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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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Don HubinAugust 16, 2019 by Don Hubin & George Piskor

On June 7, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed into law Senate Bill 318, a shared parenting bill to take effect  in January, 2020. Initially, there was some skepticism about how significant this achievement was. The bill, as signed, adds just one clause to Oregon’s parenting plan laws. It says:

“In developing a parenting plan under this subsection, the court may order equal parenting time. If a parent requests that the court order equal parenting time in the parenting plan, the court may deny the request if the court determines, by written findings, that equal parenting time is not in the best interests of the child or endangers the safety of the parties.” ORS 107.102(4)(c)

The first sentence does not grant Oregon family law courts any power that they didn’t already have. The significance of the new law rests on the second sentence. 

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My Daughters Keep book imageAugust 15, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

My Daughter’s Keeper is the true story of Mark Winkler’s rocky road through family and dependency courts in New York.

When Mark Winkler says, “I didn’t win,” he couldn’t be more right. Yes, he eventually got primary custody of his daughter Kisha and yes, he seems to be the type of father we’d want every kid to have. But the heartache and anguish he had to endure to get custody, the long hours in court, the sleepless nights wondering what misadventure would come next mean he “won” nothing. Everything he now has cost, if not blood, then certainly sweat and tears.

In fact, no one won. His little daughter didn’t win. Several years of her young life included witnessing emotional abuse between her parents. That time would have been shortened had Winkler not been so scared of family court. He’d heard the horror stories and hung onto a relationship with Kisha’s mother that he otherwise would have abandoned years previously. Then Kisha spent two months when she never saw her father. That was followed by countless visits from and to the child-protective agency (OCFS), mental health professionals, lawyers and courtrooms. The little girl’s life became a whirlwind that started with parental conflict and broadened into the whole panoply of family and dependency courts and everything they entailed.

Kisha’s mother didn’t win. Although she was entirely to blame for ending up with only minimal visitation, she went through as much heartache as anyone.

The taxpayers of New York didn’t win either. Mark Winkler is a thoroughly decent father, not without flaws, but unquestionably suitable to care for his daughter whom he loves to distraction. But proving those facts to a couple of judges and numerous caseworkers, supervisors, lawyers, therapists, etc. took an outrageous six months in one trial alone, plus other hearings, meetings, mediations and the like. How much that cost the State and City of New York, is anyone’s guess, but whatever the figure, the taxpayers didn’t win either.

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GG croppedAugust 14, 2019 by Ginger Gentile

Everyday I am contacted by parents who are suffering greatly because they cannot see their beloved children after divorce or separation. For some, it has been months. For others, decades. Finding the family courts to be of no help and few resources, they are desperate for their story to be heard. In an attempt to capture attention, they often start their stories with the same words:

“My Parental Alienation story is the worst you ever heard.”

As a documentary filmmaker (www.ErasingFamily.org) I have seen parental alienation stories end in suicide, murder, murder-suicides, and worse (don’t ask). Trust me, you don’t want to be in the competition for worse story. 

By making each story exceptional, we fail to effectively communicate that these stories share many factors: histories of family trauma being played out in custody battles, the failure of the family courts to intervene, lack of resources, and societal pressure to “lawyer up” and “protect what’s yours”. When we fail to communicate what the stories have in common, we are unable to effectively push for legislative reform-default shared parenting-and moving away from an adversarial family court system. Politicians, academics and family court professionals aren’t moved by an exceptional case, they are moved by data and patterns. 

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Don HubinAugust 13, 2019 by Don Hubin, Ph.D.

Decisions about whether and when to use daycare can influence custody decisions when parents divorce. Parents often struggle with these decisions in any case and they can be more fraught when the parents separate. Both parents might be working more because, as we all know, it costs more to live separately than together.

Imagine a divorcing father; let’s call him ‘Bob’. Bob works full time during regular business hours but, being a highly engaged father, he asks the court for equal shared parenting. He’s managed to rearrange his work hours so that, on the days his parenting plan has the children living with him, he can be home by the time the older children get out of school. But his plan would require him to use the daycare provided by his local church six hours a day for two or three days a week for his youngest. Bob’s soon-to-be-ex tells the court that she’s planning to remarry, quit her job, and be a stay-at-home mom for her children and those of her soon-to-be-husband.

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robert franklin
August 13, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Presidential hopeful Joe Biden is in hot wateragain (Wall Street Journal, 8/4/19). But this time it’s noteworthy because he’s in trouble for speaking the truth some 38 years ago.

In 1981, Biden cast the only Senate vote against a bill that provided federal subsidies to providers of daycare services for kids. He also wrote an op-ed explaining his reasons for his ‘No’ vote.

“It’s a sad commentary on our society,” Mr. Biden wrote in 1981, “when the Senate of the United States says, as a matter of social policy, that we should make it easier for people who have neither the financial necessity nor the personal need to forsake their responsibility to care for their own children.”

Now, to a certain extent, Biden was setting up a straw man. His message included the notion that affluent parents callously farm out their children to daycare so they can work to acquire ever more material goods.

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robert franklinAugust 9, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

Few publications I’ve read deal adequately with the issue of paternity fraud, but this piece is an exception (VeryWell, 7/12/19).  It’s an accurate and informative article that men, particularly young men, should familiarize themselves with.

Paternity fraud occurs when a man is led to believe he’s the father of a child when in fact he’s not.  Fortunately, few women engage in the practice, but when one does, she can give rise to a host of ills for him, the child and the biological dad.

Misattributed paternity can be devastating for men who have spent years believing they are biologically tied to a child, only to later learn that they actually share no DNA. In addition to the emotional pain caused by paternity fraud—which affects the biological father, the non-biological father, and the child at the center of it—victims of misattributed paternity may have been paying child support for years.

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robert franklinAugust 2, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

A criminal justice approach to domestic violence hasn’t ameliorated the problem and may be making it worse. We need to find other methods of addressing DV if we’re to reduce its incidence. That’s the gist of this much-needed article by Professor Leigh Goodmark (New York Times, 7/23/19).

She argues for a more sensible approach to intimate partner violence. Goodmark doesn’t mention the fact, but any such approach would significantly improve the system of divorce, child custody and parenting time. For decades now, claims of domestic/sexual violence – aka “the silver bullet” - have been understood by family lawyers to be a tactic in wresting custody from a disliked ex.

The points Goodmark makes are scarcely new. That the decline in DV rates is attributable not to the criminalization of the problem or mandatory arrest policies, but to the overall decrease in violent crime has been noted many times since at least 2006.

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Jordan and daughter July 31, 2019

The work of the Kentucky chapter of the National Parents Organization has been highlighted in a newspaper article: https://www.thegleaner.com/story/news/2019/07/26/henderson-dad-celebrates-anniversary-kentucky-shared-parenting-law/1841407001/

"Three years ago, Jordan Pyles was a very unhappy father. Now, he is celebrating the first anniversary of a new law that helped make him much happier.

“Kentucky received a D-minus, with only two states being lower,” said Matt Hale, who was the founder and then-head of the Kentucky affiliate of the NPO.

“Kentucky was behind the nation in family court law,” Hale said. “The law was archaic and put a lot of stress and pressure on families breaking apart. It put a lot of stress on parents and a lot of stress on children.”

Now, Kentucky has default shared parenting and Jordan's daughter is one of the many kids winning by having equal time with both parents. 

Share this article on social media! 

Print it out and take it to meetings. Remember, change starts with YOU. 

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July 25, 2019 By Ginger Gentile, National Parents Organization Deputy Executive Director

KY PhotoNational Parents Organization affiliate leaders are hard at work creating a roadmap on how to create momentum to pass shared-parenting legislation and educate the judiciary about its benefits. This road map will include practical lessons on how to create a core group of members, fund raise, and build alliances with organizations. Too often activists rush into trying to get legislation passed without knowing how to build a foundation of support. 

The good news is that shared parenting custody arrangements for children after divorce is overwhelmingly popular, with polling showing numbers as high as 87% that cross gender, socioeconomic and party lines. But translating this support into change isn’t always easy with legislative bodies that move slowly and are captured by special interests. That is why our messaging must always be child-focused: shared parenting is not only an effective way to reduce adversarial divorce proceedings and prevent childhood trauma, it will also save tax-payers money. 

The roadmap initiative is being led by Matt Hale, leader behind the 2018 Kentucky default shared parenting law, and Christian Paasch, of Virginia, who runs one of the largest NPO affiliates. This roadmap will be matched with the NPO mentorship program that matches new affiliate leaders with more experienced ones. 

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July 24, 2019

Christine Giancarlo, Ph.D.
Senior Lecturer, Anthropology
Mount Royal University, Calgary


Christine Giancarlo I’m an anthropologist who studies human, and non-human, primates. I’m also a mother, author (Parentectomy, 2018), and feminist whose primary concern is for a healthy, sustainable future for all. Children are our collective hope for that future. As parents and adults, our job is to make sure that children have the best possible support during their development. Yet when parents divorce, kids are often relegated to the sidelines as the adults bicker, litigate, even fight for who gets the biggest award… measured in court-directed custody time. Research across cultures confirms that children are most likely to succeed in life when they have two parents who love and co-parent them. Whether a couple remains intact or divorced, they remain married to their children for life. This three-part blog uncovers the origin and necessity of two-parent families throughout human evolution as best-practice in child rearing.

Part 1 traces our human story from its earliest stages when our ancestors became bipedal to present-day. Part 2 considers parenting strategies of our closest mammal relatives, especially other primates, for evidence of shared-parenting outcomes. Part 3 is a mash-up of evolutionary, cross-species, and social science research that firmly places co-parenting as in the best interests of children.

PART 1

Fossil skeletons and footprints preserved in African volcanic ash up to five million years old show us that our ancestors walked much as we do today. These hominins were likely preoccupied with two main concerns: Finding food and… avoiding BEING food! Contrary to popular belief about “man” the hunter and our great brawn/ brain power, these hominins had a small brain (less than 1/3 the size of a modern human brain), lacked speed, claws, and sharp canine teeth. They were, essentially, sitting ducks for predators. Hominins gathered whatever plants they could find and occasionally scavenged meat left from other animals’ kills. So how did they survive and even flourish? Only through cooperation.

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July 19, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Esq. Member, National Board of Directors

rfranklin
Child support is one of the most important problems facing children seeking to maintain meaningful relationships with both  their parents following divorce or separation.  The intention behind child support is sensible – children need to be  supported and, since both parents brought the child into the world, both should provide for it. But too many parents are  ordered to pay amounts that they are too poor to pay, landing many of them in jail.

Those child support policies and their enforcement are in immediate need of drastic reform. The recent study conducted  by the Abell Foundation makes the point crystal clear (Abell Foundation, June, 2019).  The author of the study’s report,  Vicky Turetsky is the former long-time commissioner of the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.  Few people if any  are more knowledgeable about the issues besetting our child support policies than she. 

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July 23, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Esq.


rfranklin
The Abell Foundation’s report on the child support system in Maryland doesn’t simply criticize, it offers solutions as well (Abell Foundation, June, 2019). My first piece on the report appears here.

The report, written by former commissioner of the Office of Child Support Enforcement, Vicky Turetsky, pulls no punches. It points out that support orders are routinely set too high for non-custodial parents to pay resulting in skyrocketing debt, most of which is uncollectable. All of that hits the poor disproportionately hard and results in the marginalization of non-custodial parents (most often dads) in their children’s lives.

So the report urges three fixes for the current system: (1) base orders on non-custodial parents’ actual incomes, (2) reduce uncollectable child support debt and (3) ensure that children, not the state, get the money intended for them.

Turetsky comes down hardest on imputed income:

A major culprit behind unaffordable orders is using attributed, or imputed, income as the basis for calculating support obligations in low-income cases. Imputed income is fictitious income.

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July 17, 2019 by Ginger Gentile, National Parents Organization Deputy Director

GG cropped

“It was just easier not to see her.”

“They left it up to me if I wanted a relationship with my dad.”

“My dad hates my mom. My brother hates my mom, and I can’t see either of them.”

For my upcoming documentary, Erasing Family, I interviewed children who had a parent erased from their lives after divorce. These children were suffering from divided loyalties and torn between two parents. In talking with so many children who have lost contact with a loving, fit parent after divorce, a pattern emerged. So profound is their need for stability that they will decide not to talk to a parent for years, even decades, in an attempt to keep the peace and love of the parent they have. These children are desperate to avoid conflict, which caused them to run away from the “other” parent.

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NPO Study Prompts Ohio Counties to Update Parenting Time Rules

July 16, 2019 by Don Hubin, PhD

ohio county map


When we think of success in promoting shared parenting, the image that often comes to mind is NPO’s stunning success in Kentucky. There, Matt Hale led a successful movement for a dramatic legislative change. In Ohio, we haven’t been able to duplicate this sort of shared parenting home run … yet! But a study that several of us undertook last year seems to be producing base hits.

In 2018, Frank Glandorf, Julie Carpenter-Hubin, and I reviewed the parenting time guidelines of each of Ohio’s county courts, grading these on the degree to which they promoted equal shared parenting. The results, presented in the NPO Ohio Parenting Time Report, were depressing but not surprising. Sixty-four of Ohio’s 88 counties were still locked into the “every-other-weekend-and-one-evening-a-week” model that dates from the Madmen era.

This approach to separated parenting has never been shown by scientific research to be beneficial to children and, even if there was a time when it made sense, we are far beyond that time. The work and parenting patterns of modern families are far different from those of the 1950s.

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July 15, 2019 by Dr. Linda Nielsen
nielsen picture


Based on the social science research summarized in my books for the past three decades, after parents separate, fathers’ relationships with their daughters are generally more damaged than their relationships with their sons.1, 2 This is not especially surprising since, when parents are living together, mothers generally have closer relationships with their daughters than with their sons. Mothers also generally disclose more personal information and seek advice and comfort more often from their daughters. Daughters are more likely than sons to hear damaging information about their dads from their moms and to end up being their mom’s confidante and “counselor”—a situation that generally gets worse and further weakens the father-daughter relationship after the parents separate.

Three situations that do the most damage to the father-daughter relationship are the mom’s refusal to share the physical custody of the children, her gatekeeping behaviors, and her negative reactions to the dad’s girlfriend or new wife. 1,2

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July 14, 2019
Kentucky

One year ago today, the first equal parenting law went into effect in Kentucky.  Happy anniversary equal parenting!

At the time of passage, the bill was the very picture of popularity.  It passed the Kentucky House by a vote of 81-2 and the Senate unanimously.
 
With a year’s worth of feedback, how’s equal parenting faring in the Bluegrass State?  Numerous sources inform me that it’s doing very well, thank you.

First, it continues to be overwhelmingly popular with everyday folks.  Legislators understood its popularity when they voted for the bill and that support continues.  According to one poll, six out of seven people (84%) support the new law.

But, in the case of shared parenting, simple popularity isn’t enough for a law to be worthwhile.  What’s been its effect on the process of divorce and custody cases?  After all, one of the promises of shared parenting is that it will make the process easier, quicker, less expensive and less stressful for all concerned.

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July 12, 2019
dad and kids blog size

Dr. Linda Nielsen is a professor of adolescent and educational psychology at Wake Forest University. She’s also one of the world’s leading authorities on parenting time and child well-being. Her
recent article on fathers and their work/family balance is a must-read (IF Studies, 6/10/19). As always, the realities of how mothers and fathers treat the work/family balance militate in favor of equal parenting for fathers and mothers post-divorce.

One myth is that there is a large and unfair imbalance in how much childcare fathers and mothers provide. Another myth is that this supposedly huge childcare imbalance is mainly due to men’s selfish, sexist attitudes. The third myth is that fathers do not find enjoy spending time with their children as much as mothers do. In short, most dads, the story goes, are shiftless, selfish, sexist slackers.

How do those myths hold up to empirical scrutiny? Not at all. The science on fathers and children is replete with information showing fathers’ powerful connection to their children, children’s powerful connection to their dads and the need of both for Dad to have real, everyday parenting. Here’s one divorced mom who gets it (Thrive Global, 7/5/19).

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By Ginger Gentile, National Parents Organization Deputy Director

Are we doing our best to mirror the behavior we want to see in our own blended families?

One of the key tenets of the Shared Parenting Movement is that shared parenting is the best solution even when parents are not on good terms, as it will buffer children from conflict by giving them access to both parents as well as helping to reduce conflict by sending a message that we don’t fight over kids.

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July 9, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The move toward more realistic child support policies is gaining momentum. That system has been called “broken” too many times to count for reasons this informative article makes clear (Foundation for Economic Education, 6/28/19).

The Abell Foundation issued a report authored by the former commissioner of the Office of Child Support Enforcement, Vicky Turetsky, who, during her time with the OCSE, worked tirelessly for reform.

The first problem with child support practices is that orders are often set at levels the obligor is unable to pay. That’s often because courts “impute income” to non-custodial parents. That is, they base their orders, not on actually earnings, but on what the court considers it possible for them to earn. The assumption being that parents commonly seek to lower their payments by reducing their employment. That of course may happen on occasion, but there’s essentially no evidence that it does so as a matter of course. After all, why would an adult damage his/her own standard of living just in order to damage that of the child he/she dearly loves?

The practice of setting support levels above what parents can pay became established in the 1980s due in part to an error in arithmetic by researcher Lenore Weitzman. She announced that her data showed women suffering a drop in their standard of living of 76% when they divorced. That alarmed other researchers whose numbers were nowhere near that. A decade later, Weitzman admitted that her data indicated a 24% decrease in living standards, but by then her research had formed the impetus for child support policies nationwide. State laws had been written to ameliorate a decrease in living standards that largely didn’t exist.

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National Parents Organization is excited to announce that Ginger Gentile has joined NPO as Deputy Executive Director. Ginger brings a broad range of talents, skills, and knowledge as well as a deep understanding of the problems that NPO is addressing.

A film director and documentary maker, Ginger is best known for her highly anticipated, forthcoming documentary film, Erasing Family, which examines the trauma children suffer when a loving parent is erased from their lives. You can watch the trailer for the film here and follow the film on Facebook here. When NPO saw the massive following that Gentile had amassed in advance of her film, and her advocacy about children deserving equal access to both loving parents, we knew that her talents and skills would help us widen our base of supporters, including young people adversely affected by the family court system. As the debut of her film drew nearer, we felt it was the ideal time to invite her to take her activism to the next level by joining NPO in a leadership role.

Welcome aboard, Ginger. Together we’re going to do great things for our children.

Don Hubin
Chair, Executive Committee, NPO

 
Making divorce and separation healthier for children is an issue close to my heart, as my work is driven by my own experience as a teenager as well as the countless families that reach out to me asking for help with their family court horror stories. A child losing access to a loving, fit parent after divorce is one of the largest public health crises of our day. But it is something that we don’t talk about. Our courts and legislatures are reluctant to create reforms that most people support, which is shared parenting and providing resources to reduce conflict.  

While I will continue to work on the distribution and impact campaign of Erasing Family, which will include creating resources to help kids “caught in the middle” and bringing the film to a wide audience, my role at NPO will allow me to create clear messaging for advocates working on the front lines of this issue. I hope that my role as Deputy Executive Director will bring new voices to the table and usher in an age of different groups working together with the shared mission of making divorce healthier for children.

Over half of the supporters of Erasing Family, and the stories we filmed, are mothers who cannot see their children. I look forward to working towards ensuring that children have the right to love both parents equally and ways to move the debate beyond moms and dads, to how to help the entire family heal.

I look forward to reaching out to not only members and supporters, but to different groups who are working on aligned issues. And of course, reaching out to those who disagree with NPO’s mission to find common ground. Together, we can raise a generation of children who will never be forced to choose, or have the choice made for them, of which parent gets to be a parent, and which gets to be at best a visitor, or at worse, completely erased.

Ginger Gentile
Deputy Executive Director, NPO

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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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