An inheritance no one deserves

March 29, 1998

Bob Maginnis

"Are you stupid or what?"

"You're never going to amount to anything."

"Do you think anybody's ever going to marry somebody like you?"

"Sometimes I wonder why I ever wanted kids in the first place."

Have you ever heard a parent say things like that? Or worse, have you ever made such remarks to your own children? If so, there are two possibilities. One is that you will damage your child just as surely as you would if you hit him in the head with an ax handle. The other is that you are saying those things now, in a moment of stress, because way back in your own childhood, someone said them to you.

It's called "learned behavior," and I'm here to tell you that I find the things my parents said to me popping out of my mouth when I'm talking to my own kids. Fortunately for me, and my children, my parents did not say things that tore down my confidence or made me feel bad about who I was.


Maybe you weren't so lucky. Maybe you'd like to break the cycle and learn to raise your kids without abusing them mentally or physically. Maybe you'd just like a few tips on how to keep that 2-year-old perpetual motion machine from driving you absolutely crazy.

Help is available for those problems and a whole lot more, through the Parent/Child Center, a United Way agency located in downtown Hagerstown at 115 W. Washington St.

The center began as a program of the now-defunct Family Services agency in 1983 and with fund-raising help from the Exchange Clubs of Washington County, it became an independent agency fiuve years later.

Its first program, and perhaps its most important, matched volunteers with at-risk parents who needed someone to call when their child-rearing duties began to get the best of them. The parent calls, the volunteer talks him or her through the crisis, and damage to the child is avoided.

Other related progrqams quickly followed. A Parents Anonymous chapter was set up, as well a Child Advocate Program, which provides a pool of trained volunteers who can be appointed by the Juvenile Court to help with youngsters who've been designated "Children In Need of Assistance."

For teen-aged parents, the center offers "Right from the Start," which matches trained volunteers with pregnant girls. For up to 18 months, the volunteer makes sure that the young mother gets training in how to meet her child's physical and mental needs.

When that program began, in July of 1994, it was designed to serve the needs of five young mothers. Within six months, however, it had received 50 referrals.

That's where you come in, because this is one of those programs that can't continue without public support. I believe in it so strongly I've been raising cash for it for 10 years, through the Hagerstown Exchange Club. We've risked a plunge in the icy waters of City Park Lake as a fund-raising stunt and bought and given away tickets to everything from barbeque meals to Longaberger Basket Bingo night.

We believe in the cause because once you've broken the cycle of abuse, the next generation will be spared. And once a parent has learned the right way to do that job, there's no incentive to turn back.

On Sunday, April 19, the Parent-Child Center will hold its annual telethon, its biggest fund-raiser of the year, from 6 to 9 p.m. on WHAG-TV 25. There'll be information on the center's programs and how you can get involved. If you can't wait that long for help, or would like to make a construction in adavamnce, call the center at (301) 791-2224.

We've all know vicitms of abuse, or at least poor parenting. I'll never forget Jimmy, who moved to the D.C. area from Tennessee in the early 1960s. JImmy'd had scarlet fever as a kid, and to save his life, the family drove through miles of mountain roads in the middle of the night to find a doctor.

Jimmy's mother reminded him of that from time to time, whenever she'd had a few drinks, sometimes even telling him that maybe they shouldn't have gone to the trouble for such a worthless boy. You've got to wonder what Jimmy's telling his kids now.

If that story doesn't soften your heart, consider these facts:

- 94 percent of Maryyland's prison inmates were abuseed children and 80 percvent of those arrested for prositution in this state were sexually abused as children.

- Abused children are three times more likely to be drug abusers and 74 percent more likely to commit a crime against some other person.

Even if that "other person" isn't you, as a taxpayer you're going to pay for the increased cost of law enforcement caused by child abuse. So contribute out of compassion or self-interest, because either way, it's a good deal.

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