Tag Archives: children

One in 10 adults and children suffer from asthma in Mass.

By Barbara Kwetz Allan

I look out my kitchen window and see another glorious, crystal-clear day in Massachusetts, yet I know from my professional life that unseen, microscopic particles of air pollution are wreaking havoc on so many with respiratory ailments and heart conditions. Most of us walk through our daily lives unaware of the price our most vulnerable – children, elderly, and others with compromised health – are paying, as air pollution irritates lung airways and infiltrates bloodstreams.

This point is not lost on my friend whose son suffers with asthma. “Most people don’t know that pollution can aggravate asthma,” she said. Having rushed her son unable to breathe to the emergency room more than once, my friend is hyperaware of the need to reduce the things that exacerbate his asthma. She does what she can around their house to limit asthma triggers, but feels helpless when she lets him walk outside.

On December 14, my friend’s son and others with chronic diseases may get some relief if the Obama Administration chooses to support stronger limits on particle pollution, commonly called soot. These limits, called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, ensure that everyone in the nation is protected based on the most current public health science.

The present standard, set in 1997, no longer reflects what the most current science shows to be protective of public health. In fact, many are living under the false sense of security that the air is safe to breathe when it is not. Hundreds of scientific studies have confirmed that millions of asthma attacks, as well as heart attacks, strokes, and even deaths, could be prevented every year if the standard were strengthened.

The black smoke that spews out of smokestacks, chimneys, and from the tailpipes of countless vehicles contains billions of particles of soot. The body reacts to soot in much the same way it does cigarette smoke. These microscopic particles are easily inhaled and inflame not only the lungs, but all of the body’s essential life systems. In fact, breathing soot has been compared to taking a piece of sandpaper and rubbing it against the tissue of the lungs.

The 2011 Sick of Soot report, which the American Lung Association coauthored, concluded that adopting an annual standard of 11 μg/m3 and a daily standard of 25 μg/m3 would provide the most health benefits. Most notably, these more protective standards would prevent as many as 35,700 deaths from occurring annually as a direct result of breathing in soot -almost enough lives saved to fill every seat in historic Fenway Park.

Massachusetts has the unfortunate bragging rights of having asthma rates that are among the highest in the nation, with approximately with the disease. Unfortunately, children suffer most, as their lungs do not fully develop until they reach early adulthood. Early exposure to particle pollution during this critical development period can hinder lungs from maturing properly and cause respiratory problems that children will carry with them for a lifetime.

Asthma is a common chronic condition in children and is a leading cause of emergency room visits and missed school days in Massachusetts. Although the human suffering associated with asthma is great, so is the cost to our wallets. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, total charges for asthma hospitalizations in Massachusetts in 2010 were $113 million – a 126 percent increase since 2000. Taxpayers are expected to pay 66 percent of those costs.

It is a shame that we live in a state that prides itself on being a leader in the health, environmental, and renewable energy fields, yet our residents are suffering at the mercy of a national pollution standard that is outdated and does not provide adequate public health protection.

For the sake of children like my friend’s son and many others who suffer with asthma or compromised health, President Obama must ensure that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency adopts the most protective soot standard possible. Anything less places the health of current and future generations at risk.

Barbara Kwetz Allan is a board member of the American Lung Association in Massachusetts.

Pets for children and seniors‏

By Deb Young

Having a pet is usually a rite of childhood. Children enjoy the companionship offered by animals.

But did you know, that not only can pets be a source of warm, fuzzy entertainment, but they can offer several developmental benefits to children as well? A child’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive development can all be encouraged by interaction with the family pet. For children especially, pets can be wonderful social facilitators: children are more prone to approach and interact with another child who is playing with a pet.
In this way, a pet can be the bridge between a less socially outgoing child and other potential playmates.

When children grow up with pets in homes they have less risk of developing common allergies and asthma.

Childhood pets offer security and stability. Nearly 70% of children confide in their pets, confident their secrets will not be betrayed.

Because of the special bond that often develops between pet and child, pets can sometimes fill the role of comforter. Since the relationship is non-judgmental from the pet’s perspective, a hurting child might be more willing to initially trust a pet than a person.

And kids with pets get outside more – to go for walks, run and play – and enjoy all the associated health benefits.

It is a misunderstood fact that pets teach children responsibility. Parents teach responsibility, and pets just make a good vehicle for learning.

Pets provide a natural gateway into the animal kingdom – love for one’s pet as a child often translates into an adult belief that the relationship between humans and animals is one of mutual support.

I am sure you’ve probably noticed that when you pet a soft, warm cat or play fetch with a dog whose tail won’t stop wagging, you relax and your heart feels a little warmer. This is not just for the young. In fact, pets may help elderly owners live longer, healthier, and more enjoyable lives.

Animals help seniors become more active, cope better with stress, and have better overall health. Studies show that elderly pet owners had significantly lower blood pressure overall than their contemporaries without pets.

Many nursing homes have taken this information to heart. For years, organizations have been bringing vaccinated, groomed, and behavior-tested animals into hospitals, hospices, nursing homes and assisted living homes to give seniors a chance to pet and play with them. The residents get to have some therapeutic physical contact and a fun activity to break up their day. More recently, some resident homes have even begun letting animals live in the home full-time.

But before you encourage an older person to adopt a pet, consider whether you could take care of the animal if its owner is no longer able to. Often, if seniors reach the point where they have to leave their homes and move into nursing homes or assisted-living facilities, they also have to give up their pets.

The number of nursing homes and other types of housing for the elderly that will accept animals is growing, but the vast majorities still don’t allow pets. Seniors can plan ahead and find a pet-friendly nursing facility, just in case they need to use it someday.

Once that commitment has been made, however, and an appropriate pet has been found, the joys and benefits of the pet relationship will last for many years to come.

Pets need love, companionship and attention – no different than the rest of us. What they give in return is immeasurable!

The connection between domestic violence and animal cruelty‏

By Deb Young

In recent years, a strong connection has been documented linking domestic violence, child abuse and animal abuse.

Nationwide, professionals in such fields as law enforcement, child protection, human and veterinary medicine, domestic violence intervention, education, and animal control — among other fields — are beginning to realize that they need to know more about the many connections between animal cruelty and violence against humans.

In a number of studies , one national and the others statewide, 71% to 83% of the women entering domestic violence shelters reported that their partners also abused or killed the family pet.

Women who do seek safety at shelters are nearly 11 times more likely to report that their partner has hurt or killed their animals than women who have not experienced domestic abuse.

When an abuser threatens, abuses, or kills an animal, several messages are being relayed to the human victim.
The abuse, or even threat to abuse the animal, displays the domination and control the abuser has over the victim.
The abuser often is successful in getting his message across through abuse of the pet.
For example, following through on threats to injure or kill an animal shows the victim that the abuser is willing to kill an animal and that he may also kill the victim.

Not only can abuse of the pet be used to manipulate or coerce a partner or child into compliance with the abuser’s wishes, it also can be used to frighten, intimidate, punish, or retaliate against a partner or child.
Especially , if the animal is the victim’s only source of love and affection, killing or injuring the animal further isolates the victim from anyone or anything but the abuser.

Many years ago I was told the story of a woman who finally left her abuser and was staying at a shelter. One day, the woman approached an advocate at the shelter and said ‘I have to go home.”
The victim had received pword of her abuser cutting off the ears of her dog with scissors. The victim knew that the only way to save the life of her dog and other animals at the house was to return to her abuser. Situations like this and the fear of what will happen to a beloved pet often keeps a victim from leaving their abuser.

Just as animal abuse is related to domestic violence, so it is also related to child abuse, another form of family violence.
Studies have found that in 88 percent of families where there had been physical abuse of children, there were also records of animal abuse.

For children, the abuse of the pet can have vast, long-term effects on their well-being.
Children who witness or are victims of domestic violence may start to abuse pets as a way of releasing their anger or expressing their distress.

In a study of abusive households with pets, it was found that in 32 percent of these homes, the children abused their pets.
Certainly not all children who abuse animals or witness abuse will grow up to be abusers or mass murderers. However, the fact children witness abuse of both their mothers and pets can only increase the chance that they will adjust poorly to life as they get older. Additionally, children who are raised in an abusive environment learn that violence is a way to solve problems.
Less well known is the fact that many of the infamous school shooters also engaged in animal cruelty before turning their aggression against their classmates, teachers, and parents.

If you break it down to its bare essentials: “Abusing an animal is a way for a human to find power, joy, fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend itself”

Now break down a human crime, say rape. If we substitute a few pronouns, it’s the SAME THING. “Rape is a way for a human to find power, joy, fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend themselves”

Now try it with, say, domestic abuse such as child abuse or spousal abuse:

“Child abuse is a way for a human to find power/joy/fulfillment through the torture of a victim they know cannot defend themselves.”

Do you see the pattern here?

There is legitimate evidence that the individuals involved in violent acts against animals present a danger to the public that must be addressed. Intentional animal abuse is often seen in association with other serious crimes including drug offenses, gang activity, weapons violations, sexual assault and domestic violence—and can be one of the most visible parts of an entire history of aggressive or antisocial behavior.Virtually every serious violent offender has a history of animal abuse in their past, and since there’s no way to know which animal abuser is going to continue on to commit violent human crimes, they should ALL be taken that seriously.

The line separating an animal abuser from someone capable of committing human abuse is much finer than most people care to consider. People abuse animals for the same reasons they abuse people & enough have been proven to continue on to commit violent crimes to people that it’s worth paying attention to.

Thanksgiving: a time of bounty for some, scarcity for others

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

As the nation looks forward to the celebration of Thanksgiving, for many families it’s another day with very little food in their kitchens. Three years after the onset of the financial and economic crisis, hunger remains high in the United States. This crisis that erupted in 2008 caused a dramatic increase in hunger in this country. This high level of hunger continued in 2010, according to the latest government report (with the most recent statistics) released in September 2011 by a study done by Coleman-Jensen.

As an educator all my adult life, I have witnessed families in need of food and remember visiting a family before Thanksgiving with our guidance councilor. We brought the family bags of food and when I asked the mother where I could place the food she told me to just leave it in the kitchen for they didn’t have a refrigerator and shared one with the person on the second floor. We need to remember that all students do not step off the bus in the morning with the same advantages. The truth is that many of our students are faced with hardships and hunger.

Another family that I visited I brought a gallon of milk as part of the food basket. The child turned to her mother and said wow now we can have milk for the weekend! Poverty is real in this community but so many community members have no idea that it exists. Schools and community agents continue to reach out and assist the many families that they know about. For example, students at South High Community School have over 177 known homeless teens. South High’s Principal Maureen Binienda, not only addresses the academic needs of her students, but their physical and emotional needs. She has established a food pantry for needy students at the school. Students in need stop by the Health Center after school and pick up an ordinary school backpack and fill it with food.

Thanks to the Federal Government, students who qualify for free and reduced lunch are fed a breakfast and lunch in the schools. The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program that provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children from low income families. In 2008 the program reached 30.5 million children. Children are from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level. (For the period July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010, 130 percent of the poverty level is $28,665 for a family of four; 185 percent is $40,793.) Children from families with incomes over 185 percent of poverty pay a full price, though their meals are still subsidized to some extent by the program. Program cost was $9.3 billion in 2008. In Worcester seventy percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Another program that has assisted families in need is the Food Stamp Program, the nation’s most important anti-hunger program, helps roughly 40 million low-income Americans to afford a nutritionally adequate diet. More than 75 percent of all food stamp participants are in families with children; nearly one-third of participants are elderly people or people with disabilities. Unlike most means-tested benefit programs, which are restricted to particular categories of low-income individuals, the Food Stamp Program is broadly available to almost all households with low incomes. These programs are fundamental to nourish children and to aid in their success in school by meeting their most basic needs.

Important research began back in 1943 a psychologist named Abraham Maslow who first introduced his concept of a hierarchy of needs in his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” and his subsequent book, Motivation and Personality. This hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to fulfill basic needs before moving on to other needs.

The very first need was the physiological needs of individuals. These include the most basic needs that are vital to survival, such as the need for water, air, food and sleep. Maslow believed that these needs are the most basic and instinctive needs in the hierarchy because all needs become secondary until these physiological needs are met. Yet we have individuals in this community who don’t believe that poverty has an impact on learning. However, what we do know is that the way out of poverty is through education but we still need to meet the physiological needs of the student. This can only happen if communities partner with schools to better the lives of the nation’s most precious resource, our children.

So as the Thanksgiving holiday rolls in think about what you can do the assist families in need …

The New America

By Jack Hoffman

As unemployment grows, the poverty statistics grow with it. And the anger becomes greater. One wonders: When will the people take to the streets again?

Recently, on his radio talk show, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned “that if the national jobs crisis doesn’t end soon, the United States will soon see riots in the streets.”

Call it what you want, but the warnings of riots and revolution have been echoed all over the country in magazines, newspapers and talk on the radio and TV shows. Professor Thomas Kochan at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, certainly no bastion of liberalism, not only agrees with Mayor Bloomberg, but also was surprised there aren’t more visible signs of public anger/protests.

The real unemployment figure for the US has now reached a staggering 20%. And just how much is the real under-employment, meaning the figures on those who are now working a bare minimum of what they used to work and earn not so long ago. The figures I have used – and will use – are based on the US Dept. of Labor statistics. Recently, the job crisis has been inflamed with the new reports of poverty in America. That last statement is an obvious fact. If people are out of a job and working at a bare minimal wage – in many homes hamburger is now stretched thin with the addition of a crappy helper and in some cases dog food – they are POOR.

We here in the Bay State are fortunate compared to states like California, Nevada and parts of the Midwest that have double-digit unemployment. Places like Detroit and Milwaukee are almost wastelands compared to what they were 20 years ago. Here in Massachusetts we are more fortunate. Our unemployment figure for the past month has dipped from 7 ¾% to 7 ½%. In a recent Globe article is a listing of 15 town and cities where housing values have actually begun to rise.

I’m sure you all have heard the stories from neighbors, friends and within your own family. Take Bill Rickers of Hartford, Maine: In 1980 he fell through some boards while doing some carpentry work. He has since been unable to do any carpentry work. He has two college degrees. As a young man, Rickers worked as an electronics repairman, a pastor and a TV cameraman. He and his first wife had seven children. Now he receives food stamps, gets donations from a local food pantry store, and drives an 18-year-old car with 189,000 miles on it. About once every two months, as a treat, he goes out to lunch at a nearby lunch café.

After his accident Rickers was not able to tend to a three-unit apartment house he and his wife owned. They sold it, and bought a used trailer from the proceeds. If you think this is bad, he has serious back and shoulder injuries, his hands shake, he has congestive heart problems, asthma and arthritis. The stories go on and on.

That’s why I wasn’t so shocked when at a recent Republican debate Ron Paul was asked what do we do with folks like Ricker, who have no insurance — or any extra money Ricker has which is very little he uses for food. Mr. Paul’s answer was (in so many words): If he can’t get into a hospital he will just have to die.

At that moment there was a few dumb asses out there who actually applauded. I imagine some of the Tea Party/Fox TV crowd. I wasn’t surprised. Most likely the yelp and cheers came from the ones who love to raise the American flag on every holiday and consider themselves proud patriots.

Let the new figures speak for themselves:

Three out of four below the poverty line work; half have full-time jobs. One quarter work part-time. Only one quarter don’t work at all. So don’t give me that BS line “They should get a job.” 25% of all children, that’s 16.7 million, are living below the poverty line. 52% of all Americans, by the time they reach 65, will live in poverty. In one year, poverty has gone to 15% from 14.3%

Today there are 42 million Americans living in poverty. It has been more than 50 years since Edward R. Murrow telecast one of the most shocking and profound TV documentaries, A Harvest of Shame (poverty in America). That was a long time ago, and since then things have gotten worse.

CHINS reform now!

We need your help to make CHINS Reform a reality.

Your action matters! H.3492 – Families and Children in Need of Services (FACES) or CHINS Reform will be voted on soon!

As you know, we just launched Re-Routing the Prison Pipeline – our five-pronged campaign to reduce crime, criminalization, incarceration and ghetto-ization.

We are working with Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (MSPCC) on one of our top priority bills: H.3492 – Families and Children in Need of Services or CHINS Reform.

Our bill is currently in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. We hope the Sentate will debate our bill soon.

EPOCA needs your help today: Tell your Senator that this reform must pass to help children and families get the support services they need in the community today.

The current Children in Need of Services (CHINS) system sends our troubled young people to Juvenile Court and assigns them a Probation Officer – without their ever having committed a crime.

Studies show that children or youths introduced to the criminal justice system are far more likely to be incarcerated later in life than those who haven’t.

Let’s take action to end this pipeline to prison for our children and youth.

CHINS petitions stem from many different conditions, such as mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence, which require a multiplicity of resources and responses. National data shows that up to 50% of children involved in the juvenile justice system have diagnosable mental health disorders.

Our courts and probation officers do the best they can do, but they are not equipped to help children and families access proper treatment and services.

The FACES system will offer counseling, mentoring and referral services to children and their families – and help them get on the right track.

Please take action – contact your State Senator and ask them to VOTE in FAVOR of H.3492

On Wednesday, July 13, at 10:00 a.m., we will hold a training and make calls to the senate.

Come and join us for this action at our office at:

5 Pleasant Street,
3rd Floor
Worcester, MA 01609

Hope to see you there!

We need your help NOW to see that children are treated within their communities and diverted from the courts whenever possible!

Give kids what they really want: love (not more stuff!)

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee member

For so many people in Worcester County, a weakened economy may mean people out of work or working fewer hours. Purchasing extravagant birthday gifts for your children or buying them lots of “stuff” may take a back seat to the needed necessities of everyday living.

However, with every dark cloud there is a silver lining. Let’s reassess our giving. We need to overcome our feeling that the amount of money we spend on kids correlates with our love for them and the quality of our relationships. Instead of being materialistic, let’s be creative. Consider giving your love and time to your children! Why not give your family and friends a gift that gives back? Continue reading Give kids what they really want: love (not more stuff!)

Turning kids into killers

By Martin Mersereau

A new Wisconsin law begs the question: How low will hunting lobbyists go?

In an effort to revive a dying sport, states across the country are loosening hunting restrictions and putting loaded weapons into younger and younger hands. The Wisconsin law, which went into effect this month, lowers the state’s hunting age from 12 to 10. Since 2004, more than a dozen other states have also changed their laws to allow younger children to hunt. According to the Associated Press, 30 states do not even have a minimum hunting age. Continue reading Turning kids into killers