As first lady back in 1996, Hillary Clinton wrote a best-selling book with the title It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us with the premise that the family alone cannot meet all the needs of a child, especially when the family lives in poverty.
The book, not surprisingly, was criticized by conservatives who saw it as propaganda for big-government liberalism. Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole said that same year: "... with all due respect, I am here to tell you, it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child." Former Sen. Rick Santorum in 2005 wrote a book titled, It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good.
But Clinton's idea was nothing new. Her title was taken from ancient African proverbs that postulated in different words the same beliefs that communities must be involved in providing for the needs of children.
Now, it seems, the Utah Legislature, one of the most conservative elected bodies in the country, is also seeing the truth in Clinton's thesis, although it's unlikely that legislators in the Beehive State would ever admit it. But they should be proud of lending support to legislation sponsored by Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden, who has seen firsthand how dependence on welfare programs can ruin lives.
Both the Utah Senate and House have passed Reid's bill designed to bring government agencies and nonprofit organizations together to provide a network of caring adults to help the 50,000 to 70,000 young Utahns who are caught in a family cycle of poverty. If Gov. Gary Herbert signs the bill, as he should, it will create a panel of state agency directors and community leaders and assign them the task of writing long-term plans to show young Utahns how to use safety-net programs, not just to survive but to break out of poverty.
Reid's idea, in the form of SB53, is a valuable recognition of the truth that families alone sometimes are not enough, as many conservatives believe. Government has a role, and when it fails to fulfill its role in helping individuals who desperately need help, no one in the community benefits.
But neither can SB53 do the job by itself.
Utah should accept and implement the expansion of Medicaid outlined in the Affordable Care Act, provide funds for early-childhood education, enact a state Earned Income Tax Credit and support other programs that give low-income families the boost they need to support the next generation of Utahns.