Contents of the letter written to Governor Tim Kaine Wednesday, April 10, 2009, by Family Foundation of Virginia President Victoria Cobb, requesting that his poverty commission address the breakup of traditional famlies as the root cause of poverty.  

June 10, 2009

The Honorable Tim Kaine

Governor of Virginia

State Capitol

Richmond, Virginia 23219

Dear Governor Kaine: 

The issue of poverty and how to address it has always been a challenge. Some groups and organizations, many faith-based, do exceptional work providing services to those who find themselves in extraordinarily difficult economic situations. Often, these service providers are able to address the symptoms of poverty, some try to address the root causes.

At The Family Foundation, we are committed to supporting initiatives and principles that will address the root causes of poverty. Parental choice in education for example, will help children in poverty become better educated to be able to take full advantage of the opportunities available to them. Such proposals involve less government, not more. Unfortunately, it seems that in our current cultural lexicon social justice equals government intervention.

But perhaps the most important single factor in reducing poverty in our nation is protecting and rebuilding the very institution our organization revolves around — the family. Regardless of your perspective on the issue of poverty, the science is in and it is absolutely clear — the best safety net, the best deterrent to poverty — is an intact, married, two-parent family.  The numbers are overwhelming. 

According to Sociologist Brad Wilcox of the University of Virginia, "The collective consequences of marriage are quite large. If we were to increase the percent of children living in married homes to the level we experienced in 1970, scholars estimate that 1 million fewer children each year would be suspended from school, 900,000 fewer children each year would engage in acts of delinquency or violence, and 61,000 fewer children each year would attempt suicide. We would also see child poverty drop by approximately 20 percent, and Virginia welfare spending drop by millions. Clearly, marriage matters to Virginia — and particularly to education, public order, and the fiscal health of the Commonwealth."

I imagine if any candidate for office offered a proposal that would guarantee a 20 percent reduction in child poverty that would not cost the taxpayers a penny, they would raise some eyebrows, but that is exactly what increasing the number of marriages and in-wedlock childbirths would do.

Last month, when you announced your task force on poverty, I was surprised and disappointed that no mention was made of the one absolutely effective means of reducing poverty and giving children the absolute best chance. Nowhere does it appear that the task force is going to address the fragmentation of the family.

Governor, let me be clear: It is simply not possible to adequately address the issue of poverty in our Commonwealth without addressing the issues of divorce, family fragmentation and out-of-wedlock births.

Therefore, I am urging you to add a working group to your poverty task force that focuses on the issues of divorce, family breakup and out-of-wedlock births. I believe that these are issues for which you have deep concern, as evidenced by your support this year of our primary marriage legislative initiative that added the benefits and value of marriage to the Commonwealth's FLE curriculum. This task force should include social scientists and marriage education leaders at a minimum. Simply having this part of the equation studied by government bureaucrats is not enough.

I would be happy to discuss this with you further and I offer to you the resources of The Family Foundation to assist in addressing this matter. The issue of poverty in Virginia must be addressed, but we can no longer hide behind partisan rhetoric. We must be willing to go to the source of poverty if we truly want to provide an environment in Virginia where all families and children can thrive. Anything less and we will simply be fooling ourselves. Anything less and we will once again look to the government for the solutions. We are better than that. We have to be.


Victoria E. Cobb