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Social Agency Helps Underage Girls Wed

September 05, 1996

* As a professor of social work, I found "O.C. Agency Has Helped Underage Mothers Wed" (Sept. 1) really appalling. Anyone in a social agency who supports teenagers' marriages to men who have raped and abused them has no right to call him- or herself a social worker, and the director of the agency should certainly consider a career move.

With only 7% of all reported child abuse cases investigated, with tragic mistakes made which end in death, with a response time to crisis which is often agonizingly slow, all too many child welfare agencies in California do a public disservice. They are often administratively top-heavy, underutilize professionally trained social workers with the MSW degree, and spend far too much time on unnecessary, self-protecting paperwork, which ends up helping no one.

Helping pregnant 13-year-olds to marry the men who have physically and sexually abused them will result not only in continued abuse of the adolescent, but there is strong evidence that it will soon result in abuse to the child. And when the marriage ends with additional children and more abuse, will Orange County Social Services create a dating service for abusive men to cycle them into new relationships with troubled adolescents? My god, this is California and you live with too much craziness, but this is really too much.


Cal State San Bernardino

* It would be difficult to convey the despair I felt on several levels reading about Orange County Social Services facilitating the marriages of poor young teenagers to the adult men who impregnated them. In the first place, we have chosen as a society to make having intercourse with such young girls a criminal act. By putting these girls into the power of these men as child-wives, we reward the actions of these lawbreakers.

In the second place, we must ask ourselves, who are the children who run the risk of being married under these conditions? Why are their futures not worth safeguarding? I find the fact that in 14 of 15 cases the children were Latinas troubling. Could it be that in these cases, giving the children up to these men was simply easier than any other course of action, regardless of the consequences to the children, both generations, mother and baby? This solution would obviously not be acceptable to families with more resources than these families apparently have.




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