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Maxim Institute - real issues - No 213

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 213
13 July 2006

www.maxim.org.nz

Children Must Be the Focus of Adoption Reform
More New Zealanders Face Hardship
Businesses Support Educational Options in the USA
2006 Essay Competition Now on

in the News:
Pope Benedict Highlights the Value of Marriage and Family
Celebs Rally Round City Mission to Stave Off Winter Chill

CHILDREN MUST BE THE FOCUS OF ADOPTION REFORM

Adoption is a sensitive issue. Its impact on children, biological and adoptive parents, is deep and enduring. It is natural then that changes to adoption law will evoke emotion and spark heated debate; and such debate could soon heat up in New Zealand.

A private members bill sponsored by Green MP Metiria Turei, the Adoption (Equity) Amendment Bill, was recently lodged in the ballot. The bill would change the current law in

which only married couples or single people can adopt children, to enable both civil union and de facto couples to adopt as well. According to a spokesman for Justice Minister Mark Burton, government officials are currently reviewing the adoption law, including a review of who is eligible to adopt children.

Whether Ms Turei's Bill is pulled from the ballot, or the government proposes legislative change following the review, one thing is clear; "equity" and "adult rights" are the wrong starting point for a debate about adoption. The focus must centre on what is best for children, today and tomorrow.

Adoption law signals what a nation believes is in the best interests of its children. It affects more than just those children who are being adopted; it also influences the way future generations will think about children, families and the importance of mothers and fathers. Allowing same-sex couples to adopt children sends the message that gender is irrelevant to parenting; that kids do not need a mum and a dad. This paradigm shift might not seem radical in today's context, but the long-term consequences will be significant.

It is in the best interests of a child to be raised by the mum and dad who created her, within the bonds of their love and commitment. This is intuitive, it is natural, and most children who have lost the presence or nurture of a parent through

death or separation would agree. Adopted children are already vulnerable, since, for a variety of reasons, they have already missed out on this ideal.

MP Chris Carter might be right that a person's sexual orientation is not relevant to how good a parent they are or how much they love a child. But while their sexuality might not matter, their sex certainly does. A same-sex relationship, no matter how loving, cannot offer a child both a mum and a dad. For that reason alone, as long as there are stable married couples waiting to adopt children, adopted children should find their new families there, with what they deserve; a mum and dad.

BUSINESSES SUPPORT EDUCATIONAL OPTIONS IN THE USA

A new report into living standards finds that beneficiaries are falling behind. Our politicians have rushed to trade

press releases on the subject, with Labour promising that the Working for Families package, the impact of which was not included in the report, will raise future living standards for those in severe hardship. Even so, government assistance is, at best, a temporary fix.

The report, New Zealand Living Standards 2004, was published by the Ministry of Social Development this week, and is a follow-up to the 2000 report. It states that: "Income-tested beneficiaries have a moderately lower average living standard in 2004 than 2000 and a substantially higher proportion is in "severe hardship" (29% compared with 18%)".

While income is, naturally enough, "strongly linked" with living standards, the report also finds that a number of other economic factors adversely affect living standards, including: marriage breakdown; sole parenthood; violence; illness; and other "life shocks", particularly in combination with each other. No surprises there.

However, people can have a similar level of raw income yet very different living standards. "Low-income people whose incomes are principally from income-tested benefits have generally low living standards... . Low-income people whose incomes are from market sources (mainly employment) tend to have higher living standards (although still substantially below the national average)." Those on the pension, the report concludes, have higher living standards still. The authors say that this difference is partly a function of existing assets (elderly who own their homes, for instance), but also a function of how much "adversity" each group faces. Beneficiaries tend to face more.

The government claims that Working for Families will address the growing hardship numbers, but in reality, it will only shuffle money across bank accounts. The report is clear that living standards are affected by more than just raw income. Other economic factors, such as marriage, count too; so does the extra strain on the wallet brought by children, the incentives to find productive work, the number of existing assets, and educational opportunities. Without reform in these pivotal areas and strong relationships within families, more income redistribution from the government is only a band-aid on a gaping wound.

To read New Zealand Living Standards 2004, please visit:

http://www.msd.govt.nz/media-information/press-releases/2006/pr-2006-07-11.html


BUSINESSES SUPPORT EDUCATIONAL OPTIONS IN THE USA

Earlier this month, lawmakers in the state of Pennsylvania voted to extend a scheme that enables pupils to receive a scholarship to attend an outstanding school in their area. The Pennsylvania Education Tax Credit Programme is proving very popular with the businesses that fund the scholarships, the children who receive the scholarships and politicians from across the spectrum.

Businesses in Pennsylvania are encouraged to donate to non-profit scholarships or educational improvement organisations. The businesses receive a tax credit of 90 percent of their donation or 75 percent if they only donate for one year.

The organisations then use the money to provide children with scholarships which cover the cost of private school tuition and other expenses. Most of these children are from low-income families and would never have such an opportunity otherwise.

Pennsylvanian businesses have jumped at the opportunity to be involved. Last year businesses raised $44 million to help 27,000 pupils attend private schools, and the recent expansion of the scheme means that an additional 6,000 school children will be able to take advantage of these educational scholarships.

Enabling a parent to choose the school they send their child to increases their involvement in their child's education, increases their satisfaction with the school and can also raise pupil performance. Scholarship tax credits funded by local businesses, is one model that is proving highly

effective for the children of Pennsylvania.

Maxim Institute's report, The Parent Factor: Access to Education, outlines how countries such as Sweden, the Netherlands and Australia are allowing parents greater access to the school of their choice.

To read this report, please visit:

www.maxim.org.nz http://www.maxim.org.nz/parentfactor/report4_accesstoeducation.php

2006 ESSAY COMPETITION NOW ON

Maxim Institute's annual essay competition is now open to New Zealand tertiary students, and asks, "What is social justice and what would a socially just society look like?" A total of $3,500 is on offer for the winners. Excellent finalists will be invited to apply for Maxim Institute's 2006-2007 summer internship programme.

For competition details, please visit:

http://www.maxim.org.nz/essay/

IN THE NEWS

POPE BENEDICT HIGHLIGHTS THE VALUE OF MARRIAGE AND FAMILY

The traditional understanding of the family and its integral place in society were strongly

affirmed by Pope Benedict XVI this week, as he encouraged throngs of Spanish pilgrims at the World Congress of Families in Valencia. During his visit, Pope Benedict emphasised the role of marriage and the family in transmitting virtue and fostering human connectedness, saying during the festival Mass:

"Once children are born, through their relationship with their parents they begin to share in a family tradition with even older roots. Together with the gift of life, they receive a whole patrimony of experience. Parents have the right and the inalienable duty to transmit this heritage to their children: to help them find their own identity, to initiate them to the life of society, to foster the responsible exercise of their moral freedom and their ability to love on the basis of their having been loved..."

He continued in an address at the prayer vigil:

"The family is an intermediate institution between individuals and society, and nothing can completely take its place... The family is a necessary good for peoples, an

indispensable foundation for society and a great and lifelong treasure for couples. It is [also] a unique good for children..."

The Pope's visit comes in the wake of radical socialist and anti-clerical reforms in Spain, which has just legalised 'gay marriage' and fast tracked divorce legislation. Further attacks on the church are likely, as the cultural divide widens in Spain, and church-state relations grow increasingly frosty.

To read the Pope's address at the prayer vigil, please visit:

www.vatican.va http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2006/july/
documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20060708_incontro-festivo_en.html

To read the Pope's homily at Mass, please visit:

www.vatican.va http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/homilies/2006/
documents/hf_ben-xvi_hom_20060709_valencia_en.html

CELEBS RALLY ROUND CITY MISSION TO STAVE OFF WINTER CHILL

The Auckland City Mission launched its winter appeal recently with an innovative way of raising money. The Mission is running a celebrity auction on Trademe, with donated prizes ranging from hair and make-up with Charlotte Dawson to golf with Marc Ellis and basketball training with the Breakers. You can also, should the mood strike you, get media training from Judy Bailey, or go snowboarding with Dancing with the Stars' Hayley Holt.

The auction is in aid of the Auckland City Mission, which needs 3.9 million dollars a year to continue its work. According to the Auckland City Mission, last year it: helped 20,645 people with food, clothing, furniture and social work welcomed 36,000 visitors to its Inner-city Drop In Centres supplied food to 70 other food banks and community organisations supported 330 people through their drug additions at its Detox Centre; and distributed 20,000 Christmas presents to children and celebrated Christmas day lunch with 1,500 guests at the town hall.

Missions like this are a vital part of civil society.

To see the Trademe listings for the celebrity auction, please visit:

www.trademe.co.nz http://www.trademe.co.nz/Members/Listings.aspx?member=1651203

TALKING POINT

"A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both." Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)

--

Real Issues is a weekly email newsletter from Maxim Institute. The focus is current New Zealand events with an attempt to provide insight into critical issues beyond what is usually presented in the media. This service is provided free of charge, although a donation to Maxim is appreciated. Items may be used for other purposes, such as teaching, research or civic action.

If items are published elsewhere, Maxim should be acknowledged.


ENDS

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