How Do We Help Families That Need Additional Support?

Every family has different needs and will require different types of help in different contexts. Because the reasons why families may need additional help will vary, so too should the responses.

We best help struggling families by enabling those families to flourish as families. By doing this we most fully affirm their dignity as human beings created in God’s image who exist in family.

The help we provide should better enable them to be families, and not seek to take over or replace their responsibilities. This is the case even if we think another institution (whether government or a non-profit or a church) can do it better, or because we believe another institution can do it more “efficiently”. These attitudes can often destroy God-given diversity and dignity.

This understanding of the diverse needs of families also means we must think carefully about who is providing this help. Public justice requires that different institutions offer support in different ways, in line with each institutions’ own distinct roles and responsibilities.

Government certainly has a role to play in helping families, but it is not the only institution that has a role. For example, government must ensure that parental responsibility for each child’s education is not diminished by racial discrimination, or by the lack of needed financial resources of their parents. But non-profits and churches (to name two) also have responsibilities, whether to strengthen marriages or to support working single parents for example.

In short, any help to families must assist the family in fulfilling their responsibilities and depending on the circumstances different institutions will need to help to different degrees and in different ways. Families will flourish when all institutions work together to help each fulfill their responsibilities, not when one, whether the church or government or non-profits, seeks to do it all.

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