Update: Ramie Grimmer, 12, dies; Grandmother says Ramie’s mom Rachelle Grimmer had mental issues

Original post: Two troubling news items from the week.

The first:

State: Mom who shot kids, self during standoff at Texas welfare office denied food stamps.”

From the Associated Press:

“Grimmer first applied for food stamps in July but was denied because she didn’t turn in enough information, Texas Department of Health and Human Services spokeswoman Stephanie Goodman said.

Goodman didn’t know what Grimmer specifically failed to provide. In addition to completing an 18-page application, families seeking state benefits also must provide documents proving their information, such as proof of employment and residency.”

The story, which was also highlighted today in the thought-provoking policy blog Your (Wo)man in Washington by Valerie Young, an advocacy coordinator at the National Association of Mothers’ Centers, is tragic and isolated. Such violence — which left the two children ages 10 and 12 in critical condition — could never be justified.

But, it did not take place in a vacuum.

“I saw a mother at Union Station feeding her two children out of a trash can at the bottom of a Metro elevator.  It broke my heart,” Young told me in a follow-up conversation about the Texas story.

To her, the case “represents an utter failure of public policy, and points out that the family caregiver, typically the mother, has particular and towering responsibilities.  In severe circumstances, perhaps uncommon but not wholly unexpected, mothers may find that responsibility too great to be borne entirely alone.  When help is sought and denied, tragedy will result. 

Her solution? “.. those who provide [family care] can be protected and fostered in their mission by intelligent public policy. “

Which leads to the second bit of bad news:

A new report from the Council on Contemporary Families released Monday concluded that poverty in the U.S. grew substantially in the last decade:

“ … with hardships increasing for millions of people and their families, especially with regard to food, medical care and housing. And the Great Recession at the end of the 2000s — with high unemployment and housing foreclosures — increased the level of insecurity for millions of people who were not living below the poverty line.

Although most Americans do not share the level of deprivation seen at the bottom of the income scale, the broad blanket of economic anxiety that has spread across the population should spur us to think more holistically about the impact of instability and insecurity on the social, emotional and economic well-being of the population as a whole.”

One family tragedy and one broad study, both with the same conclusion.

Is the message loud enough?