our-blog-icon-top

October 8, 2014 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

The National Parents Organization promotes shared parenting between mothers and fathers. We’re not doctrinaire on the subject; we believe in shared parenting following divorce for the very good reason that the great weight of reputable social science demonstrates that children are better off with both their parents both during and after marriage. Into the bargain, a multitude of other benefits to mothers, fathers, society generally and the public purse flow from dual parenting. Mothers who share custody with an ex have more time to work, earn and save than do mothers with primary or sole custody. They’re also less stressed. By contrast, over 40% of single mothers live below the federal poverty line.

Fathers benefit from not losing custody. They’re more emotionally stable and more likely to take an active role in their children’s upbringing than dads who only see their children according to what are now “standard visitation schedules.” Those typically give fathers only 14% - 20% of the parenting time and unsurprisingly, they become what sociologist Susan Stewart calls “Disneyland Dads,” i.e. more entertainers of children than parents.

And of course fatherless children exhibit a wide array of socially dysfunctional behaviors from poorer performance in school to emotional problems to drug and alcohol abuse to greater involvement in crime, etc. than do the children of intact families.

Finally, We the People spend untold sums of money combatting the various social and individual deficits exhibited by fatherless children.

So NPO battles daily to keep both parents in the lives of their children to the maximum extent possible.

But…

The caveat of course is that the parents must be fit to care for their children. Sadly, some parents are mentally or emotionally incapable of caring for children. They may be violent, drug-addicted or in prison. Various behaviors may indicate a parent can’t be trusted with a child and those parents who aren’t constitute the exception to the rule of dual parenting. Sometimes, much as we’d like to have both parents care for children, it’s just not possible.

And that brings us to this story that raises at least as many questions as it answers (Herald Sun, 10/7/14). Chief among those questions is “Why is the Australian Department of Human Services so intent on returning this mother to her child’s life?”

All those involved in the case remain unnamed by the press, courts and DHS, but the one surviving child has been given the pseudonym “Alex.”

Two and a half years ago, in April of 2012, the mother of two twin baby girls was discovered to have murdered one of them and attempted to kill the other, Alex. Her attack on them was so brutal that, although Alex survived, she has extensive brain damage resulting in cerebral palsy. Now, just 30 months after that horrific crime, she’s attempting to return to Alex’s life as her mother.

That of course raises yet another question: “Why isn’t she in prison?” She pleaded guilty to infanticide and recklessly causing serious injury, but if she’s ever done a day behind bars, the article doesn’t let on about it. But even if she has, why isn’t she still there? Do Australian authorities truly care so little about children that this mother gets what amounts to a free pass for her unconscionable act?

But there’s more. As my first question indicates, DHS is bending heaven and earth to get this mother back into the life of the child she attempted — and almost succeeded - to kill. They’ve even gone so far as to subject Alex’s father to an order of supervised visitation, despite the fact that he’s done nothing wrong. Having done so, DHS now has the leverage to coerce him into agreeing to the mother’s re-involvement. If he refuses of course, the order limiting his access to his child remains in effect. If he agrees, then DHS will void the order. If that sounds to you like holding the parental rights of a perfectly fit father hostage, then you and I think alike.

A WOMAN who killed her baby and critically injured the girl’s twin sister has the backing of the Department of Human Services in her bid to gain access to the surviving child.

And the department has issued the father an ultimatum that if he does not agree to a plan that allows the mother contact, it will seek to extend its supervision order over the surviving girl, “Alex”, now two-and-a-half, and her brother, 4, for a further year.

Unsurprisingly, the father and his family think so too.

Alex’s uncle said the DHS had told the family many times it believed it was in the children’s best interests to have contact with their mother.

He said he was appalled the DHS was telling the family it would cease its involvement once the mother was granted access to the children.

“They’re holding a gun to my brother’s head,’’ he said.

“They’ve said they’d be happy to leave so long as (the father) gives access to (her).

“Their mandate is to do what is in the best interests of the children, but all they have been doing is trying to get (the mother) access.’’

But there’s still more. Not only is DHS holding a gun to the father’s head, in public pronouncements, by the minister for Community Services of Victoria, a part of DHS, it’s claiming to be doing no such thing.

Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge, who two months ago said she did not support access for the mother, stood by that on Tuesday night.

“DHS is not and will not seek to vary the court order prohibiting access to the children by the mother through either the court process or the therapeutic plan,’’ Ms Wooldridge said.

But Alex’s paternal uncle told the Herald Sun he did not know why Ms Wooldridge would say that.

“I would say to the minister, I’m sorry, but you are wrong,” he said.

“Read the court reports and understand what the department is asking the court to do.

“It’s there in black and white. The department is asking for access to the children for the mother, the maternal grandmother and the maternal uncle.

“(The father) agreed to the grandmother and uncle but is objecting to the mother.’’

In short, Wooldridge either doesn’t know what DHS is doing or has elected to misrepresent the truth to the Australian people. And, given that documents filed in court and obtained by the Herald Sun demonstrate that Wooldridge is wrong and the father’s family is right, it’s hard to believe Wooldridge doesn’t know the facts. After all, if the Herald Sun can get Department’s court filings, so can the minister. So yet another obvious question is “Why is Minister Wooldridge misrepresenting the clear facts of the case and pretending the government isn’t doing what it plainly is?”

To that final question, this article gives a partial (and extremely unsatisfying) answer (Herald Sun, 10/8/14). Apparently caseworkers with DHS are simply ignoring the orders of their superior, Mary Wooldridge.

A further twist is that the mother’s bid is being supported by case workers within the Department of Human Services, who seem more concerned with what they see as her rights than those of the father and his family.

The department was granted a supervision order when the mother’s abuse of the two girls was discovered and bureaucrats are now suggesting changes to allow the mother contact.

They do not appear concerned that they are defying the wishes of Minister for Community Services Mary Wooldridge, which is another alarming aspect of a case that has spun alarmingly out of control…

This is far from the first time that case workers and bureaucrats within the Department of Human Services have made ill-considered judgments concerning some of the most vulnerable children in the community. Ms Wooldridge must rein them in before further damage is done by the reintroduction of the mother into the lives of the surviving twin and her brother.

So the final question must be “Why haven’t those caseworkers been fired, given that they’re disobeying the orders of their superior, a Minister for Victoria and likely endangering two children?”

The case is strange in every aspect. Caseworkers trying to re-insert into children’s lives a mother who murdered another child and tried to kill another, those same caseworkers actively working to deprive a father of his parental rights and a child of her father, those same caseworkers ignoring the orders of the Minister for whom they work and apparently they’re doing all of it with complete impunity.

In the United States, this type of behavior on the part of caseworkers for child protective agencies is, alas, all too common. Their preference for foster care over father care was demonstrated all too clearly by the report by the Urban Institute that found that, when a child is taken from a mother due to abuse or neglect, caseworkers failed in over half the cases to even contact the father as a possible placement for the child. It’s as if they stop at nothing to make sure fathers aren’t included in children’s lives.

And so it seems with the DHS in Victoria. This father was long ago cleared of all wrongdoing in the death and injury of his twins. Since then he’s quit his job to be a full-time father to Alex.

But still DHS caseworkers soldier on, convinced of the rightness of bludgeoning a fit father into submission for the sole sake of reintroducing into the lives of his kids a mother who’s already killed one of them, brutally beaten another and then lied about the whole thing to medical personnel. It’s both the strangest of cases and yet not terribly surprising.

Contribute

National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#infanticide, #mother, #fathers' #rights, #childabuse, #Australia

Comments   

0 #1 A side notenpoab 2014-10-09 03:47
A side note to the sad main theme of this article is, that it's author seems to mistake shared parenting for equal-shared-pa renting, or substantially-e qual-shared-par enting. While the author tries to contrast shared parenting versus "standard visitation schedules", any visitation schedule is shared parenting.
Please do not misunderstand me, I am for substantially-e qual-shared-par enting. I am for it so much, that, having been outmaneuvered by the family courts on small technicalities so many times in the past, I do not want to give them an easy opportunity to "grant" us shared parenting where one parent's share is 15% and the other 85%.
Shared is not necessarily equally shared. Not even "split" is. We must use the word equal every time or we shall be sorry we did not. Better yet, to preempt other accusation, we should take the time to spell it all out: rebuttable presumption that substantially equal shared parenting is in the best interest of the child.

Share this post

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn