NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission. All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.
The Wyrembek Debate and the 'Best Interest of the Child'
The following was submitted by Fathers and Families supporter and contributor, Terry Kee. Have you been following the debate over the return of Benjamin Wyrembek"s son after three years with adoptive parents ? The Fathers and Families forum represents free speech at its finest; where members are free to disagree and be heard. In this organization, strength comes not from the polarization of opinions, but from diverse, rational, and articulate thinking. I"ll take this approach over the dogma espoused by the anti-fatherhood movement anytime. Here we have Fathers and Families member, Eric Reines, M.D., F.A.C.P. questioning the morality of, "removing a three-year old child from loving parents, the only parents the child has ever known…' According to Dr. Reines, this decision "is devastating, and wrong.' Previously, Robert Franklin, Esq. had written that returning the boy to the child"s father was, "the right thing not only for Benjamin Wyrembek, but also for countless other parents who face losing their children the way he almost did.' Further, "it did the right thing for all the children throughout the world who do not have the priceless resource that Mr. Wyrembek"s son has: a father who loves him.' How each of us views this issue centers on our own personal experiences. Those readers who have adopted children, or know someone who has, are very likely to see Dr. Reines, point of view. Those readers, who have suffered from the state"s complete disregard for fathers and children rights, see the issue a bit differently. If I may encapsulate Dr. Reines" primary concern, it would be for the best interest of the child. The concept of "best interest' is certainly judgmental. In the very short term, we can all agree that the three year old child should not have to suffer the trauma of being removed from the "the only parents he has ever known.' But what about the long term? After all, we are talking about three years out of a lifetime. At this tender age, it may take only a couple of weeks or months for this child to acclimate to his new environment. When he is an adult, he will have little to no recollection of his first three years. Can any of us predict how this child, as a young man, would react in knowing that his biological father did everything in his power to be reunited with the son he loved so dearly, but was denied the right of reunification and fatherhood? What a tragedy it would be for this child to learn that he had been robbed of an opportunity to know and love his own father. In my opinion, the court rightly took the long term view and ultimately did serve the child"s best interest. The court also acknowledged that, "the separation of children from family members is a matter of grave consequence with lasting implication.' Finally, the message from Fathers and Families and other family rights organizations is being heard. The court"s opinion is of significant consequence and could have positive effects on everyday divorce situations. For example, divorce-related conflict and disagreement over custody has long been held as a "best interest' reason to award sole custody over shared custody – in the belief that it saves the child from witnessing conflict. Meanwhile, Fathers and Families believes that if conflict never occurred prior to the divorce, then divorce-related conflict (to a point) is a natural outcome of the adversarial nature of divorce and is a short term phenomenon. In essence, normal divorce-related conflict should never be used as an indictment of either parent"s ability to parent fairly and effectively in the long run. Custody must be determined based on the long term best interest of the child rather than the short term best interest. In the case of two fit and loving parents, the long term best interest of the child can only mean shared parenting.