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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.  

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June 16, 2019 by Don Hubin, Ph.D., Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

“Happy Father’s Day!”

On the third Sunday in June, those words are welcomed by loving dads across the country. But for far too many of those dads, the annual celebration of fathers is a bitter reminder of what was taken from them and of the hole in their lives that cannot be filled.

I’m not talking about all fathers who are divorced or separated from their children’s mothers. Most of these fathers have been sidelined by our family courts that still see fathers primarily only as financial resources, not as loving and capable parents. But in most cases the standard parenting schedules, cruel as they are to children and fathers, at least allow the children to spend Father’s Day with their dads. These dads at least get to hear “Happy Father’s Day” from the children they love.

I’m talking about the dads who have been, either through court action or through court inaction, largely erased from their children’s lives.

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June 11, 2019 by Don Hubin, Ph.D., Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

As any involved parent knows, parenting is both a great joy, and a burden. Fortunately, the joys outweigh the burdens but the burdens are real.

I am reminded of that when I see the commercial now airing for the University of Phoenix titled “Discover Your Wings.” It’s about an apparently single mother who finds it difficult to pursue her education in traditional ways because of her responsibilities to her child. It’s hard to watch this commercial without thinking, “wouldn’t it be good if she had help in raising her child—help that would allow her some time to get the education she needs to advance her career?”

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June 7, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Eleven months ago, an Arizona court terminated the parental rights of a California father who, known to the AZ Department of Children and Families, the AZ Attorney General’s Office and at least one judge in the case, had been described by California authorities this way:
California’s child-welfare investigators, asked by DCS to check him out, gave the man a glowing report. His ex-wife called him “a good father, who cares and provides for his children.”  A California social worker wrote that it “is obvious that (the children) feel loved and cared for by their father and that he is very involved in their lives.” (AZ Central, 5/29/19)
The child’s mother didn’t want the father to have custody of her and neither did the state Department of Child Safety.  The scheme nearly worked.  It may yet.  For now though, an Arizona appellate court has overturned the termination of rights and excoriated caseworkers, the Attorney General’s Office and the judge.

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June 18, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Prior to Father’s Day, some of the commentary consisted of the usual denigration of fathers that’s long been a regular part of the day that’s supposed to honor them.  But most of the media and pop cultural treatment of fathers was positive.

This Pew Research article was nothing more than a recital of the current data on fathers and their effort to do both paid work and childcare.  I suppose that, if those data had cast doubt on fathers’ commitment, competency, etc., then the article would have reflected same.  But, since the information is essentially uniformly good news, the article joined many others that reflect positively on dads.

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June 14, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Imagine coming across an article headlined “Who’s Your Mommy? Don’t Ask a DNA Test.”  As you read it, it slowly dawns on you that the writer is suggesting decoupling the concept of motherhood from a woman’s biological relationship to her child.  After all, the article explains, plenty of kids have adoptive mothers, not biological ones; plenty have stepmothers too.  Some women go to prison or lose their parental rights due to drug or child abuse and often their kids go to foster parents.  And historically, countless mothers died, either in childbirth or long before their kids reached maturity.  So someone else had to mother them.

The point being that, since there are so many different ways in which children can come to be raised by women who have no biological connection to them, surely we should ignore that connection altogether.

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June 14, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Here’s a good article on domestic violence (Vancouver Sun, 6/7/19).  Apparently, Simon Fraser University criminologist, Alexandra Lysova, has been studying Canada’s General Social Survey that’s conducted every five years.

One of her main points – and one of the article’s – is that men too are victims of domestic violence.  Indeed, in Canada, they’re more often victims of DV than are women.  The latest figures show that 4.2% of men and 3.5% of women have been victimized in the past five years.  Now, to begin with, that’s good news.  Those figures have been steadily declining to the point that, on average, 0.7% of women and 0.8% of men have been victims of DV in the past year.  Canadians seem to be cleaning up their act at least as far as intimate partner violence goes.

A few points of interest in the data: when all physical violence, including sexual assault is considered, 2.8% of men and 1.7% of women report victimization.  As to severe violence with sexual abuse, 1.2% of men and 0.5% of women were victimized.

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June 10, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Last time I discussed this article by attorney Nancy Shannon and academic researcher Jennifer Harman (Lincoln Journal Star, 6/6/19).  The two excoriate maternal gatekeeping as a danger to children who need both parents actively involved in their lives.

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June 6, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

I’ve reported before that the State of Texas seems bent on privatizing all or much of its child welfare services.  If Miami-Dade and Monroe counties in south Florida are any indication, Texas officials might want to think again (Miami New Times, 6/5/19).

The last two contracts let by those counties to a private provider of child welfare services have gone to a non-profit organization called Our Kids.  Things haven’t gone well.  The linked-to article cites the organization’s “record of poor service and rocky relationships with subcontractors, detailed in an examination conducted by DCF in 2017.”  That, combined with the recent suicides of two youths, apparently in Our Kids’ foster care, set officials seeking alternatives.

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June 4, 2019 by Patrick Bailey

Today's post was written by a guest blogger, Patrick Bailey.

In many jurisdictions, drug or alcohol addiction can have a significant impact on parental rights during or after divorce proceedings. Courts have denied both physical and legal custody, and even visitation rights, to individuals suffering from alcoholism or drug abuse. Some courts also take the history of drug abuse into account, impacting the parent's ability to have custody years into recovery.

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June 3, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Just four days ago, I reported that the Commissioner of the Texas Department of Families and Protective Services, Hank Whitman, was retiring after just three years on the job.  Yes, Whitman had done much-needed things for the agency, principally, greatly increased funding for CPS that’s overseen by DFPS.

But with all that extra funding, isn’t now Whitman’s chance to use that money to make needed improvements to how the state treats kids at risk of abuse or neglect?  Why obtain the money and then walk away before you have a real opportunity to use it?

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May 31, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

JP Morgan Chase and Company has agreed to pay $5 million to settle a sex discrimination suit filed by a father who was denied parental leave (MSN, 5/30/19).
The payout resolves a 2017 complaint brought by the American Civil Liberties Union alleging bias against Derek Rotondo, who had applied unsuccessfully for the 16-week parental leave benefit available to employees who are the “primary caregiver” of a new kid.
Unsurprisingly, Rotondo was considered by the company to not be his child’s primary caregiver. 
In the complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Rotondo said the company told him it started from the presumption that a child’s birth mother was the primary caregiver. And because his wife, a teacher, wasn’t incapacitated and had the summer off, he couldn’t qualify.
Given that most primary caregivers to children are mothers, the company’s policy seems to have blatantly discriminated against fathers and in favor of mothers.  Indeed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled accordingly.

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May 30, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Just three years after his appointment, Hank Whitman is stepping down as Texas’ Commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services (Texas Tribune, 5/28/19).  The DFPS oversees Child Protective Services in the state.

Whitman’s appointment raised eyebrows back in April of 2016 because the man has a law-enforcement background with the Texas Rangers.  What that had to do with children’s welfare, the foster care system, cases-to-caseworkers ratios, etc. few people could figure out, myself included.  Still, on the face of it at least, Whitman’s done what was needed.  My guess is that he’s happy to be returning to law enforcement, but today, three years later, CPS is in much better shape than it was when he arrived.

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May 28, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

We say that we want children to have financial support.  They need it, after all, and if an adult makes the decision to bring a child into the world, he/she should be obliged to provide what’s necessary to give it a full, healthy life.  When parents divorce, neither of them magically loses that obligation. 

Fair enough.

But if we do want children to be supported financially, why do we make it so hard on non-custodial parents to do so?  Why don’t we, for example, order equal parenting in the great majority of divorce and custody cases?  That would mean each parent could simply bear the costs of caring for the child when little Andy or Jenny is with them, plus half of the non-everyday expenses.  In short, most child support orders would simply become moot and a huge area of conflict between parents would vanish.

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May 27, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In his paper written for publication in a hard-copy book to be published by the Oxford University Press in October, William Fabricius goes on to other considerations that militate in favor of a presumption of equal parenting to be written into family law.

He points out that, whatever our culture may have favored 50 years ago, it now supports children having as much time as possible with each parent following divorce.  In that, We the People once again demonstrate ourselves to be smarter and more humane than elites who govern- and not occasionally decide what’s good for - us.  I of course have reported many times on the increasing number and variety of surveys demonstrating popular support for equal parenting.

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This continues from yesterday my discussion of Dr. William Fabricius’ paper “Equal Parenting Time: The Case for a Legal Presumption,” that will be published in hard copy in October of this year in the Oxford Handbook of Children and the Law, edited by J.G. Dwyer and published by Oxford University Press.

Is there a causal effect of equal parenting on increased child well-being or are the 60+ studies finding better outcomes for children with equal parenting merely correlational?  Dr. Fabricius finds that equal parenting tends to cause those improved outcomes.

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May 24, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
As Joan Kelly has pointed out, the current child custody statutes were written in the absence of evidence of how well they promoted children’s well-being. The evidence that is now available is compelling that failure to enact presumptions of equal parenting time risks unnecessary harm to children’s emotional security with their parents, and consequently unnecessary harm to public health in the form of long-term stress-related mental and physical health problems among children of divorce.
That’s how Dr. William Fabricius closes his latest paper on the science underpinning equal parenting and children’s well-being.  It’s about as succinct and powerful an endorsement of equal parenting as I’ve ever seen.  It captures the historical context of present-day law, i.e. laws on child custody were written by lawmakers who had no access to scientific evidence about how the laws they passed might influence the very people they were supposedly designed to serve – children.

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May 18, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Texas Child Protective Services has dropped its appeal of a $127,000 sanctions case against it (Houston Chronicle, 5/16/19).  I first wrote about the case here.

Last July, little Mason Bright, then five months old, fell forward and hit his head on the driveway.  His mother, Melissa, took him to Texas Children’s Hospital where doctors found two skull fractures and what seemed abnormal bleeding on his brain.  That spurred a “child abuse pediatrician” to say that abuse of Mason must have been the cause.  Later, better-informed medical opinions said that Mason had a rare clotting disorder that could explain the bleeding and that it’s not unusual for such a fall to cause more than one fracture.

But CPS had already acted.  They took Mason from his parents, Melissa and Dillon Bright, and placed him 40 miles away with a relative.  That arrangement didn’t work out and soon Mason was back with his parents.  The Brights had understood that his placement with the relative was temporary, so, when a caseworker contacted them to ask how the little boy was, they happily responded with updated medical information and happy-child photos.

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May 17, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The same article I wrote about yesterday goes on from Scott Vogel’s story about spending $130,000 and three years of his life trying to get more than about 14% parenting time with his son and daughter (KARE11, 5/14/19).  It discusses a bill before the legislature that would establish a presumption of equal parenting.
State Representative Peggy Scott, R-Andover, is leading an effort to change the law.
She and a long list of supporters feel it’s time for the law to catch up with culture.
“It's a winner and a loser,” said Scott. “It's a contest to see who can be a better parent in the eyes of the court. And that's not fair to the kid.”
Yes, the idea that there has to be a “winner” parent and a “loser” parent has always meant that, whichever parent comes out on top, little Andy or Jenny is the loser.  Going from seeing Dad every day and forming an attachment to him to seeing him only four days per month is a trauma for kids.  I hope we’ll someday look back on that routine practice of family courts and call it ‘child abuse,’ because that’s what it is.  It’s injurious to children.  That we have so much science demonstrating the fact and yet still marginalize dads in their children’s lives is not defensible, absent unfitness or abuse by the marginalized parent.

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May 16, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Here’s a balanced and informative article on the push for shared parenting in Minnesota (KARE11, 5/14/19).  NPO’s good friend, the redoubtable Molly Olson has been battling the state legislature on behalf of shared parenting for well over a decade now, so it’s good to see her getting a bit of a boost from the press.

The article starts with Scott Vogel and his donnybrook in family court.
Unable to agree on a schedule for the kids, Vogel took their case to court where he has spent three years and more than $150,000 hoping a judge will award him equal parenting time.

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May 15, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The recent Nebraska case of Dowding v. Dowding gives us a good opportunity to take a second look at our fairly invariable support for equal parenting.  This blog has always recognized that there are plenty of instances in which equal - or even shared – parenting either cannot work or isn’t in a child’s interests.  Serious child abuse is one example, parental unfitness is another and significant geographic separation of the parents is another.  None of those is present in Dowding and yet the court’s decision to grant primary custody to the father isn’t clearly wrong.  Neither is it clearly right.

Timothy and Cameo Dowding were married for about three years, but had an ongoing relationship well before that.  They had a son, Treton, in 2010, but separated in 2016.  Because they weren’t married at the time Treton was born, they both signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity to establish Timothy as his father.

So it was altogether strange that, when their divorce pleadings were filed, Cameo alleged that Timothy wasn’t Treton’s dad and demanded genetic testing.  The court refused the request because, under Nebraska law and the circumstances of the case, the only way to rescind an Acknowledgement of Paternity is to produce evidence that it was brought about by “fraud, duress or material mistake of fact.”

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National Parents Organization wishes our readers and supporters a happy Mother's Day. 

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May 7, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The Alabama Senate has overwhelmingly passed a strong shared parenting bill.  SB 266 passed the Senate by a vote of 25 – 4 and now goes on to the House for consideration.

Senator Larry Stutts is the lead sponsor of SB 266.  He had this to say about it and shared parenting:
“Parental equality should be the starting point for every child custody case,” Stutts remarked. “Ultimately, it’s about the child having a right to equal time with both of his or her mother, father, and extended family, provided that both parents are responsible adults.”

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May 6, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Read this (The Fatherless Generation).  It’s a good compendium of many of the social, behavioral, emotional, educational, etc. deficits kids experience correlated with fatherlessness.  It’s probably nothing you haven’t seen before, at least piecemeal, but there’s a lot here and it’s well worth brushing up on.

For at least a couple of decades, this type of information has been well known.  Way back in 1994 David Blankenhorn forced the world to confront the deep-rooted problems associated with fatherlessness.  Barbara Dafoe Whitehead did much the same in her 1993 article in The Atlantic Monthly entitled “Dan Quayle Was Right.”  We should have gotten to work then fixing the problem of fatherlessness.  Instead, we did the opposite.  We ignored the problem and vilified fathers and men generally for every imaginable slight and error, whether real or not.  We still do.

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May 4, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Now it’s Virginia’s turn to fail its abused and neglected kids in foster care (Virginia Mercury, 12/11/18).  It’s not a new article, but it reports on an old, old problem.

Back in December, the state legislature received a report done at the behest of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.  It was, according to two lawmakers, a “devastating report.”

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