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.  

May 23, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

To watch this article try – really try – to be gender-neutral in its treatment of domestic violence and child custody arrangements, only to cave into blatant anti-father sentiments that are only too well known to readers of the BBC, would be amusing were the subject not so grave (BBC, 5/15/19).

The issue seems to be whether courts treat claims of DV by one parent or the other too casually and whether that results in unnecessary harm to children.  Apparently, five children in the U.K. have died while in a parent’s care who was allowed access by a family court.  Needless to say, five children killed is five too many and nowhere in the article is the rate of other, less serious injuries mentioned.

Plus there’s the problem that British family courts act in almost complete secrecy, meaning that neither the BBC nor any other news outlet can investigate the matter.  That of course creates quite the irony.  The secrecy provisions were instituted and are invariably defended as protecting children from unwanted publicity.  That such secrecy might be contributing to their injury and death would very much turn that policy on its head.

In any case, more than 120 members of Parliament want an investigation into family courts to see if there’s really a problem or not.

Meanwhile, the BBC piece scrupulously hews to its gender-neutral tack for all of 300 words.  Then it reverts to form, relating the case of a man who killed his two children. Then it’s on to “Mary’s story,” of how her brutal ex injured her and their children.

The anti-dad snowball continues rolling when we hear from M.P. Louise Haigh:
Labour's shadow policing minister, Louise Haigh MP, said it was "horrifying that even in proven cases of sexual assault, severe domestic abuse, rape, murder in some cases, men are still being encouraged and granted access to their child".
Then there’s “Barrister Charlotte Proudman, who specialises in cases involving violence against women…”  Proudman digs up the old chestnut that parental alienation by mothers against fathers is really just their protecting the children against violent Dad.

What we don’t get of course is any notion that mothers might harm their children or their exes.  Here in the U.S., mothers are by far those most likely to abuse or neglect children.  The Administration for Children and Families has for years reported mothers committing about twice the abuse and neglect of children as do fathers.  My guess is that much the same holds true in the U.K.  My further guess is that many, many of those abusive and neglectful mothers have an order of a court granting them custody and parenting time.

So where’s the outcry about that?  Not in the BBC, nor indeed anywhere else.  I’ve yet to read an article excoriating family courts when little Andy or Jenny meets with death or other misfortune at the hands of his/her custodial (or non-custodial) mother.  She may be criticized, but never the court or the family law system that shoved Dad to the curb in her favor.

The point of course is what it always seems to be: as long as major news sources like the BBC engage in the denigration of fathers, how are we ever going to convince legislatures to pass equal custody bills?

The simple fact is that courts throughout the English-speaking world are required by law to tailor their orders to findings of domestic violence or the lack thereof.  That’s a good thing.  They’re also required by law to keep parents in children’s lives if possible.  Sometimes the two require them to walk a fine line between protecting children from DV and the loss of a parent.  That line is not always a bright one.

The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) said in a statement: "One of our most challenging professional tasks is to assess what level of parental involvement is safe and in the child's best interests, in cases where a parent has a history of domestic abuse.
"We must continue to reduce [the risk of parents harming children] by understanding these cases better and looking wider than the court process."
A spokesperson for the UK judiciary said judges were "required to consider all the evidence put forward and to reconcile any conflicting interests at a time that they know is exceptionally stressful for all those involved."
In short, it’s not an easy task and no sensible person expects judges to make the right call every time.

What’s absolutely guaranteed to not make the task easier is the unwritten assumption, apparently made by the BBC, Louise Haigh and others, that only fathers abuse children.  We all know that’s not true, a fact that raises the question of why the BBC would publish such a patently one-sided and therefore misleading article.

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