Monday, July 27, 2009

Study Tour finale

Days Four and Five

The last days were so busy, there was no time to write. On day four we had a final meeting with the Addison Parent Child Center and talked about the importance of working together, how to use creative tension amongst various programs to produce better work with and for moms, and encouragement to keep checking with the moms about what they want and their opinions on various issues.

Then we visited the Lund Family Center. This was a particularly interesting place to visit as it began as a home for unwed moms in the the late 1890s. For the 80 years or so of existence, the primary services they provided were a home for pregnant women who needed a safe and invisible place to stay and give birth to their babies, and then an adoption service to place almost all of those babies, in new families. With changes in abortion law, welfare programs and major cultural shifts, by the 1980s the center was making big changes. Today the center offers residential programs for pregnant and parenting young moms and their babies, child care, education, substance abuse, foster family training and support, adoption, nutrition and so much more. They have just completed a remodel of their building and it is not only very beautiful, but clearly able to provide appropriate space for the current program.

We were treated to talk with Governor Madeline Kunin, former Governor of Vermont and the first (and only so far) woman governor in Vermont. She stressed with us the need to support women in all walks of life, to find their voices and participate in the political life of the community. Whether this is running for office or attending city council meetings or writing for the paper, women’s views are essential in creating a world that works better for moms. She is such an inspiration. She stressed that the intersection of poverty and single parent families is a huge issue and must be addressed with social supports, education for the parents and children, health care, housing and counseling where needed. She also stressed the role of good sex education in the schools for prevention.

Then we were off to the University of Vermont to learn more about the impact of early childhood education on the lives of vulnerable young children. High quality, early education clearly prevents much human suffering and saves the government a great deal of money. We had a chance to talk about special education in the school and a number of other topics related to supporting children with challenges.

That evening we flew to NYC.

The fifth day of our tour included visiting the UN building and meeting with a member of the Korean mission to the UN. We shared with her work that is being done in Korea for unwed moms and some thoughts about what still needs to be done. We met with the National Center for Children in Poverty and learned a lot about their research and the materials they make available for groups that advocate for the needs of children. They work in close cooperation with state governments and advocates and others concerned about creating effective, timely and affordable programs that support the best development and healthy outcomes for children who grow up in poor families. The breadth of the issues they address include income support, health, education, mental health, juvenile justice, and family laws.

All in all this was a fantastic study tour. Much was learned. We are looking forward to being in Seoul soon, to carry on discussions began on this trip, to share with others some of our learning and to continue to support those working in Korea on behalf of unwed moms and the moms themselves.

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