November 27, 2017
MASSACHUSETTS CRIMINAL JUSTICE BILL FAILS TO ADDRESS ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
National Parents Organization Asks Lawmakers to Consider Shared Parenting Post-Divorce
While National Parents Organization commends Massachusetts legislators for prioritizing crime prevention, the organization’s leaders believe the current criminal justice bill fails to include a key solution: shared parenting, versus sole custody, post-divorce.
To understand this simple solution, first examine a fact: 85 percent of prisoners were raised in single-parent households without fathers.
“There is abundant evidence supporting the idea that fatherlessness is a potent cause of crime,” said Ned Holstein, MD, Founder and Chair of Boston-based National Parents Organization. “Denzel Washington is just the latest in the parade of people who know and understand this.”
Dr. Holstein continued: “This should provoke optimism, since a simple solution is available – reform our family courts to encourage shared parenting, as opposed to the alarming family court status quo, where sole custody outcomes prevail more than 80 percent of the time. Allow fit fathers to be involved in their children’s lives, and the children will grow up in healthier ways. We have ignored this simple remedy for years, one that is without cost to taxpayers.”
For instance, over 10 years ago, Boston College researcher Rebekah Coley studied low income, inner city minority teens from single parent homes in three cities and concluded, “First, the results found that higher [non-custodial] father involvement prospectively predicted a relative decrease over time in adolescent delinquency.” [Bracketed words added.] Many more recent studies have found the same thing.
National Parents Organization calls attention to this data amid news that both the Massachusetts House and Senate passed H.4011, the state’s criminal justice reform legislation. A committee of House-Senate negotiators will now work out the differences before the proposal goes to Gov. Charlie Baker for his signature.
“The Massachusetts reform specifics – ranging from enhancing punishments for dealing dangerous drugs to establishing new diversion programs to eliminating some mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug offenses – represent good efforts to reduce incarceration and crime. However, they address the problem too late. With this in mind, I encourage our state lawmakers to support efforts to turn shared parenting after parental separation or divorce from the exception to the norm. This act alone would have a sizable impact on crime while also giving children what they most want and need – as close to equal time as possible with both mom and dad,” Dr. Holstein said. “This is no criticism of single parents – we know they are trying their very best. Rather, the research strongly suggests that parenting arrangements do matter and that shared parenting leads to better socialization of our children.”
While shared parenting remains uncommon in the United States, it has been the norm in countries including Sweden and Australia for years, and 25 states have proposed shared parenting laws this year. In just the last six months, for example, Missouri enacted a shared parenting bill, as did Kentucky, whose legislature unanimously passed a bill mandating shared parenting in temporary orders.
“Data tells us that we can’t solve our country’s high crime rates without shared parenting. We have known this for years, but have not acted – so Massachusetts lawmakers must start this conversation now,” Dr. Holstein said.
RECENT RESEARCH: SHARED PARENTING VERSUS SINGLE PARENTING
Shared Parenting Data
· The Journal of the American Psychological Association published a paper titled “Social Science and Parenting Plans for Young Children: A Consensus Report” in 2014, and the conclusions were endorsed by 110 eminent authorities around the world. Authored by Dr. Richard Warshak at the University of Texas, the paper concluded, “... shared parenting should be the norm for parenting plans for children of all ages, including very young children.”
· In 2016, Dr. Warshak wrote, “Two years after its publication, the conclusions and recommendations of the Warshak consensus report remain supported by science.” He also wrote, “The paper has been translated into at least eighteen languages and has informed legislative deliberations throughout the U.S. and parliamentary deliberations in several countries including the United Kingdom, Canada, Israel, Finland, Romania, Croatia, and Sweden. Two years after its publication, the consensus report continues to be one of the most downloaded papers from the journal’s website.” He added, “The list of endorsers and their stature and accomplishments reflect the field’s general acceptance of the consensus report’s findings as rooted in settled science from more than four decades of research directly relevant to this topic, including seminal studies by many of the endorsers.”
· The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published a 150,000-person study titled “Fifty moves a year: Is there an association between joint physical custody and psychosomatic problems in children?” in May 2015 that concluded shared parenting after divorce or separation is in the best interest of children’s health because the arrangement lowers their stress levels.
· The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) published the recommendations of 32 family law experts in 2014, and the group concluded, “Children’s best interests are furthered by parenting plans that provide for continuing and shared parenting relationships that are safe, secure, and developmentally responsive and that also avoid a template calling for a specific division of time imposed on all families.”
· In December, 2016, The American Psychological Association published research by William V. Fabricius of Arizona State University in the journal Psychology, Public Policy and Law entitled, “Should Infants and Toddlers Have Frequent Overnight Parenting Time With Fathers? The Policy Debate and New Data.” Prof Fabricius’ findings provide “… strong support for policies to encourage frequent overnight parenting time [up to and including 50/50 overnights –Ed] for infants and toddlers [even younger than one year –Ed], because the benefits [for children-Ed] associated with overnights also held for parents who initially agreed about overnights as well as for those who disagreed and had the overnight parenting plan imposed over 1 parent’s objections.” Fabricius shared details on his findings during the International Conference on Shared Parenting 2017, a May 29-30, 2017 event in Boston, Massachusetts hosted by National Parents Organization and the International Council on Shared Parenting.
Single Parenting Data
According to federal statistics from sources including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, children raised by single parents account for:
· 63% of teen suicides;
· 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions;
· 71% of high school drop-outs;
· 75% of children in chemical abuse centers;
· 85% of those in prison;
· 85% of children who exhibit behavioral disorders; and
· 90% of homeless and runaway children.
ABOUT NATIONAL PARENTS ORGANIZATION
National Parents Organization, a charitable and educational 501 (c)(3) organization, seeks better lives for children through family law reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers after divorce or separation. The organization is focused on promoting shared parenting and preserving a child’s strong bond with both parents, which is critically important to their emotional, mental, and physical health. National Parents Organization released the Shared Parenting Report Card, the first study to rank the states on child custody laws, and in 2017, National Parents Organization hosted the International Conference on Shared Parenting. Visit the National Parents Organization website at www.nationalparentsorganization.org