What Would Jesus Do To Help This Family Right Their Wrongs?

Anderson, Indiana
May 28, 2008 3:36pm CST
I read this story here about a family where the mother had coached her children to act as if they had developmental challenges in order to be able to get benefits. In short, the children grew up and were still playing those roles--until they were found out. All three could possibly face prison time. If any of them faced prison time, I would say that this should only apply to the mother and not the kids, but I'm not even sure about that. This is the discussion (which also includes a link to the news story)... http://www.mylot.com/w/discussions/832167.aspx I believe that this family should be required to somehow make payments on what they took over the years, and I don't believe that prison is the best solution--and I also believe that we need to get to the "Why?" of their doing this instead of just labeling them as "crooks," putting them behind bars, and not giving the situation any more thought since "justice" had now been served. How would Jesus handle this situation? From what I read, He would hold the family--and, especially, the mother--responsible and work out some kind of way where they could make amends. However, He would also keep them among members of society instead of locking them away and forgetting about them. This is my response (copied and pasted) to the discussion... I don't know what kind of a situation she and her kids were in back when she had them to start doing this. It was wrong, but I'm not one to judge her. Instead, I find it more constructive to look at the situation with a critical eye. For starters, $300,000 sounds like an awful lot of money--but, over a period of ten years (and I'm sure that this went on for more than that), we're only talking about $30,000 per year for the care of three people. We're not talking about simply pin-money so that they could take off and go to Disney World on a monthly basis and have the latest designer clothes. Most of this money--which I'm sure was a smaller annual amount, because we're likely talking about more like 18 years--covered their basic survival expenses (e.g. a roof over their heads, food, clothing, utilities, medical bills, etc.). I'm wondering where the kids' dad was during this time. He probably somehow got away with not paying support or paying so little that they would have to find other means to survive. Thanks to their mother's decision--a bad and dishonest decision, but, likely, made because she was desperate to keep her kids with her and not have them shipped off to foster care or an orphanage--this son and daughter lost out on a lot, too. They had to spend their childhood and teen years holding back their intelligence--which shut more doors in their faces than it opened. They couldn't take college prep courses. In fact--depending on the degree of mental retardation they were acting out--it might have even made them give up a regular high school diploma and settle for some sort of special certificate. Yes, it was wrong. On the mother's part, it was a crime--though I don't think that the son and daughter should be arrested for any crime because this had become their life, and they probably weren't sure how best to get out of this situation. After all, if their mother had done this for all of these years so that they could continue to stay together as a family, they would hate to blow the whistle on her and have her go to prison now that they were adults. Also, because of growing up in situations experienced by people with special needs, they probably weren't prepared to take their place in the world of "normal" people. And, so, the survival game continued to go on. They were all stuck in this role-playing situation. Is it going to do anybody any good to have three people to go to prison? What happened in this family isn't the disease--it's only a symptom of it. We have a choice. We can say, "Here are three criminals. Let's lock 'em up and throw away the key!" or We can say, "Here are three well-meaning people who did something very wrong. They need to pay back what they've taken, so we'll put them to work at something they can do in order to pay back what they've taken over the years. However, we won't stop there. Instead, we will take a critical look at what led this mother to choose this route and to look at the things that are wrong with our system that brought her to make such a decision. And we need to fix those things." If we don't go with the second decision, we're just going to keep hiding our heads in the sand, sweeping our problems under the rug, and letting people fall through society's cracks. What does voting Pro-Life mean? What do people running for office mean when they claim to do so on the Pro-Life platform? What is meant by the term "No child left behind?" Are all of those just buzz phrases to get elected? One more thing...check out our organization: http://invisibleyouthnetwork.org/ We're doing our best to be part of the solution.
2 people like this
4 responses
@winterose (39931)
• Canada
4 Jun 08
people on welfare live on six thousand dollars a year and they don't lie and cheat, I am sorry it was wrong, if she needed help she should have gone the legal route and yes it is hard I was on welfare as a single parent and I am on disability now and hardly better off, but I never lied, cheated or stole, because I believe in the words of God, though shalt not lie, though shalt not steal, I don't know if she did it out of desparation or if she wanted to milk the system, as her kids grew up they are responsible too. it is people like that that makes it harder for all the struggling people in the world who are trying to do it the right way, and be honest and get no help at all.
1 person likes this
• Anderson, Indiana
4 Jun 08
She was definitely responsible--and wrong! Reading a follow-up on this case showed that she was sentenced to serve something like three years in prison. If anyone involved in this particular case should have served time, it was fitting that she did. But it's also important to realize that she needed to have real job-training in order to start paying back the system. One question I have from here would be: "And will the system use the funds honestly to help those in need? Or will it use our tax dollars to give raises to big wigs while shortchanging the people who are supposed to be benefiting? The kids should have never been prosecuted because they were raised into this lifestyle so much that they came to have a degree of mental retardation without having any kind of actual brain-damage causing it. What they need is to be caught up on what they should have been learning all of these years. I'm surprised that the one son was even able to pass a test to get his driver's license, as none of the kids were supposed to be able to read or write. Three years in prison was probably reasonable for the mother as a way of paying her debt to society. A sentence of anything more than that would have been unreasonable and would have served no purpose other than revenge--and would have delayed her being able to get employment and start paying her debt. But it still goes back to the fact that what she did was a symptom of a larger societal disease. For whatever reason, she chose to go this route in order to provide for her family. The amount she took was under $300,000 for what amounted to about 20 years. They were trying to survive as opposed to trying to join the country club set. Jesus would usually get with a person who was doing something really wrong and wouldn't mince words about pointing out their wrongdoings. After that, it was more of a discussion re: what the sinner could do to correct his/her mistake. My next writing here is going to be to share the storyline in a Joe Palooka comic strip from back in late 1962 that has a lot to say about how we treat others.
1 person likes this
@winterose (39931)
• Canada
4 Jun 08
there are millions of people in your country and mine that need social assistance, training, support, etc, so what the heck are you proposing here? there are two types of people, those that need the help and do desperate things and those that knowingly defraud the government, and everyone else, the court system decides those issues. if you want to say the system has failed I would also agree but not in every situation, I have worked for the system all my life, there are people who are just plain con artists, and to ignore them is as bad as ignoring the ones that really do need help and don't get it.
1 person likes this
@winterose (39931)
• Canada
8 Jun 08
we in the helping professions say it all the time the system has failed for the very reasons you mention and more
1 person likes this
@Hatley (161923)
• Garden Grove, California
29 May 08
I think that your second decision is the right one. They need to be given a way to make reparation without being sentto prison then shown a way to become productive citizens.After all though she went about it the wrong way she was trying to care for her kids so give her that much credit, help her repay what they stole then help them to help themselves to a good job and a new lifestyle. reeducate them and help them to become productive citizens.
• Anderson, Indiana
30 May 08
Excellent response! I read that the mother and son--plus another child--have already been sent to prison, and they're looking for the missing daughter. The daughter started doing this at the age of four, so it was a way of life for her. When they get out of prison, they're going to owe the money. It's a short prison sentence (with the mother receiving the most, which was around three years), but it's still a delay during which they could be working at something and paying their debts. When they get out of prison, they will have criminal records, which won't set well for getting hired somewhere. Somebody needs to work with all of them to give them job-training, education (I read that they never went to school and that the kids couldn't read.), and socialization skills. They're to be pitied more than scorned--but they can also turn their lives around if given a chance.
@faith210 (11233)
• Philippines
29 May 08
Hi AJ1952Chats! First of all, I want to salute you and your team in doing your best in the Invisible Youth Network. I have checked it out and you have programs that are really commendable. I have saved the link so I can mail it to all of m friends. With regards to that family, I am no judge of anyone too. I do think that we should all be giving these people forgiveness and act of mercy. I am sure that Jesus will not condone their behavior; however, He will surely help them to be a productive member of the society. I completely agree with your response and absolutely share the same sentiment. We always have to firstly, cure the roots of the society before going to treat the rotten branches and fruits. Take Care and God Bless! Celebrate Life!
1 person likes this
@Aussies2007 (5339)
• Australia
29 May 08
Uncle Sam is a law of its own and do not deal with any emotional issues. It is not interested about any excuse, reason or circonstances. You might as well talk to a computer. When you cheat Uncle Sam... you go down. It is the same in all Western countries. If Jesus had been on the job... he would not have let it happen in the first place. "Pro-Life" is the anti-abortion mob. Anything goes when you need votes. "No child left behind"... that will be the day! One of our Prime Ministers made that mistake in the 80's. He made the claim that "No child would be living in poverty in Australia within 5 years". But 5 years later... nothing had changed and he had to apologise.
1 person likes this
• Anderson, Indiana
30 May 08
They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The citizens (which, of course, includes any elected officials who are truly interested) will be the ones who will have to make the changes--one small step at a time. It might not end up helping everybody, but, those who get helped will be leading better lives. I've been familiar with this version of the starfish story for a long time where it stops with a single person (sometimes the older one and other times the younger one) saving one starfish at a time... http://www.noogenesis.com/pineapple/starfish.html But I've now come across one that is even more optimistic... http://pslinstitute.com/starfish.html Either way, a positive difference is being made! Look for one or more starfish today that you can toss back into the safety of the ocean!