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October 4, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Day after day, year after year, the Huffington Post publishes some of the worst articles imaginable. Of course occasionally it publishes a good one. But honestly, shouldn’t HuffPo adhere to some minimal standards of professionalism? Shouldn’t someone there be in charge of monitoring articles for basic logic and factual accuracy? I suppose it’s a free country and, within the bounds of outright fraud and libel, HuffPo can post anything it wants. But still, you’d think that some pieces would fall so far below even its abysmal standards as to remain out of the public eye.

Apparently not (Huffington Post, 9/30/15). The article is by Randy Burton and is so disgracefully bad in essentially every respect that we might think that even the Huffington Post would have rejected it. But no. It seems that anything is good enough as long as it strikes a blow against kids having real relationships with their dads.

And that, after all, is all Burton’s piece is about. It has no other purpose than to convince gullible readers that fathers are dangerous to children, that family courts routinely ignore abuse by fathers and that mothers are at the mercy of unscrupulous dads in pretty much all situations. That none of that makes the slightest sense, that none of it is backed up by even minimal data, that all of it is in fact rebutted by reliable statistics make no difference either to Burton or to the rag that sees fit to publish his stuff.

Here’s Burton’s thesis:

Abusive men around the world are entitled to abuse their children, wives and other women with impunity. In fact, it appears in many instances that the judicial system is an active co-conspirator!

How did he come to that remarkable conclusion that’s rebutted by huge amounts of data, to say nothing of common sense? He dredges the news media and locates three instances, one in India and one of which very likely doesn’t support his claims.

Now, if I wanted to behave the way Burton does, I could present countless cases in which abusive mothers got custody of kids, often to the children’s detriment. Virtually any day of the week, stories flit across my screen of exactly that. Here’s a recent one from New Hampshire (Union Leader, 10/2/15). Here’s another from New York (New York Times, 9/30/15). And here’s one from Seattle (Seattle Post Intelligencer, 10/2/15). I could go on and on of course, but won’t. That’s because I, unlike Burton, know very well that isolated cases mean essentially nothing about family courts, child welfare agencies or any other part of the larger picture. They’re vitally important to the people involved, but beyond that mean little.

I could pretend that those cases mean that family courts don’t care about dads and that they and child welfare agencies will do anything to keep kids in the hands of abusive mothers regardless of the consequences. But I don’t do that because those individual cases compel no such conclusions. No, what’s unfortunate for true believers like Burton is that, in order to draw conclusions about the larger picture of family courts and child welfare agencies, we have to consult datasets of pertinent facts and the science on the matter.

And that of course is why Burton avoided both. His theses are contradicted at every turn by those pesky facts, so he chose anecdotes to make his point. Except one of his three hand-picked cases doesn’t even do that. Burton claims that the Tsimhoni case out of Michigan is a straight-up case in which the dad abused the kids and the mother. But what he neglects to mention is that the judge in the case and at least one expert witness found severe parental alienation of the children by the mother. Like so many of his ilk, Burton simply dismisses the possibility that Mom is an alienator and that the father is no danger to the children at all. He also overlooks the fact that parental alienation is regarded by experts in the field and others as a form of child abuse.

So, in his zeal to denigrate fathers as abusers, Burton ends up going to bat for an apparently abusive mother. Nice.

But back to data and science. On what basis does Burton assert that “men are entitled to abuse their children, wives and other women with impunity?” Is he aware that there are laws against domestic violence and child abuse? What about the fact that police officers are often trained to arrest the man even when he’s the victim of DV? Has he read the police training materials that instruct officers to do exactly that? I have. Does he know about restraining orders routinely granted against fathers without a hearing or any evidence save Mom’s say-so? Has he read the countless statements by family lawyers that reveal the prevalence of false allegations of abuse in family courts, usually by women against men?

Who can guess what Burton does and doesn’t know? But what we do know is that he carefully avoids mention of any of the above, apparently because it contradicts his thesis.

Perhaps more insidiously, Burton ignores the fact that huge bodies of data invariably report that mothers commit far more child abuse and neglect than do fathers. The United States Administration for Children and Families has long reported the fact, but Burton is pleased to turn a blind eye to women’s abuse of children. Again, that’s because he has another agenda and doesn’t want the facts to impede his dogged pursuit of untruth.

That untruth is aimed squarely at children’s right to a meaningful relationship with their father. It’s aimed at shared parenting. It seeks to continue the non-enforcement of fathers’ visitation rights. It seeks to continue the almost unquestioned handing of primary or sole custody to mothers. It seeks to continue the practice of CPS agencies of ignoring fathers as placements for children when they’re taken from mothers due to abuse or neglect. How many studies have to exist demonstrating the value of fathers to children before Burton admits what’s true? My guess is there will never be enough to accomplish that task.

From there, Burton actually edges toward hysteria.

Our family courts have subjugated the right of a child to be raised in an environment free from abuse and neglect to the parents' supposed right to do as they see fit with their "property" for so long that it is second nature to force children to live in unacceptably dangerous and violent "homes."

“Property?” Really? No, Mr. Burton, what courts sometimes try to do is the right thing. And that thing is what is acknowledged by children’s welfare experts far and wide – that, on average, parental care is better than any other kind. Again, in order to know that, you have to read some of the studies that look into the matter.

The problem faced by children’s welfare workers is known to all except Burton. It is this: when a child lives in a potentially dangerous home, it’s easy enough to remove him/her from it. But if we do so, where does the child go? To a better, safer place or one that’s less so? Overwhelmingly, children in foster care fare worse than those in parental care a fact that holds true even when the parents are somewhat abusive toward the child.

It’s easy to toss of nutty rants backed by nothing but a couple of shaky anecdotes. That’s particularly true when your thesis is so entirely unsupported by facts or science. But count on one thing. Those of us who actually care about improving the system of child custody and child protection will call you on your intellectual dishonesty every time.

The Huffington Post doesn’t care what you say. The rest of us do.

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