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U.S. News Archive
December 01 - December 06, 2001



This page contains news for the period December 01, 2001 through December 06, 2001.  

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Thursday, December 6, 2001

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Divorce can make the holidays a painful time

A story published today by the Portland Press Herald reports that the holidays are traditionally a time for families, but for kids whose parents are newly separated or divorced it can also be a painful time. On top of dealing with their confused emotions, some kids also have to adjust to a life where Christmas toys are suddenly an unaffordable luxury.

Each year, 1 million American children watch their parents go through a divorce. Between 1970 and 1996, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the proportion of children under the age of 18 living with one parent grew from 12 percent to 28 percent.

In Maine, there are about 600 divorces every December.

A Knox County woman just returned home to Maine following a divorce in another state. She brought nothing with her but a suitcase of clothes. She found a job, but is still struggling and isn't sure what to do about Christmas this year.

"I am starting all over again with three children. At ground zero," she said. "I'm hoping after the first of the year we will be able to get our own place to call home again."

The Bruce Roberts Toy Fund has stepped up to help and put a little cheer back into their lives. Established in 1949, it provides toys and educational gifts for families throughout southern Maine. Last year, the fund gave toys to more than 8,000 children.

A divorced mother of three from Biddeford has been trying to make ends meet ever since her ex-husband stopped paying child support in April. She was out of work for a time, but now has a good job and is "trying to play catch-up."

"My three daughters are very good, responsible young ladies who help their mom out," she said. "They deserve a nice Christmas."

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Philadelphia couple is helping single moms celebrate the holidays

A story published today by the Burlington County Times reports that a Philadelphia couple is doing its best to make Christmas a little merrier for a group of Evesham families trying to make ends meet.

For the second year, Barbara and Steve DiOrio, founders of the nonprofit Senior Solutions in Evesham, are rounding up gifts for dozens of children and their working moms.

The DiOrios got holiday wish lists from women and dozens of children for their "Operation Christmas" program from the YMCA Women's Opportunity Center in Mount Laurel.

The nonprofit center provides job training for women who are either single or widowed, or whose husbands are on disability.

"These are women who are the working poor, the ones the system kind of loses," she said.

And once the bills are paid, there often is little or no money left for Christmas gifts, Barbara DiOrio said.

The DiOrios first heard of the women and their children last year through a senior citizen with ties to Senior Solutions.

When they saw the lists, Barbara DiOrio said, she and her husband couldn't say no.

Last year, the DiOrios, along with a number of friends and business associates, were able to provide Christmas for 22 mothers and 54 children.

Wednesday, December 5, 2001

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Out-of-wedlock births up in Mississippi

A story published today by the Clarion-Ledger reports that several states that have been working to curb the number of teen pregnancies are finding it to be a daunting task. Recently, Mississippi and 47 other states finished out of the money in the battle to reduce out-of-wedlock births.

The federal government set aside $400 million in the 1996 welfare reform act to be awarded over four years to states with the greatest success in reducing out-of-wedlock birth rates without increasing abortion rates.

Only the District of Columbia and Alabama, which lowered rates 4 percent and 0.25 percent, respectively, and Michigan, which remained stable, qualify to share $100 million that could have been split among as many as five states.

"That's a nice bonus," said Pam Simpson, interim director of the division of economic assistance for the Mississippi’s Department of Human Services. "If we had that money, things would be different than they are now, I tell you that."

Mississippi has the highest teen birth rate — 73 babies per 1,000 teens — and the 12th highest teen pregnancy rate at 96 pregnancies per 1,000 teens.

Teen births have decreased in the state from 12,212 in 1975 to 6,787 in 2000, according to numbers from the state Department of Health and the Mississippi Task Force on Reducing Out-of-Wedlock Pregnancies.

But at the same time, the number of births to unmarried women 20 and older has skyrocketed to 13,484. In 1975, that number was 4,388.

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 37 percent of homes headed by a single female in Mississippi live in poverty along with 25 percent of related children.

"Their children are also more likely to have out-of-wedlock children, limit their own educational opportunities and commit crime," said Forest Thigpen, president of the Mississippi Family Council.

Mississippi has the nation's third highest poverty rate at 18 percent and the highest percentage of citizens on government assistance at 25 percent.

The task force is preparing its final report for January. In its 2000 report, the task force said existing government programs should seek to ensure marriage is honored, abstinence is encouraged and males are included and held accountable.

But that goes against prevailing culture in which sex dominates media and entertainment, Thigpen said.

Kaye Bender, deputy state health officer for the state Department of Health, said for women over 20, unwed births are not "as much of a social stigma."

The Legislature, at the recommendation of the Mississippi Task Force on Reducing Out-of-Wedlock Pregnancies, passed a bill aimed at lowering births.

A cap on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families work program, designed to help the needy re-enter the work force, is in place.

"Once an out-of-wedlock mother signs up for TANF, she will not receive more money if she has another child," said DHS' Simpson. "She will get food stamps and Medicaid for the child, but not the TANF money, which they can use any way they want.

"It will not be a way to increase her income," Simpson said.


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Women are returning to work faster after giving birth

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that according to a Census Bureau report, more women are working later into pregnancy and returning sooner to the office after giving birth than they did years ago.

However, more new mothers may be taking advantage of flexible hours and working part time.

Between 1991 and 1995, 67% of women who gave birth to their first child worked during their pregnancy. That was up from 44% between 1961 and 1965.

The percentage of mothers working full time rose from 40% in the early 1960s to 54% in the early 1990s, and the percentage of those who worked part time increased to 12% from 5%.

In the early 1990s, 52% of women who gave birth returned to work after six months, up from 14% in the early 1960s.

More women, especially in white-collar jobs, have gained flexibility at work and can set their own hours, said Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women's Policy Research.

Taking paid leave also became a more popular option. In the early 1960s, 63 % of women quit around the time of giving birth, while 16 % took paid leave.

By the early 1990s, 27 % quit while 43 % took leave.

To lure and retain workers, companies must offer perks like no mandatory overtime and the ability to set your own schedule, said Hartmann. 

"How much workplaces have changed to accommodate families is an ongoing question," said University of Maryland sociologist Suzanne Bianchi. "More workplaces would not have to be as accommodating" if the country enters an extended recession.

Tuesday, December 4, 2001

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Supreme Court to hear older workers rights

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that the Supreme Court Monday will decide if older workers may sue companies for being laid off due to cutbacks implemented by the companies.

The court will review claims by fired utility workers in Florida, who claim that more than 70 percent of those laid off during company reorganizations in the early 1990s were age 40 or older.

A ruling against the workers would mean that to win future age bias cases, elderly workers would have to prove that employers intended to discriminate. That is often a harder case to make than the one at issue in the Florida lawsuit, which claims that layoffs that seem to be evenhanded on their face really fell disproportionately on older workers.

"It comes at a crucial point because of the economic downturn," said Laurie McCann, a lawyer with the lobbying group AARP. "When it's time to cut costs, the ax always falls on older workers because employers, whether it be true or not, perceive that they cost more."

American companies announced 1.2 million layoffs between January and August, exceeding the total for all of 2000 by 83 percent. It is not yet clear how many older workers will lose their jobs.

The question for the Supreme Court is whether a 1967 law barring on-the-job age discrimination allows people to sue under the premise that an employer's action had a "disparate impact" on older workers.

The case which the court accepted Monday involves a class-action lawsuit filed by more than 100 former Florida Power Corp. employees who claim they were fired because the company wanted to change its image and reduce its costs for salaries and pensions.

Wanda Adams and other former workers sued in 1999, but their claims never reached trial. A federal court said it needed clarification on whether the former employees could bring such a suit.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this year that the age discrimination law did not provide for this kind of suit, which has been common for people alleging discrimination in housing or employment based on sex or race.

In April, the Supreme Court limited similar lawsuits under the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. In writing that law, Congress did not grant the right to claim that state policies had an unfair, discriminatory effect on minorities, the court said.

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The lure of romance does not end when you grow older

A story published today by the Los Angeles Times reports that in Indian Wells, fifty is still considered young at this desert community. A local bar in the community called the Nest, is reputed to be something of a meat market for retirees, widowers, divorcees and the occasional stray husband or wife. It is one of the only bars in town where the drinks flow freely here as couples, many of whom have met for the first time that night. Couples glide across the dance floor to Cole Porter and Elvis covers, hoping to make a friend, find a lover or meet their soul mate.

"A byproduct of a retirement community is that people are becoming single by natural causes," says Nest owner Ted Hane. "We're talking about people that have lost a loved one and then would like to reconnect with society after they've come through the mourning and the suffering." Seniors re-entering the dating pool after losing a decades-long spouse through death or divorce have more options for meeting people these days.

It used to be that churches were the main place a suddenly single senior could be on the lookout for love. But today, a growing number of active adult retirement communities, special interest social clubs and matchmaking Web sites are available, bringing together people of similar ages and increasing the odds of finding someone.

An increasing number of seniors are finding camaraderie in adult communities. Sun City, an over-55 community in Palm Desert, is home to more than 53 social groups and a wide variety of sports, from golf to ballroom dance, bocce ball to fishing, aerobics to swimming.

Late on a Thursday at the Nest, Dixie Lee VonLohoff, a 71-year-old retiree, is enjoying a night out. Dressed in a strappy black-and-white dress that makes the most of her trim figure, she swirls around the dance floor with a variety of partners.

A man with a Grecian Formula 'do and silver lame shirt spins her around to a Sinatra song, a white-haired gentleman pulls her close for a Tony Bennett tune, and a handful of hopeful suitors looks on--the promise of romance glimmering in their eyes.

"I like to dance with them, but that's about all," VonLohoff said of her numerous suitors, many of whom she's had dinner with but nothing more. Still, she hasn't found anyone there whom she's serious about.

"Many, many marriages have happened" following meetings at the Nest, according to Hane, its owner, but companionship, not necessarily marriage, is the name of the game here.

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Single mothers in Alabama on the rise

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that Tonya Bettis was a single woman emerging from her teen-age years when she moved to Prichard, Alabama in 1995. Six years and three children later, Bettis, 26, is still single.

Bettis’ story is not unusual in Prichard. According to an analysis of the 2000 census, 56.5 percent of family households raising their own children in Prichard are led by single mothers. A family household is defined by the census as two or more related people living together.

It's a grim number for Prichard, a working-class city that has come into hard times over the years. Although many children from single-parent households do fine, experts said, on average they are more likely to fail -- they have higher high school drop out rates, higher teen pregnancy rates and are less likely to attend college.

On the national and state level, there have been attempts to reduce the number of births to single women, move single mothers out of poverty, get fathers involved and promote marriage.

In Prichard, single mothers make up about 85 percent of a Prichard Housing Authority program designed to make homeowners out of low- and middle-income residents who rent. Meanwhile, the head of the Prichard Harlem Area Community Weed and Seed Strategy said he is considering offering counseling for teen-age mothers, most of whom are single.

Marcia Carlson, an associate professor of social work at New York's Columbia University, said the biggest problems single mothers face are financial.

Not having a father actively involved, thus putting more stress on a mother, can also have other negative impacts. In addition, single parents tend to move more frequently and there is less stability as children are uprooted from schools and friends, Carlson said.

To understand the high rate of single moms in Prichard -- a city that is 84 percent black -- it is important to understand cultural changes in black communities across the United States, said Amilcar Shabazz, who directs the University of Alabama's African-American studies program.

He said black churches, once the backbone of their communities that instilled values such as marriage and supporting children, have exercised far less influence in the last quarter century.

 John Bolland, director of the University of Alabama’s Institute for Social Science Research, who has done extensive research on poverty in the Mobile area, said that there is more potential for a father to be a negative influence in a low-income family compared to a family earning a decent wage.

Statistically, Bolland said, men in low-income areas are more likely to be involved in risk behaviors such as alcohol, drugs and violence. They also are more likely to be in and out of the prison system.

Monday, December 3, 2001

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Charity for young mothers to be cut by Ohio’s Hamilton county

A story published today by the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Every Child Succeeds, a 2-year-old charity formed to help "at-risk" young mothers and their babies, is one of three social service programs facing a total of $1 million in budget cuts in Hamilton County.

"In the last seven or eight years, there has been a tremendous amount of research that shows that a child's brain develops faster in the first three years of life than any other time. This program has been helping children hit those developmental milestones so that they will be much better prepared when they enter school." said Gibbs MacVeigh, chairman of Every Child Succeeds.

But, despite it’s successes the, 2 year old charity is on the cut list of Ohio’s Hamilton county.

Every Child Succeeds was a program launched in mid-1999 by several high-profile health agencies and charities, including United Way & Community Chest, Children's Hospital Medical Center and Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency. About 60 percent of its funding comes from public sources, including Kentucky tobacco settlement money and the Hamilton County children's services levy. The rest comes from several private grants.

Saturday, December 1, 2001

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Single moms on the rise in Kentucky

A story published today by the Messenger-Inquirer reports that according to figures recently released by the Census Bureau, in 1999, 30.4 percent of Kentucky's babies were born to single women.

And if current trends continue, the day may come when fewer than half of Kentucky babies are born to married couples, said Ron Crouch, director of the Kentucky State Data Center in Louisville.

"We're already nearing 50 percent in some counties," Crouch said. "Robertson County, the state's smallest, is at 44 percent now. Jefferson County (Louisville) is at 40.5 percent."

Kentucky’s Lee and Carroll counties also have rates above 40 percent.

The Owensboro area, Crouch said, also ranks high in births to single women.

"We're not sure why," he said. "But there are several counties around Owensboro that are higher than the state average."

Davies County reported that 35.5 percent of its 1999 births were to single mothers. Henderson reported 34.1 percent; Hopkins (Madisonville), 31.2 percent; and McLean, 31.1 percent.

The problem is not teen pregnancy, Crouch said. Teen pregnancy, he said, is at a 30-year low in Kentucky.

And it's not "Murphy Browns" -- career women in their 30s who feel their biological clocks ticking with no husband in sight, he said.

More than half of the 16,104 births to Kentucky single mothers in 1998 (8,834) were to women in their 20s. And barely a fourth of those -- 2,205 -- had more than a high school education.

One theory for the explosion in births to single mothers, Crouch said, is that "there is a lack of marriageable males in Kentucky."

Jobs that pay enough to support a family are hard to find in Kentucky, he said, especially for young men.

"We're automating the Bubba jobs," he said. "Low-skilled jobs are disappearing. And Kentucky families are not doing well in income."


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