is not a political term open to interpretation. In this context, it means very specific things.

Five-year-olds are beginning school and becoming very aware that boys and girls are different. Children of this age are not thinking of gender from an adult perspective, but are solely interested in learning what makes boys and girls different. Privacy and modesty are emerging as important issues as well.

Age-appropriate classroom sex education for this age group is simply referring to teaching medically appropriate names for parts of the body instead of baby names. We keep it simple—it isn’t necessary to go into detail about the functions of those body parts, but having an accurate vocabulary goes a long way toward developing understanding and respect for themselves and their bodies. In the absence of this proper language, all that is left are unanswered questions, baby names and playground slang.

As always, the lion’s share of the work in educating our kids about sex and values remains in the home with parents. The role of health educators is to teach the facts about ALL body systems as kids develop maturity enough to understand them. Let’s hope all of the candidates can exhibit some of this foresight, maturity and understanding.

Kathleen M. Burke
CEO, Robert Crown Center for Health Education, Hinsdale

Back to school spells woe for working parents

Faced with issues ranging from finding dependable before- and after-school care to juggling their work and children’s school schedules, many parents find that the back-to-school season can bring more problems than relief. And parents aren’t the only ones feeling the squeeze. Children are also affected when their parents are unable to participate in school events or help with homework.

If we want our children to succeed in school and be prepared for the future workforce, we have to begin removing some of the roadblocks to parental involvement. The reality is that most parents of school-age children are in the workforce today and our schools just haven’t caught up with the times.

Parents are often asked to attend school-related meetings and activities during the hours when they have to be at work, making it difficult for them to participate and stay in regular communication with teachers and school officials about their children’s needs. Schools want parents to be actively involved, and yet when it comes to calendars and scheduling, it seems that their needs are rarely taken into account. No mom or dad should have to risk their job or lose a day’s pay in order to attend a school play or to meet with a child’s teacher. But unfortunately, this is the dilemma in which many parents find themselves.

Another challenge working parents face is dealing with the numerous days children have off from school or are dismissed early, which make it tough to arrange consistent child care coverage. For example, in the coming 2007-2008 school year, Chicago Public School elementary students will have a total of 30 weekdays off, which well exceeds the number of vacation days most working parents get.

Clearly, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. But, employers, schools and government can all play an important role in bringing about the changes working moms and dads desperately need.

For example, employers can offer paid time off for parents to use when children are out of school or sick and to participate in teacher conferences and other important school events. And, flexible work schedules can also free working parents up to volunteer in the classroom or help their children with school assignments as well as ease the burden of arranging out-of-school time childcare.

School boards, administrators and teachers can help by taking working parents’ needs into account when planning the yearly calendar and scheduling activities so that more moms and dads can have an opportunity to be involved in their children’s education. They can also partner with community agencies and childcare providers to organize supervised activities for days and times when school is not in session.

And changes at the government level, such as standardizing school hours and calendars to be more consistent and better aligned with the average work day as well as ensuring all parents the right to time off work to attend school conferences and events, would also be positive steps.

If we want our children to have the best possible future, then it’s time we invest in the people who are raising them. Given the problems in our society today, we simply can’t afford not to.

For more information, visit www.parentswork.org.

Rhonda Present
Founder and director of ParentsWork

Unfortunate reference

I was dismayed to read the review of My Sister the Vampire #1 Switched by Sandi Pederson (August 2007). It reads: "They are both wearing the exact same locket given to each of them by their real parents."

The correct terminology for referring to the precious woman who loved her child enough to give them up for adoption is the biological mother or birth mother. (These women should be given the upmost respect for having the courage to do what is best for the child, not what is easiest for them.)

Am I, an adoptive parent, a figment of my daughter’s imagination that I am not real? I am the one who takes care of her every day, the only concept of a functioning mother she will ever have. Referring to the birth parents as the real parents implies that adoptive parents are not really parents and the children are not really ours. (By the way, the correct term for me is an adoptive mother.)

I am disappointed that a magazine about children and families is ignorant of such widespread terminology. Any modern book or information about adoption will use these terms.

Teresa Johnson

Solutions to the violence

Since the death of 13-year-old Schanna Gayden on a Logan Square school playground June 25, parents, school staff and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association have been seeking solutions to the recurring crisis of violence in the area. While the community continues to do what we can—parent patrols, walking school buses, safety summits with police and politicians, etc.—we feel it is time to call publicly for a change in the way the Chicago Police deal with schools. Thirty-four dead CPS students in one year is a crisis!!

The Logan Square police districts has tried to respond, but some structural changes simply must be made.

1. Funston School, where Schanna died, sits on Central Park Avenue, which is the dividing line between police districts 25 and 14 and between two gangs. Since before 1993, when LSNA began to work with Funston, competing gangs have been shooting across the street, into the playground and into the school. Since we can’t move the school, we must move the district lines.

2. The city must make school safety a bigger priority. Funston is in Police District 25, which has 48 schools (the most of any district) and only one "school car." Compare this with District 23 near Wrigley Field, which has three schools. Does District 25 have enough extra resources to deal with its 45 extra schools? Clearly not.

3. The city must redeploy police to address safety issues around schools as well as other crimes. The last police re-deployment (moving police to where the need is) was in 1984. A lot has changed in the past 23 years!

We need action NOW by the mayor and his police department to address this current crisis and prevent further tragedies.

Delia Ramirez
President, Logan Square
Neighborhood Association


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