How did this happen? Well, the Bush administration allowed (loyal) members of Congress to invite constituents to the papal reception. Mike Rogers chose Christopher, his specialized intensive care therapist and the CEO of St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Lansing to attend as his guests. Rogers has "worked with the agency in the past and 'was very familiar with the work they do with children.'" *
I won't attempt to argue that this is anything but a heart-warming story. The Lansing trio had the experience of a lifetime and no one should begrudge them their adventure.
I will argue, however, that it is a cheap election-year trick on Rogers' part. How else can you explain his very public display of care and concern for one child in light of his voting record on children and family issues during his 4 terms in Congress?
Here are a few recent highlights (lowlights?):
Rogers voted in favor of the FY 2006 budget reconciliation bill that cut mandatory programs by $39 billion. This included cuts to foster care and child support. It also toughened TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families) requirements for states, but decreased funding to help states support the new stricter rules. For details, visit PreventChildAbuse.org
In 2007, Rogers voted against HR 3043, which included $401.41 billion for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and $27.32 billion for the Administration for Children and Families. (data from OpenSecrets.org)
The Children’s Defense Fund has given Rogers an average rating of 14 on a scale of 100 over the past five years. And in case you think the CDF is just cranky over budget cuts, think again: since its establishment in 1973, the CDF has not accepted government funding. All of their funds come from foundation grants, corporation grants and individual donations.
Nearly 25,000 Michigan children are in foster care. Some 16% of these children are placed in facilities rather than family foster homes. Christopher is one of these children.
The good news? At age six, Christopher is old enough to remember his amazing adventure --but not old enough to know he was being used as a publicity prop.
* A little digging revealed that the only reference to Rogers and St. Vincent -- other than the oodles of coverage for this particular story -- was on Rogers' own website:
I and my staff are involved in Capital Area Youth Alliance, Youth Development Corp., Arts Council of Greater Lansing, Cristo Rey Community Center, Sparrow Health System Home Care Board, Impression Five Museum, Michigan Children's Trust and Auction Committee, Operation Backpack, U.S. Citizenship Swearing-in ceremonies, Congressional Merit Awards, LCC Foundation Lip Sync fundraiser, Livingston Economic Club, Rotary Clubs and Rotary Lip Sync Fundraiser for Senior Citizens, Charitable Federal Campaign, Capitol Area Migrant Council, St. Vincent Catholic Charities Arty Pizza Party committee, Ele's Place Community Outreach Committee, Hispanic Heritage Month Committee, several area chambers of commerce. [emphasis added]