In the Proclamation On The Family, the First Presidency declared:
We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.
Many members of the LDS Church interpret this to refer only to the protection of traditional family units by preventing homosexual marriage. I believe this can and should be interpreted as a much broader statement. There are numerous other areas where family-strengthening policies can be implemented. These might include:
Mental Health Services and Anti-Poverty
The Affordable Care Act has greatly expanded healthcare access to struggling families, and while it has also done much to widen access to mental healthcare, there are still improvements that can be made. Policy ideas include public awareness campaigns to help deal with the stigma of mental health issues and in-school treatment facilities for children, especially teens.
As noted by the LDS church in this press release:
We reaffirm the importance for individuals and families to be as self-sufficient as their particular circumstances allow and recognize that the lack of access to health care can impair a person's ability to provide for self and family....
Research has proven that poverty is a significant factor in disrupting family function. Implementing effective policies that address the root causes of poverty can do much to help stabilize families, including housing first initiatives, minimum wage increases, and tax reform.
LDS Church leaders teach that fathers are "responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families" and "mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children" but they do recognize that "other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation." Pay gaps tend to penalize families where the father is not able to be the sole bread winner. In those circumstances where the ideal model does not work, equal pay policies can help bring stability to struggling families.
Poverty is often caused by health issues. Policies that support access to health care for the sick, afflicted, and disabled can do much to reduce poverty and increase self reliance. I encourage you to contact your state Representative and sign the Healthy Utah petition started by LDS Democrats.
The LDS Church has been active in promoting immigration reform. They have done so because of the negative effects that current immigration policies have on many LDS families and, at base, because of the importance of keeping families together. Current policies often force parents to choose between leaving their children with others or taking them back to bleak prospects in their native country.
Many workers are not protected from being pressured into working unpaid overtime. Current laws regarding overtime compensation have specific exceptions for certain classes of people without the means to protect themselves. However, many low paid employees find themselves forced to either work long hours without compensation or face termination. These long hours prevent workers from spending more quality time at home and can strain marriages and parent-child relationships.
Paid Family Leave
Events such as death, illness, or the birth of a new child require time and attention from family members. While most companies provide PTO (paid time off), family emergencies often come with no notice and may require more time off then is generally available. Many other countries already offer paid leave for the birth of a new child for both the mother and father. Time off for family events without worry of lost wages can be significant in maintaining and strengthening family ties.
Much progress has been made in domestic violence policy over the last several decades, but there is still much more we can do. Public awareness campaigns and self-esteem programs in our schools can do much to reduce the cycle of domestic violence. For example, Maryland has created a "checklist" to help police identify when domestic violence is likely to turn fatal so that appropriate action can be taken to divert tragedy. Unfortunately here in Utah, domestic violence shelters are overcrowded and underfunded. Domestic violence is innately destructive to families, but policies that help remove battered spouses and children from unhealthy environments and provide funding to help victims get back on their feet can help provide some restitution and may prevent more children from entering the foster care system.
Curriculum dedicated to what constitutes a healthy relationship should be part of health/sex education classes. Children should be taught that they are in control of their intimate behavior and how to handle coercion in a relationship. For more about this topic read my previous post.
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