Michigan’s “Parental Responsibility Act” allows the state to cut off public assistance to recipients if their child regularly misses school. Considered a form of “tough love,” lawmakers hope it will force more families enrolled in the Family Independence Program to prioritize education.
The law however does not appear to have exceptions for those with an illness that affected one woman and her 12-year-old daughter with brain cancer.
Wishing to keep her family’s identity anonymous, “Martha” had to plead with the courts to receive welfare benefits that were lost due to her daughter “Lisa” missing school for brain surgery and other treatments. Even though the school principle and superintendent were both aware of her situation, an employee from Lisa’s school still dropped her from enrollment.
This is a sad story considering the amount of hoops this mother had to jump — not counting the emotional and physical strength needed to help her daughter battle cancer — in order to receive the assistance needed to provide for her family. While many would argue such legislation would hold more parents accountable to get their child to school, there are some like Martha’s family who want their kid to go, but can’t always promise frequent attendance. Should they be punished in the same manner as someone who doesn’t know or care about their child’s whereabouts?
No one will deny the importance of education, but life and unexpected events — like cancer — can force you to rearrange your priorities. This in no way makes a parent bad if they have to tend to their child’s well-being before any academic endeavors. The last thing anyone needs — especially a child — is to make their health suffer for the sake of perfect attendance.