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FCS featured in Op Ed piece in the Charlotte Observer

Our community can help stem the tide of criminality

From Tracy Hanna Hewett, Mecklenburg County Assistant Public Defender:

What if I told you that my career goal is to run out customers? And further, that I am working hard to achieve this goal? You would probably immediately, and correctly, assume that I do not sell cars or insurance.

Then, you might, incorrectly, assume that my job does not depend on serving customers. In fact, I have served over 11,000 customers in my career as a public defender. Some customers brought new customers who, occasionally, were their offspring. And I am trying to stem the tide.

My customers, or clients, are poor and have been charged with crimes that range from misdemeanor trespassing to habitual felony breaking and entering. By the way, I am a real lawyer and love my job, which some have called “the Lord’s work.” In addition, I am a long-time member of this community and want my family, which now includes a 6-month-old grandson, to be safe.

The community has a vested interest in helping me stem the tide.

Guided by research on the subject, I have determined that there is a place to begin: the womb. This is the essential starting point, not only to stem the tide of criminality but also to reduce or eliminate the social ills that are both cause and effect of my continued customer base. That is why I have been an active board member and supporter of Florence Crittenton for over six years.

Florence Crittenton has a name that sounds old because it is old. In 1903 the organization was a “home for unwed mothers,” most of whom did not keep their babies. By 2013, this nationally accredited organization will have provided comprehensive services to nearly 40,000 high-risk single, pregnant adolescents and women, and their children. The statistics are daunting: 95 percent choose to parent but are economically and environmentally disadvantaged; 94 percent report history of child abuse, domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

The outcomes are no less than amazing for the mothers: 100 percent of adolescents enrolled in school or education-based programs; 91 percent excelled on parenting competence skills; 82 percent avoid repeat unplanned pregnancies during the first year of follow-up. As the mother’s prenatal care, safe and healthy environment and education improves, so does that of their babies: 100 percent born drug-free over the last five years with an average birth weight of 7 lbs. 7oz.

On Tuesday, Florence Crittenton will hold its annual fundraiser and honor Judge Lou Trosch, a man whose influence goes well beyond the borders of this county and state. Judge Trosch has improved the lives of families and children since his appointment to the Mecklenburg County bench in 1999. Judge Trosch has been an agent of change in this community by virtue of his vision and implementation of programs that educate, inform and support mothers, not only empowering them to become productive citizens but to provide a future full of hope and health for their babies.

If the picture of healthier, happier moms and babies alone doesn’t move you to action, maybe this will: A single healthy baby saves $4 million in potential lifelong costs to taxpayers, compared to a baby born with a low birth weight, addictions or other health issues. I hope you will help us honor Judge Trosch and continue the amazing work of Florence Crittenton.

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