The newspaper USA Today has named Madera the 14th-worst city in the United States — and the worst in California — in which to rear a child.
It’s hard to imagine how that is possible. Some of these surveys which compare cities with one another are skewed due to the mechanics of the survey, and you can make a survey say just about anything one would want to. But there’s little question that Madera, which used to be an ideal place to live and rear a family, according to most of those who grew up here in the 1950s and 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, no longer is that way.
No one thing has hurt the livability of the city, but many little things, like death from a thousand cuts, have combined to make the city less than ideal, at least in the eyes of some beholders.
For example, the quality of housing in the city, especially housing for the poor, is much less than what it should be.
One thing not mentioned in the USA Today story is the fact the city has a high rate of single-parent births. That rate — almost half of all births — contributes to many of the other problems that plague children in Madera.
Single-parent households, for example, are more likely to experience poverty than are households with both parents on the scene.
The poverty rate in Madera is 32.4 percent, one of the highest nationwide, exceeding the national rate of 19 percent. Living in a single-parent household nearly doubles the chances the kids will grow up poor.
Preschool enrollment in Madera is only 18.5 percent, says USA Today. The U.S. average is nearly 30 points higher.
Most of those not attending preschool are from single-parent households.
The biggest problem leading to these statistics is the absence of fathers. The fathers know how to make the babies, but they have no sense of how to be the heads of families.
In some ways, they are idiots who talk themselves into believing that fathers bear no responsibilities once the children they help conceive are born.
Someone forgot to tell them that the mothers of their children will depend on them for a living so they can care for the children in their formative stages.
Someone forgot to tell them that the babies need their dads almost as much as they need their moms for food, clothing and companionship.
These dads often think that belonging to a gang is more important than belonging to a family. They think they can make their livings as criminals.
These dads should know better.
They also should know better than to take drugs and booze into their homes as examples to the little kids of how to behave.
The moms aren’t blameless. They should know that if they behave so they become pregnant, the chances are that their boyfriends will desert them, and that they and their children will spend lifetimes in poverty and misery, and that their children will have few opportunities.
That doesn’t mean that all single-parent households create little but misery for their children. There are some heroic moms who rear their children by themselves, and the outcomes are great. The same goes for a few heroic dads who do the same.
But those are exceptions to the rule.
The statistics of single-parenting paint a stark picture.
If you don’t believe that, ask the Madera County Public Health Department, whose employees call it a “huge concern.”
They are right. Madera County ranks fourth in the state for its high single-parent birth rate.
And that statistic, more than any other, will hold Madera back from making the strides it needs to make to become a city its citizens can be proud of once again.