Abby Schachter on Getting The Government out of Parenting

October 27, 2016

Abby Schachter is a mother of four, an experienced journalist who has written for the Washington Times and the New York Post. Her book, NO CHILD LEFT ALONE: GETTING THE GOVERNMENT OUT OF PARENTING takes a look at some issues that parents and child care providers should be aware of.

Although there is very little assistance for families in terms of maternal benefits, the government has policies in place, influencing mothers — almost forcing some mothers to breastfeed. Once the children have become toddlers and parents try and implement their own parenting style, perhaps encourage their children to be independent in many ways, the government intervenes and many children are placed into foster care.

Many government policies aren’t helping parents or families and Abby wants parents to research and start organizing to bring effective change.

Interview with Abby Schachter


by Clarke Illmatical

What was the impetus for writing this book?

“Two reasons, I was already sort of, I was writing about some of this stuff, I’m sort of a libertarian, in terms of domestic stuff, I don’t like the idea of people telling other people how to parent. Because I may have my ideas about how to raise kids.

I was following Lenore Skenazy… it was similar in the sense that, she wrote her book because she did something with her son, she let her son ride the subway at nine years of age, by himself. They live in New York, he wanted to do something on his own, and she let him ride the subway on his own and he got home fine, and then she wrote a newspaper column about it and she got into huge trouble.

She got called the worst mother in America. ‘How could you let your kid ride the subway alone?’ No one paid attention to the fact that the kid was fine. Nothing had happened to him.

I sort of knew about that kind of stuff. I had a sort of similar personal experience… what I wanted from my childcare came running up against the rules and laws and regulations of my state.

We have four children and they’ve all gone to state licensed day care, lovely facilities. When our fourth child went to daycare, the teachers said ‘What do you want us to know about Isaiah?’ I said I want one thing. I want you to swaddle him. I want you to wrap him up, tightly, snugly in a blanket. Because that was the parenting advice that we actually followed. And they said ‘No,’ because the state has banned it without a doctor’s note.

So I thought, okay that’s kind of stupid and I went to my pediatrician practice that we have, I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, so I went to the pediatrician practice, my pediatrician was mourning his father’s death so he wasn’t in the office, I figured I’d just speak to somebody else. There’s like a bunch of different pediatricians, I said ‘I need this doctor’s note’ and the pediatrician wouldn’t it give to me. She was saying ‘It’s not medically necessary, maybe you should just stop swaddling him at home so he’ll get use to not being swaddled at daycare. She wouldn’t give me the note. I was outraged…

They have this rule, but it comes from a book, that was written by a bunch of people in Denver, Colorado. So, I called the people in Denver, Colorado and I tried to figure out what that was all about. And it turns out that, they’re well-intentioned people, they think they’re going to make life easy for daycare operators, around the country. So what they did, they got money from the Department of Health and Human Services to make a huge book of rules on how to run a daycare.

They then went out and asked The American Academy of Pediatrics, what they thought about swaddling, should we make it a policy of swaddling in the day care and the American Academy of Pediatrics has its own issues… The pediatricians have their concerns, these people in Denver had their concerns and so they write this book, and the state of Pennsylvania says ‘Oh look, we have this, The Department of Health and Human Services says this is a good idea, these people are worth listening too. These people in Denver spoke to the experts, and the state of Pennsylvania just adopts it. They never spoke to a single day care operator.

Suddenly all this advice about how to run a daycare becomes the law. And then I started looking at the rest of the regulations. Guess what? Pennsylvania is like a lot of other states, every rule costs money and the cost of state licensed day care in this state is more than community college.

Massachusetts is worse, and Massachusetts has other standards that are even more off the wall, in Massachusetts, they insist at a state licensed day care, that if your kid is there longer than four hours, they have to have their teeth brushed whether they have teeth or not.

I think what people do not understand, is that every rule has a cost… I don’t talk about this in the book but what so frustrating is that the solutions that are proposed to these problems are all ‘Throw more money at the problem…”

What are your thoughts on the United States’s maternity leave?

I’m self-employed, if I didn’t work, I didn’t get paid. I didn’t lose my job, but I was a contract employee. I took off as much time as I thought I could afford when I had my kids. It depended on the timing. The maximum I took off after having a baby was three weeks.

By the way, I work from home… my situation was unusual. I think there are so many different situations in the United States. I don’t see where you’re going to get a single policy coming from Washington that’s gonna handle all the different employment situations that people have.

I would totally agree if the presidential candidate were saying, ‘We’re gonna make it easy, for private employers to give their employees lots of time after they have a baby. We’re gonna figure out a way to create the incentives so that the free market will compete, so that you will have employers who will say ‘Look, it’s gonna serve my purpose if I spend all this money to train somebody to do a job. Okay they’re gonna go off for three months or six months, but I’m going to get back my employee!’ And guess what? They want to come back!

I want there to be an incentive, if you want to say the government should create a tax benefit, a credit, devise some category, where an employer can say, ‘It’s worth my while, to provide this benefit’ That’s fine with me. I think that’s a great solution.”

The title of your book is very arresting, what did you want to address?

“I started with these two areas of life. The daycare thing is what happened to me, that’s chapter three in the book.

The first chapter is called ARRESTING CAPTAIN MOMMY and that’s about parents who are criminalized for letting their kids have some independence… I was surprised to learn that this is actually happening all over the country, in a wide variety of scenarios, to a wide variety of people.

The most interesting case from 2015, was this case of a couple in Maryland. They got in trouble because their kids were walking alone from the playground. They’re white, they’re Jewish and they live in a wealthy suburb of Washington DC. It was all over the Washington papers — they’re not neglectful parents! So why were they in trouble? Why were their kids taken by child welfare and held four hours?

This is happening to single moms who are at work. It’s summer and there is no school, where is the kid supposed to be? This mom got in trouble, her kid wanted to be outside at the playground. That’s a great idea! She wasn’t in front of the TV, sitting in front of a couch, she was outside. We should applaud her! Instead, she got arrested and she lost her job.

It’s totally backward. Those are two chapters, then I started looking at breastfeeding. I had kids from between 2007 and 2013, and formula disappeared from the hospital. Samples were gone, free formulas were gone and they were pushing the breastfeeding. Everybody was a lactation consultant, everybody will show you how to get the baby to latch on, and then if you wanted formula you had to ask for it!”

So you felt like there was an agenda to make you breastfeed?

Absolutely! It felt that way. Then I decided, I’m going to look at it. It’s more than an agenda. It’s public policy, it’s Obama-care.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act mandates free breast pumps. Which means, if you, that all American taxpayers are paying for breast pumps. The WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program was always a program that gave out free formula, and there were advocates for years who have complained because it’s like a corporate giveaway. The formula companies were pushing formula on these women because they were getting WIC benefits.

So now, what’s the government done? The government has done a 180 and they are pushing WIC beneficiaries to breastfeeding. They’re giving them videos, they’re giving them lactation consultants, and they’re giving them longer food benefits if they breastfeed but not if they formula feed.

You’re an experienced journalist, when you looked into this, was there something sinister?

“No, I think it’s funny actually. One of the points that I try to make throughout this book, I don’t think any of this is coordinated. I’m not a conspiracy theorist.

Sinister, no… There are scientists who’ve looked at the outcomes of breastfeeding and they have drawn very broad conclusions about the outcomes from breastfeeding. And then there are other scientists who’ve said, hold on a minute. Is this really healthier? And guess what? If you look at the studies… the science is actually not settled.

That’s basically what I learned. But because the government moves really slowly, and it’s really a huge bureaucracy, this train started and this train was let out of the station and it started picking up steam ‘Breast is best! Breast is best! Breast is best!’

So now… if you want to do work on improving formula – nothing! Look at the history of formula, it has not changed in thirty years. It’s the only technological product, it’s a modern day product that has not been improved in thirty years, it has not been changed…

I have a friend who is a doctor. He works on digestive problems in the esophagus in infants. He wants there to be better formula because there are women who can’t breastfeed… he can’t get anybody to actually do the research to improve formula because nobody cares about formula because all anybody cares about is breastfeeding…

Why is the government involved in all?”

No. I would say that it depends on the subject… most of this stuff has to do with focusing or separating the idea of children from their parents in the sense that, there is a reason.

The reason is because, for example, there’s a chapter in the book called SCHOOL STATUS, and it’s about all of the stuff that happens in public schools that parents may not know about but has to do with the health and welfare of children and the way the state, the individual states think about this.

In our schools, these are government schools… They use these words ‘We have access to these kids.’ So they say things like, we want to know about the health and the weight. We want to take body mass index information. Almost half the states collect height and weight and then they calculate body mass index on all the public school students, at the high school level. Then some of the states say, we’re just collecting this data because if there is some kind of health outbreak or if there is some kind of issue that comes up, we want to have some kind of baseline data to know what our population is like.

Then there are states that said ‘What if we find kids who are unhealthy, they have an unhealthy BMI.’ Which is one data point! One piece of information about a person.

There are some states that sent letters home to the parents saying ‘Oh, your fourth grader daughter is at risk of becoming obese.’ You’re going to tell a nine or ten-year-old girl that their body isn’t good? This is useful?”

For more information on Abby Schachter and to purchase her book visit:


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