The judiciary of Nebraska is at it again. Readers will recall that, earlier this year, the Judicial Branch Education Advisory Committee published proposed amendments to existing rules regarding the public’s access to training materials used to educate judges. In a nutshell, the JBEAC wanted the records of judicial training to be kept secret from the public that pays for those materials, the judges’ salaries, their courtrooms and courtroom personnel, etc. That of course was in response to a lawsuit brought by Dr. Les Veskrna seeking the release of judicial training materials to the public. His suit was successful and the public was duly apprised of the misleading and sometimes outright false “information” that had been presented to family court judges on the issue of the best interests of children as it relates to child custody and parenting time orders.
Not satisfied with the various court rulings requiring publication of judicial training materials, the judiciary sought to change the rules. They sought to send those materials underground again, far from the prying eyes of We the People.
Here’s Naomi Schaefer Riley’s response to the knee-jerk claims by Slate’s Rachelle Hampton that CPS agencies are racist (American Enterprise Institute, 6/4/18).
Interestingly, she quotes at length a Los Angeles County child welfare worker, Sharonda Wade, a black woman, who has her own take on the idea of racism in the system. According to her, because blacks have so often had bad experiences with a variety of state agencies, they’re not exactly open to friendly interaction with CPS. And, since CPS caseworkers are disproportionately black, a level of black-on-black racial animosity can crop up.
Indeed, Wade tells me that a black person working for child protective services (CPS) may actually make the situation worse from the perspective of black families. “Some people—even black people—feel like a black social worker won’t do a good enough job, that they’re not as educated, not as professional.” Even worse, “They see me as being a traitor.” During the four years she was an emergency response worker, clients would call her supervisor to complain. “They wanted a white social worker.” Others attacked her for working for CPS at all. “Some of the moms would be screaming: ‘How dare you work for CPS? You’re going to get your ass whupped for working for the man.’”
I’m responding to this article today (Slate, 4/3/18). I’ll discuss Naomi Schaefer Riley’s rebuttal on the American Enterprise Institute’s website tomorrow.
The Slate piece would be just silly if it didn’t deal with such an important issue. Put simply, even if you agree with its thesis – that the child welfare system in the United States is racist – you have to admit that shoddy work like Rachelle Hampton’s does your cause only harm. That thesis, that bald assertion is about all there is to Hampton’s article. In support, she offers nothing but a single anecdote and a single factoid. Beyond that, her article is simply the ideology of the social justice warriors – that all outcomes that differ by race are per se indications of racism.
Hampton considers the case of Sarah and Jennifer Hart that was much in the news two months ago. They’re the white couple who adopted six black children out of foster care, were investigated for child abuse and neglect and died in infamy when they, apparently, drove their car, holding themselves and their children, off a 100-foot cliff.
I was going to respond to this article (New York Times, 5/14/18) a couple of weeks ago, but other posts intervened and now Dr. Leonard Sax has beaten me to the punch (ahem) (IFS Studies, 5/29/18). The Times piece is just the usual baying at the moon on the part of the Social Justice crowd. Sax rightly rebuts it, but leaves out one very important point that I’d like to add.
The NYT article is about a new toy for boys – a doll. Yes, I know, those who believe that gender is a social construct have tried to peddle dolls to boys before and yes I know they failed miserably. But hey, why not try the same thing again? Maybe this time they’ll get different results!
As I said last time, this article appears bent on finding a scandal where there is none (San Antonio Express News, 5/29/18). Yes, the fact that 1,707 children ran away from Texas foster care last year is important. But so is the fact that almost 1,500 returned within a few days, a point not mentioned by the article.
What the writer hopes to convince her readers with is this:
Texas had 245 foster children listed as runaways as of Tuesday, and they are at high risk of falling prey to sex traffickers, according to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.
This will be a two-part post. I’ll follow up this one with a second on Sunday.
First, we learn that Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, of which Child Protective Services is a part, saw 1,707 kids in foster care run away last year (San Antonio Express News, 5/29/18). Of those, 223 haven’t been found and have been missing on average for 13 weeks. In other words, most of those kids will never be found by CPS or the police. They may return of their own accord, but they won’t be found.
Unsurprisingly, the kids run away often because they don’t like being in foster care and/or don’t like CPS. The 2017 Annual Foster Youth Runaway Report by the DFPS notes the fact.
This article by the Heritage Foundation’s Emily Kao is over two months old. Still, it’s worth mentioning. It responds to the shooting at the Parkland, Florida high school that so shocked the nation. It does so by examining the most important aspect of the problem we face of mass shooters – fatherlessness. That’s a good thing and Kao does her topic justice. She not only knows the problem of fatherlessness, she feels it deeply.
And yet, like so many similar articles, Kao’s fails to address the major source of the problem. It’s right there in front of her, begging to be shown to the world, but Kao doesn’t see it.
New Zealand’s Ministry for Women has produced a study of the work habits of mothers and fathers. I’ve seen no indication of what it cost to do the study and the write-up, but if it was a dollar, it was a dollar too much. Its 44 pages can be summed up with a simple “duh.” A more articulate response might be “Yes, we already knew this.”
The study’s authors, by contrast, appear a bit mystified about their findings. The study has throughout a tone of subdued bafflement. I suspect that’s because the ideology that holds that women are systematically deprived of what they really want to do – work for a living – is dominant at the Ministry and reflected by the study’s authors. More on that later.
Continued from yesterday.
So the Brazilian courts and the U.S. State Department have, simultaneously if not in concert, managed to violate, in the case of Brazil the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and, in the case of the U.S., the Sean and David Goldman Act. In doing so, they’ve deprived a little boy of his father and the father of his son. Kidnapping of children, if it’s allowed to continue for long, is child abuse, but the two countries wink at that when it comes to Nico Brann, who’s now eight.
That of course is bad enough, but the case just may get worse. Indeed, a federal judge in Houston, Alfred H. Bennett, may get in on the act.
International parental kidnapping is back in the news (Houston Chronicle, 5/24/18). And the latest case may yet to take its most outrageous turn.
Wealthy Brazilians, Carlos and Jemima Guimaraes were convicted by a jury in federal court of aiding the kidnapping of their grandson, Nico, the son of Marcelle Guimaraes and Christopher Brann. The couple lived with Nico in Houston until the boy was three. That was when Marcelle told Brann she wanted to take the child to visit relatives in Brazil. He agreed to a 20-day stay. That was five years ago and the two are still in Brazil.
Now, you might ask how that could possibly be. After all the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is clear that signatory states are supposed to make a decision . Needless to say, that hasn’t happened in the Brann case, but it should have. That’s because, at the outset, there was but one issue for the Brazilian court to decide – the child’s country of habitual residence. Given that both parents and the child had lived in Houston all the boy’s life, that shouldn’t have been a hard decision to make.
At a time when about half the states of the United States are coming to grips with the need for shared parenting, Canada lags woefully behind. Nothing quite demonstrates that like this article (CBC, 5/23/18).
In many ways, this CBC article has a lot in common with the one I wrote about yesterday. That is to say, it’s intellectually bankrupt, journalistically unbalanced and eager to promote concepts that are just plain wrong. Its writer, one Brandie Weikle, knows little of her topic.
The reason for the article is a proposed amendment to the Divorce Act that would make several changes to existing law. Needless to say, none of the changes even nod in the direction of shared parenting.
I swear, there must be a recipe – a recipe for this type of article (CBC, 5/17/18). It’s about the fifth one I’ve seen and each follows in lock-step with the others.
The article is about parental alienation and takes the position that all parental alienation is a ruse by violent fathers to wrest custody from “protective” mothers. The recipe goes something like this: begin with one “example” of PA that’s not an example; stir in one statement that PA isn’t in the American Psychological Association’s DSM-V; add a quotation from one domestic violence “expert” that men are violent and leave aside any mention that women are too; under no circumstances add a mention that, in your example, DV hasn’t been established; add a healthy amount of claims that courts opt for shared parenting even when there’s DV and that DV isn’t taken seriously by courts.
Overheat all of the above and - presto! – you’ve got your article. Never mind that it’s utterly misleading and nothing but an attempt to derail children’s legitimate interest in maintaining meaningful relationships with their fathers post-divorce.
It’s the domino effect all over again. No, I’m not talking about the Cold War theory that, if one country became communist, then others around it inevitably would follow. I’m talking about the effect one shared parenting law in Kentucky seems to be having on the states around it.
As readers of this blog know, thanks to the National Parents Organization and the redoubtable Matt Hale, Kentucky became the first jurisdiction in the English-speaking world to enact a presumption of equal parenting into law. The new statute becomes effective on July 1. As if that weren’t enough of a landmark, it’s beginning to look like the states around Kentucky may be influenced by its success.
Certainly the news media in those states have taken note. In Ohio, Missouri, West Virginia, New York, Indiana and Minnesota at least, print and broadcast media have picked up on the Kentucky story. By now, the people of those states and their elected representatives know that another state has taken the plunge and decided to actually do what’s best for kids. Kentucky now walks the walk instead of just talking the talk.
The legislative session in Missouri is over and this year, unlike last year, the National Parents Organization was unable to pass its shared parenting bill, HB 1667. That wasn’t because HB 1667 wasn’t popular with legislators, it was. Indeed, it passed both its House committee and the House of Representatives itself. It was then approved by the Senate Committee on Seniors, Families and Children. And we were reliably told that it had majority backing of the full Senate.
But it never reached the Senate floor. Why? Because in the final days of the session, a lone senator, Jill Schupp, threatened to filibuster until HB 1667 couldn’t be voted on. That’s right, against a majority of House members and a majority of Senate members, Jill Schupp decided to play the role of governor and veto the bill.
The third and final wave of objections to shared parenting identified by Prof. Edward Kruk is that, while shared parenting has been demonstrated to be the best post-divorce arrangement for kids in all but a small percentage of cases, we shouldn’t enact it as a presumption in the law on custody. Those advancing this objection pretend that the existing standard - the best interests of children - is (a) better for kids and (b) in opposition to shared parenting. Both pretenses are just that.
Included in that objection is the notion that judges must maintain discretion in deciding custody and parenting time because all cases are different.
Kruk buries all those claims under an avalanche of facts and common sense.
First, the best interests of the child standard is vague and indeterminate, as children’s best interests are largely undefined, lack legal consensus, and are based on speculation about future conduct. The absence of a clear definition of best interests renders the standard unworkable. Second, the standard gives judges unfettered discretion in decision making, based on their idiosyncratic biases, in an area around which they have little or no training or expertise, and is thus subject to judicial error. This discretion can result in unpredictable and inconsistent outcomes. Third, decisions based on the best interests of the child reflect a sole custody presumption and judicial bias; judges might hold stereotyped or outdated ideas about fathers’ and mothers’ roles that bias their decisions. Fourth, the discretionary best interests of the child standard sustains, intensifies, and creates conflict, and fuels litigation because of the incentive of a winner-takes-all context where such an undefined standard provides a context of anything goes. Fifth, the best interests of the child standard makes the court dependent on custody evaluations lacking an empirical foundation, as the scientific basis for child custody evaluation is hotly contested and the qualifications for becoming an expert are nebulous at best. Sixth, the views of children and parents regarding the best interests of the child, which focus on children’s needs and parents’ responsibilities to those needs, are radically different to the views of the judiciary, which are deficit-based. Seventh, with two adequate parents, the court has no basis in law or psychology for distinguishing one parent as “primary” over the other. Finally, despite the rhetoric of children’s best interests, children’s interests are largely unrepresented in the court proceedings, as a custody contest instead pits the rights of mothers against the rights of fathers (Brown, 2014; Kruk, 2013).
The second wave of arguments against shared parenting claims that it’s inappropriate in high-conflict divorces. It at one point argued that evidence supporting shared parenting merely cherry-picked parents who got along well anyway and could therefore make joint care work. The latter was disproven when parents with various levels of conflict were compared both in and out of shared parenting arrangements. The former has also been found to be unsupported by empirical evidence. Prof. Kruk summarizes:
There is now strong empirical evidence, however, that children can benefit from shared parenting even when their parents do not have low-conflict, cooperative relationships (Fabricius, Sokol, Diaz, & Braver, 2016; Nielsen, 2017). Shared parenting might create an incentive for parental cooperation.
Prof. Kruk’s article in the Special Issue of the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage first details and then destroys the three waves of arguments against shared parenting. At first, opponents simply denigrated fathers as uninterested in their children and only proponents of shared care because they wanted to reduce their child support obligations. The problem with both was that subsequent research demonstrated that neither was true. In fact, fathers most highly valued their relationships with their children, refuting the radical feminist narrative.
After those efforts failed, Kruk explains, opposition got serious, i.e. it attempted to recruit science to its anti-dad cause. (Let me be clear that it was precisely anti-father. Essentially everyone at the time understood that, overwhelmingly, mothers got sole or primary custody of children post-divorce. Therefore, any attempt at sharing care was perceived as reducing mothers’ time with their children and increasing father’s.)
May 11, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Prof. Edward Kruk’s article in the Special Issue of the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage should be required reading for legislators, family court judges, custody evaluators, social workers, psychologists and everyone else involved in child custody decision-making. Kruk reviews the long history of resistance to the idea of shared parenting and the burgeoning science refuting that resistance. He leaves the reader with the feeling that (a) that resistance has never been particularly scrupulous and (b) it no longer has even a pretense of validity.
The article provides a historical perspective on the battle for shared parenting that’s much-needed today.
National Parents Organization is grateful for the commitment, hard work and dedication of its numerous volunteers, donors, Board members and staff to the goals of our organization. Without you, we would not have succeeded in making the considerable gains we have in recent months in reforming state legislation to ensure shared parenting for our children.
We were particularly proud to learn last week that one of our volunteer Affiliate Chairs, Christian Paasch, was also recognized by the U.S. Air Force for his volunteerism by being awarded the 2018 Air Force Spirit of Service Award. Please see the write-up below. A hearty ‘Congratulations and Thank-you’ to Christian for all you do for NPO!
“Mr. Christian Paasch champions the highest standard of community service. His unwavering commitment to children and parental rights, and ensuring the well-being of children, to include military families, in the Commonwealth of Virginia is unsurpassed. Over the last three years, Christian has not only volunteered thousands of hours to form and lead a statewide, non-profit organization aimed at furthering “shared parenting” but also sponsored legislation in the Commonwealth of Virginia for shared parenting reform.
May 10, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Not long ago, I did a piece on the special issue of the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage that deals with the latest science on a number of issues affecting child custody and parenting time. The issue should be required reading for all family court judges and state legislators who are considering bills to reform family courts.
Today’s blog will simply summarize the various articles in the issue and use Prof. Linda Nielsen’s preface to do so.
May 9, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Here’s a judge who needs to find another job (ABA Journal, 5/8/18). From here she looks to be part of a system that prefers foster care and adoption to parental care, pretty much regardless of how fit and loving the parents are.
N.M. was an infant when her parents took her to her pediatrician because she was “fussy.” The doctor thought she had an ear infection, gave the parents antibiotics and let them go. The fussiness got worse, so they returned to the doctor who ordered a chest X-ray that revealed minor fractures of two ribs.
Due to your efforts over the past two months, we are highly optimistic that our reform of the custody law will pass in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.
Now we must turn our attention to the Senate. Your phone calls and visits to Massachusetts State Senators are what can put it over the top.
So you MUST come to our meeting on this Sunday evening, May 13, at 6:30 PM in Weston, just off Route 128. This will be a succinct, short, strictly-business meeting to make shared parenting the law in Massachusetts. Yes, it is Mother’s Day, and yes, there could be a playoff game; if you decide these are more important than our kids, don’t come to us complaining the next time you are humiliated in court.
At this meeting, we will review with you the current status of this bill, why we can get it passed, what we have to do, and the timetable for action over the next month. In the end, we WILL get this bill passed!
We will then need you to contact your Senators to support the bill. We will explain how to do this, and give you any talking points or materials you may need. You do not need to be an expert on lobbying, the law or on child development. You just have to be a person who understands that kids love both parents and who is willing to tell this to a Senator.
If we don’t do this, nobody will! If we don’t do this, we are abandoning the kids of Massachusetts! If we don’t do this, we let special interests triumph! If we don’t do this, we deserve what we get!
Directions and details are below.
With enthusiasm and optimism,
Chair of the Board
National Parents Organization
617 795-2238 (o)
Meeting Location and Directions
First Parish Church, Weston
Sunday evening, May 13, 2018 6:30 pm
349 Boston Post Road, Weston, MA 02493. It is the stone church in the center of town where Boston Post Road, School Street and Church Street meet.
1. Get on Route 128 (also Interstate 95).
2. Leave at Route 20, exit 26, in Waltham (one exit north of Mass Pike).
3. Turn West, toward Weston.
4. At the second traffic light, 1.5 miles, turn right onto School Street.
5. In one block School Street ends at Boston Post Road.
6. First Parish Church is the stone building in front of you.
7. For events, turn right, then immediately left in the Church parking lot.
Parking is available in the church parking lot. The parlor is in the main building and accessible from the front door.
May 7, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Sometimes it feels like it would be easy just to throw up my hands at how the news media deal with issues relating to parents and children. Here’s a prime example (Globe and Mail, 5/2/18).
It’s an advice column written by one David Eddie. His correspondent is a woman who’s become pregnant by a guy she describes as a “club-going partier.” He’s 25 years old. Being a “club-going partier,” he wants nothing to do with the child and asked her to have an abortion. She says nothing about whether she intends to terminate the pregnancy, but we assume she doesn’t. Oddly, she’s written to Eddie to ask what she should do.