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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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Census data show single fathers with kids are one of the fastest growing household types in the U.S.  This article explains that changing attitudes - on the part of fathers, mothers, courts and society generally, are at the root of the change (Atlanta Journal Constitution, 6/18/11). In a nutshell, mothers are working more and place less emphasis on parenthood today than they did in 1970.  Fathers are moving in the opposite direction - toward embracing the role of parent.
Experts say the numbers reflect not only a shift in court and societal attitudes about child-rearing but women for whom motherhood has become less important.
It shows that perhaps more men are able and willing to be primary caretakers -- and more women are recognizing that they don"t want to or can"t, and are therefore letting their children go, said Julia McQuillan, a sociology professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
McQuillan said that society has this notion that work is very important to men and parenting is very important to women, but fatherhood is very important to many men.
"To me, this trend suggests that not only do men say it"s important, they are doing it,' she said.
The societal changes that began in the late 60s and early 70s always held the potential for dads to be more involved in children's lives than before.  That it's taken so long to see a change stands as mute testimony to the intransigence of family courts, state legislatures and anti-father lobbyists that have resisted greater father-child involvement.  That resistance has always come at the expense of children who lose their fathers, fathers who lose their children and mothers who lose the opportunity to have careers.
Matthew Weinshenker, an assistant professor of sociology at Fordham University, said the state trend (in Georgia) mirrors what"s happening nationally, where the number of single dads has almost doubled from 1.5 million to 2.79 million since 1990. In addition, those same census figures, he said, show single dads are older than single moms on average and have higher incomes.
That last is important.  Countless researchers over many decades have bemoaned single motherhood for its propensity to produce children with poorer outcomes in all areas of life than those of two-parent families.  Why should those outcomes be any better with single fathers than with single mothers? At first glance, there's no reason to suggest that they would.  But two things suggest to me that the rise in single fathers shouldn't cause the same alarm that the rise in single mothers did. First, when the increase in single mothers began, it was at the expense of two-parent families.  More children raised by single mothers meant fewer raised in dual parent households.  That was due to the dramatic increase in the divorce rate and the shocking increase in out of wedlock childbearing. Now, the divorce rate is either stable or falling slightly.  Moreover, those single fathers are parenting children who would otherwise be in a single-mother home, not a two-parent one.  That is, instead of living with Mom post-divorce, they're living with Dad. So the rise in single fathers doesn't signal an increase in children in single-parent homes. The second reason is that single fathers tend to earn more than do single mothers.  This Census Bureau report from 2007 shows that 80% of single fathers with children under 18 in the home were employed versus about 70% of single mothers. More importantly, only 26.3% of those dads earned less than $30,000 per year while a hefty 50.5% of single mothers did.  We know that single parenthood is bad for kids apart from the fact that single parents have less money than dual parents do.  Still, the greater incomes that single fathers bring in can ameliorate many of the problems single parents face, alternative childcare being one of the most obvious. The AJC article isn't long and the dads they interview surely aren't representative of much.  Still, one other thing got my attention about the article. The rise in single motherhood over the last 40 years came with a rise of another sort - the rise in articles kvetching about how difficult their lives were.  The theme was essentially unvaried: women with children faced the impossible task of raising the kids and meeting the demands of a job.  These mothers were alternately described as epic heroines or galley slaves, sometimes both. But compare that with what the dads in the AJC piece say about their circumstances.
For his part, Kuklinski said he"s been the primary caregiver of his son since January, when he and his wife started divorce proceedings after a decade of marriage. "It"s been the best six months of my life,' he said recently.
Ziad Minkara of Kennesaw became sole caretaker of his children three years ago. He admits the family had to make adjustments.
"When something like this happens, your whole world stops, but you shift gears and go forward with the minimum impact on the daily life of the kids,' Minkara said. "That"s what"s important.'
Minkara, a real estate investor, is the father of 12-year-old twin boys and a 14-year-old daughter.
"Having to juggle everything I do and still be there for them has been hard but rewarding at the same time,' he said.
No one claims it's easy, but these guys aren't complaining.  They think fatherhood is great and even the hard part is just that - a task that needs doing. And by the way, remember that a recent study by the Families and Work Institute found that men are experiencing much more work-family conflict than women are. It'd be interesting to track the attitudes expressed by single fathers and single mothers about juggling the demands of work and childcare. No one pretends that we're anywhere near gender equality in parenting.  We're worlds away from that and policy makers seem to be far behind the rest of us in realizing the need for greater involvement of fathers in their children's lives. Still, many people seem to be "voting with their feet," i.e. taking matters into their own hands.  That means we're moving toward more complete father-child relationships as the census shows.  That in turn may be producing a fait accompli that, at some point in the future, laws and legislatures will be forced to acknowledge and accommodate.

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Feminist custody evaluators are the most likely to view family violence as "intimate terrorism."  That's one finding of a new survey of custody evaluators conducted by three academic researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana and the University of Kentucky at Lexington.  (The survey was published in a subscription-only journal, so I can't provide a link.  One of the authors was kind enough to send me a copy.) I've written a lot about family court judges and their propensity for ruling that children's contact with their dad is not in their "best interests."  But that suggests that judges make those rulings unaided, and that's often not the case. In contentious custody cases, judges often refer the matter to custody evaluators to make recommendations about who should be the primary custodial parent, how much contact the non-custodial parent should have, if any, and under what circumstances.  Not surprisingly, those recommendations carry considerable weight with judges.  After all, why refer the matter to an expert and then ignore his/her advice? So questions about just who these custody evaluators are, what their biases are, what their training is, etc. become germane to the issue of child custody.  And that's what the survey by the three researchers is all about. It's in the nature of a trial run.  It's a small sample of people (just 23 evaluators) who were interviewed at least in part to see if it was worthwhile to study the matter further.  I'd say it is, and in fact the researchers, Megan Haselschwerdt, Jennisfer Hardesty and Jason Hans, have already conducted a 500-person study that they say should be published later this year.  I'll be interested to read it. There are several major problems with custody evaluations, some of which the authors of the survey refer to.  First, Paul Millar of Brock University in Canada points out that the high cost of custody evaluations, on top of the cost of the divorce and custody case itself, screens out all but relatively wealthy or the relatively angry couples.  A 2004 survey of judges in the American Mid-West found that "excessive cost" was the major barrier to the conduct of custody evaluations. Second, no one as yet agrees on how a custody evaluation should be conducted.  How should it be done?  What information should be gathered, how, by whom and from whom?  Those most basic of questions remain unanswered, with the result that individual evaluators perform evaluations to suit themselves. Third, there are no qualifications for performing a custody evaluation.  Millar reports that most evaluators are either psychologists or social workers, but no state except California has legal requirements for custody evaluators.  And even those psychologists and social workers may or may not have training in domestic violence issues. So at the outset, judges are relying on evaluations that are conducted in no standardized way and by someone who may or may not know much about how to advise about custody. And that, it turns out, is the good news. The survey begins by spelling out two different types of domestic violence as seen and interpreted by two different types of observers.  The different types of DV are "intimate terrorism" and "situational violence." Intimate terrorism is that type of DV in which one partner seeks to control the behavior of the other partner to an inappropriate degree.  The control extends far beyond the immediate incident to the relationship generally. Situational violence is more random, more occasional and is not part of a generalized effort to control the behavior of the other partner.  It's the result of immediate stress in the relationship. The two types of custody evaluators identified by the researchers stem from the two existing types of education about domestic violence.  Those types of education are the feminist and what the authors call the "family violence" types.
Feminism and family violence represent two main theoretical perspectives on DV. For decades, feminist and family violence researchers have been at odds over the foci and conceptualization of DV (Johnson, 2008). Feminist DV researchers have focused primarily on violence against women (Johnson, 2008) and pointed to patriarchy, expressed through general male dominance in society and contemporary constructions of masculinity and femininity, as the underlying factor that perpetuates DV (Jasinski, 2001). Feminist DV researchers typically analyze data from agency-based samples, such as women who seek help from shelters (Johnson, 2008). They report that DV is gender asymmetric, with men primarily being perpetrators and women primarily being victims (Johnson, 2008). In contrast, family violence researchers view violence as an outcome of family conflict that is instigated by stress; thus, some violence within families is considered normative (Jasinski, 2001). Family violence researchers typically utilize samples from large-scale surveys of the general population (Johnson, 2008). In contrast to feminist DV researchers, family violence researchers report that DV is gender symmetric, with perpetration and victimization reports nearly identical for men and women (Jasinski, 2001).
Haselschwerdt, et al interviewed 23 subjects, all of whom reported having a good bit of experience doing custody evaluations for courts.  As Paul Millar indicated, of the 23 subjects, 18 listed their profession as either psychologist or social worker. The researchers relied on narrative answers to the questions posed and, from those answers decided which category, "feminist" or "family violence" each respondent fell into.  Nine held feminist views about DV and 14 held typically family violence-related attitudes. Perhaps the most important finding of the entire survey is that only one thing predicted who would fall into which category - their DV training.  No other demographic factor - not sex, not age, not education - predicted whether an evaluator would have feminist or family violence attitudes toward DV. Of the 14 family violence evaluators, 10 listed only "several 1-2 hour workshops" as their sole DV training while two said they had no training at all.  By contrast, those evaluators of the feminist perspective referred to things like "40-hour DV shelter training," "20-hour DV shelter training,"teaches DV classes/seminars" and the like. In short, the more training these evaluators had in DV, the more likely they were to be persuaded of the feminist point of view on DV.  And that, as you recall, means that to them, almost all perpetrators are men, almost all victims are women, patriarchy is at the root of the DV evil, we must change our masculine selves in order to eradicate DV and the only meaningful data come from women in DV shelters. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it's beginning to look like less training is better when it comes to custody evaluators and issues regarding allegations of domestic violence. The authors elaborated further on just what the mindsets of the two groups consist of.  I'll discuss that more in my next post.

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Feminist custody evaluators believe that most domestic violence is "intimate terrorism."  They do so specifically because they've been taught that at DV shelters and in other training curricula.  Those are two of the findings of a new study of custody evaluators conducted by Megan Haselschwerdt and Jennifer Hardesty of the University of Illinois Urbana and Jason Hans at the University of Kentucky at Lexington. As I said in my previous piece, the study is small, but provocative.  To anyone familiar with the facts of domestic violence, it strongly suggests that custody evaluators be trained outside of the feminist/DV shelter system. The authors go into some detail about the attitudes of the two types of evaluators they identified, i.e. the feminist type and the family violence researcher. To their credit, the feminist custody evaluators did not entirely discount the possibility of situational violence.  That's the type that occurs occasionally and due to high stress in the relationship, and does not stem from a desire by one partner to exert undue control over the other.  But for them, situational violence was the exception, not the rule.  Intimate terrorism made up either most or all of the domestic violence according to the feminist evaluators.  And those doing the controlling were men, not women.
Feminist evaluators perceived power and control by male partners as central to the dynamics of DV in the majority of their cases...  James explained, "The more common [type] for me is the controlling, and I think that those are the ones that are less likely to settle in a custody [dispute] and more likely to proceed to an evaluation.' One exception was Daniel, who did not differentiate between types but believed that all DV was rooted in power and control.
The nine feminist evaluators in the survey found power and control in non-violent incidents.
James recalled one example: "[There were] different dynamics of control that he had exhibited in their relationship whether it [was] through isolation, financial control, emotional abuse, [or] psychological abuse . . . that ha[d] been done for the purpose of trying to assert control.'
Those feminist evaluators also believe that a man who they conclude is abusive cannot be a good parent.
All 9 feminist evaluators expressed concerns about a spousal abuser"s ability to be a good parent, the negative effects on children of DV exposure, and the potential for direct child abuse. Thus, they rejected the notion that spousal abuse could be considered separately from the parent–child relationship.
The evaluators with a feminist perspective see domestic violence as an intellectual matter as opposed to an emotional/psychological one.
As William explained, "Because abuse is a product of the attitudes and beliefs of somebody who is abusive, I do think that ultimately those [beliefs] are going to have some negative consequences for the children and that the children will be exposed to those [beliefs], so I don"t think the two [abuser and father] could be separated [when considering child custody]."
Therefore, abuse is not a product of a treatable psychological condition, but one of wrong-thinking whose proper "treatment" is re-education.  Domestic violence is a matter of attitudes engendered by an all-pervasive patriarchy that considers women to be rightly under the thumb of men.  Violence by a man against a woman is merely a way of reasserting patriarchal control.  And any form of control is the same as violence - simply a way to maintain masculine power.  Such at any rate are the teachings of feminism regarding DV and absorbed by the evaluators in their DV shelter training courses. As I said before, the feminist evaluators interviewed for this survey are aware that situational violence (i.e. not resulting from a desire to control) exists.  They also admit that fathers who engage in that form of domestic violence aren't necessarily disqualified from being adequate fathers. But there seems to be a catch.
As Joseph explained, "Certain types of violence, [such as] male controlling violence, is a risk 20 years later [after separation], but other types of violence really do kind of dissipate and go away if there"s enough disengagement between the parties and they get on with their own lives, and the risks do go down dramatically."
The words "if there's enough disengagement between the parties" jumped out at me.  That strongly suggests that in this evaluator's opinion, the only good custody situation in which there's been situational violence is for the father and mother to have as little to do with each other as possible post-divorce.  That in turn strongly suggests the most minimal visitation and that probably supervised. Then there was the topic of false allegations of domestic violence.
In general, feminist evaluators believed there was a kernel of truth in all DV allegations and that false allegations in the context of custody disputes were rare. Four feminist evaluators estimated a 10% or lower occurrence of false allegations by women in their cases. Another three acknowledged the potential for exaggerated, but not false, DV allegations.
However, there can be false allegations of domestic violence according to the feminist evaluators - those made by fathers.  Two of the nine evaluators said that 50% of DV claims made by fathers were false. On those rare occasions when a mother makes a false allegation of domestic violence, it's not her fault.
When false allegations were made by women, feminist evaluators blamed the adversarial process, attorneys who encouraged clients to make false allegations, or the mother"s clinical pathology... However, feminist evaluators emphasized that such situations were extremely rare in their experience.
The absence of evidence of abuse is no reason to think that abuse didn't occur.
Nonetheless, a lack of evidence in particular necessitated a thorough investigation but did not indicate an allegation was false because, as John explained, "There are many instances in which the victim has not ever called the police for fear of her life.'
These are some of the people on whom family courts routinely rely when making child custody orders.  Among them, these nine feminist custody evaluators do 148 evaluations per year.  Of course there are countless more just like them. These feminist evaluators were frankly misandric (essentially all DV is by a man against a woman), anti-science (not a word in their responses suggests any knowledge of the huge body of social and medical science on domestic violence) and politically doctrinaire (DV is a matter of power not psychology). Has any one of them ever recommended that a father get primary custody?  We'll never know because that question wasn't asked by the researchers. Given all that, is it any wonder fathers can't seem to get custody or even maintain reasonable relationships with their kids post-divorce?

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Short version: The DSM-5 Task Force has extended until July 15 the time for comments from the public. We urge you to comment by clicking here. We suggest you refer to "Parental Alienation Relational Problem" (PARP) or "Parental Alienation" and that you keep your comments brief and to the point. Full version: A coalition of mental health experts led by psychiatrist William Bernet has been at the forefront of an effort to add Parental Alienation Disorder to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5),

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Psychology Today recently published the article "Parental Alienation Syndrome:" Another Alarming DSM-5 Proposal, which attacks the concept of Parental Alienation and its proposed inclusion in DSM 5. The article's author, Paula J. Caplan, Ph.D., claims that such proposals are "Using a medicalizing label to mask child sexual abuse." F & F Board Member Robert Franklin, Esq. wrote a blog piece criticizing the column here.

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Non-feminist custody evaluators see domestic violence as resulting from "toxic" relationships, not from the patriarchal mindset of the father.  That's the second major part of the findings of the survey I've written about in my last two posts. The first part dealt with the attitudes of feminist custody evaluators toward reports of domestic violence.  The second part deals with the attitudes of "family violence" evaluators.  Those tend to get their information and attitudes from the body of social science that, over the decades, has studied large, random samples of the population.  Feminist inquiry has focused on women in DV shelters, as the authors of the survey make clear. The salient findings regarding the 14-member group of family violence evaluators include the fact that they overwhelmingly see domestic violence as situational.  That is, they see DV as something that comes as a response to the natural stresses of family life.
Their predominant discourse was distinctly different from feminist evaluators in that they perceived most DV as conflict and stress induced, normative, and mutual. Indeed, they reported seeing almost exclusively situational couple violence in practice.
They also had an "it takes two to tango" outlook on domestic violence.  That is, domestic violence is a product of family dynamics in which there are no clear perpetrators and no clear victims.  It's the understanding of domestic violence as well as most things in family life as arising from the integrated system that is the family. For them, all relationships have issues related to control and the ebb and flow of who has power or control at any given time over any given issue describes in part the relationship between the two partners.  That of course can be destructive, but need not be.  And who has and who wants control in a particular situation is not a matter of gender.  Both men and women have a need to feel in control, so there's a continuing interpersonal "dance" between the two. Where feminists see only men having power in relationships and believe that male power is inappropriate, these family violence evaluators have a much more nuanced take on the nature of power between intimate partners. These family violence evaluators distinguish between minor domestic violence such as a push or shove, and "real" DV which involves serious injury such as serious bruising, broken bones, etc.  They utterly condemn that sort of DV, but rarely if ever see it in their practices.  They opine that abusers like that get weeded out of the custody battle long before an evaluation takes place.
Chris explained, "If [the violence is] that bad, child protective authorities or legal authorities or someone else is going to have already dealt with it.'
These evaluators also regarded the minor, mutual DV they see as compatible with parental custody.  To them, neither minor violence like a push or shove nor the usual issues of inter-relational power, automatically disqualified a parent from have custody. Unlike the feminist evaluators, the family violence group saw false allegations as common and purposeful.
Whereas feminist evaluators estimated that false allegations occurred in about 10% of their cases, family violence evaluators estimated that 40% to 80% of their cases involved false allegations. Two evaluators thought allegations were "grossly exaggerated,' not entirely false. All reported that mothers made the majority of DV allegations, and false allegations were intended to gain leverage in the custody dispute or alienate the children from their father.
Interestingly, this group was the only one of the two that even mentioned parental alienation.  They did so in the context of false allegations of DV.
Red flags for a false allegation included suspected parental alienation by the mother, the mother"s demeanor (e.g., angry), and lack of documentation of the abuse.
And speaking of documentation, the family violence evaluators were concerned about claims of DV for which there was no objective evidence.
The majority of family violence evaluators emphasized that real DV victims should have documentation (e.g., police reports, pictures, hospital records, witnesses) or physical signs of DV (e.g., bruises); however, there were some disagreements when it came to the importance of documentation. For two evaluators, having an order of protection was the only way to ensure that an allegation was true, but for two other evaluators an order of protection was considered too easy to obtain and did not lend credibility to the allegation.
Not surprisingly, this group expressed the belief that both parents were important to children's well-being and attempted to promote that where possible in their recommendations to courts.
Family violence evaluators reported making custody recommendations that emphasized coparenting relationships that facilitated children"s contact with nonresidential parents. Jennifer"s perspective was echoed by others: "I"ve been doing this long enough [to know] that children in the past really suffered from not having enough contact with the other parent--the parent they don"t live with.' Their recommendations focused on modifying negative behaviors of both parties (e.g., conflict management classes or counseling for both parents).
If they suspected parental alienation by one parent, this group of evaluators leaned strongly toward custody on the part of the other parent.
As Michael said, "I would tend to lean toward custody with the so called "bad parent' because I know [the allegations are] not true, that the [father] is not like that . . . [it] is more like parental alienation syndrome stuff. . . . That relationship [between the father and child] is going to be over if the kid"s living with the [mother]."
In short, these evaluators had different training in DV than did the feminist group and interestingly their understanding of domestic violence appears to be far more congruent with existing science than that of the more trained feminists. For example, they seem to know that both men and women commit domestic violence.  They observe that they see little severe DV, and that's what study after study of large populations show as well (see, e.g. the 12,000-person Scottish study showing that 80% of DV resulted in either no injury or only a "minor cut or bruise").  They're aware of the existence of false allegations and the possibility of parental alienation.  They make no distinction based on sex about who may make false allegations, while the feminist group said that less than 10% of women's allegations are false, but 50% of men's are.  So the overt misandry of the feminists wasn't apparent in the other group. Perhaps most importantly, this second group sought to keep both parents connected with children post-divorce whereas the feminist group opted to radically marginalize dads at even the mere allegation of DV by mothers. As I said before, it's a small study, but it may tell us a lot about what's going on, not in court, but behind the closed doors of the custody evaluators on whom they rely.

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The U.S. State Department reports international parental child abductions are "sharply on the rise."  Read about it here (Houston Chronicle, 7/4/11).
Last year, at least 1,500 children were unlawfully taken to foreign countries by a parent who had been living in the United States, including children who were taken even while a parent was serving in the U.S. armed forces in Iraq or Afghanistan. Only 578 abducted children were returned to the United States.
And, as I've reported before, Mexico continues as the prime culprit in the failure to rapidly return children to their left-behind parents in the United States.  Mexican family law favors maternal custody and, when a father in the U.S. seeks his child's return from there, years can go by with no action taken by Mexican courts. That's in spite of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction that calls for return of abducted children within 60 days.  Mexico and the U.S. are both signatory nations to the Convention, but Mexico routinely violates its speedy return provision. That's been true in Greg Allen's case.
For nine gut-wrenching years, Texan Greg Allen has been trying to track down his daughter after her mother absconded to Mexico with the 4-year-old during a rare unsupervised visit after the couple's contentious divorce.
"When it first happened, I was unable to function," recalls Allen, 42, an electrical engineer and sonar expert doing doctoral research at the University of Texas' applied research laboratories in Austin. "I went from being a single parent whose whole life revolved around raising my daughter to being a left-behind parent whose purpose in life was gone."
He still hasn't seen his daughter and has no idea of where she and her mother are.  Allen's remarried with three kids here in the States, but he still holds out hope of someday reconnecting with the girl.  She's now 14 and he figures she's probably an Internet addict, so he hopes she'll find him that way.  Otherwise, he's pretty much given up on the legal process as a means of getting his daughter back. He's not alone.  When legal channels don't do the job - and in the case of international child abduction to Mexico, they clearly don't - people often turn to what attorneys call "self help."  That means taking the law into one's own hands.  After all, a child abducted can be re-abducted.
Some parents resort to rescue teams assembled by activists such as Mark Miller, who founded the American Association for Lost Children in 1987.
Miller says he has rescued five children from Mexico over the past five years, relying on notarized copies of U.S. custody orders and U.S. birth certificates carried by an ad hoc team of drivers, a private investigator, an interpreter and even a person dressed as a priest to help persuade local authorities to cooperate with the recovery.
"We are going in on our own," says Miller. "We pick up the child and hurry up back to the border as quickly as possible."
That's not legal of course, but parents turn to it as a last resort when legal channels don't work. And speaking of laws, Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey and others are attempting to sharpen the teeth of existing federal law.
Alarmed by mounting abductions and inadequate cooperation from foreign nations, Rep. Christopher Smith, R-N.J. - chairman of a House Foreign Affairs Committee panel that tracks the issue - and eight House colleagues have proposed the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act. It would require an annual presidential report on unresolved cases and threaten U.S. development assistance and preferential tariffs for nations that demonstrate "a pattern of non-cooperation."
My guess?  That's a non-starter.  The idea that the U.S. is going to tie its own hands in international commerce for the sake of a few parents and kids just doesn't have the ring of truth to me, but we'll see.  In the meantime I'll applaud Smith for his efforts. The State of Texas, with its long international border has recently passed a law making child abduction a felony.  It takes effect September 1st.  That too is a good idea, but of course enforcement of the law would mean locating the abducting parent and returning him/her to the state.  That's exactly what Greg Allen has been unable to do in nine years, although others have succeeded. Finally, in twist that's new to me, it seems the ongoing War on Drugs has its impact on child abduction to Mexico.  In some states where the big Mexican drug gangs are most active, judges are afraid to take action against an abducting parent because  he/she might have ties to one of the local drug lords.
But court proceedings often get sidetracked, particularly in Mexican states engulfed by the drug wars such as San Luis Potosí and Tamaulipas.
"We have judges who are afraid to do anything," says attorney Pamela Brown of Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid in Weslaco, who handles about 20 international child abduction cases a year to and from Mexico. "Judges are terrified that the taking parent might have ties to the cartels so they won't step in."
Adds Allen: "With a civil war going on down there, child abduction is just not a high priority."
In truth, it's not a high priority here either.  American parents have complained for years about the inaction and seeming indifference of our own State Department that's tasked by law with assisting them.  "Just going through the motions" was the common complaint made by several left-behind parents who testified before Chris Smith's subcommittee earlier this year. So while the number of abductions is rising, efforts to combat or rectify the practice remain depressingly the same.

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Houston children living in self-storage warehouse were taken by CPS last week.  The six children of Prince and Charlomane Leonard were taken by CPS caseworkers and placed in foster care with relatives.  Read about it here (ABC News, 7/6/11). I've written before about the difficulties of being an underpaid, undertrained, overworked CPS caseworker.  Those people have to make some of the toughest calls of anyone in any job anywhere. The question always is "can this parent care for his/her children properly or are the kids in danger?"  A wrong answer one way means taking the kids from a loving parent and placing them in foster care that's known to be overall more dangerous to kids than parental care.  A wrong answer the other way can result in a dead or injured child.  How'd you like to make those choices every day? And one of the trickiest ones is knowing the difference between poverty and neglect.  Was the child left home alone because the parent didn't care or didn't know that it was a problem, or because the parent didn't have the money for a sitter?  Not much food in the fridge?  Same question.  Etc., etc.; ad infinitum. Now, when I first heard that a Houston family had six children housed in a self-storage warehouse, I wasn't the least surprised that Child Protective Services had swooped down and gotten the children out of there.  Now I think differently. That's because the storage facility I'd imagined - maybe 10 feet by 30 feet - turns out to be vastly larger than my own house.
The northeast Houston storage unit that the Leonards call home has 10,000 square feet--plenty of room for the parents and their six kids to roam around. It has air conditioning, beds, a bath tub, a microwave oven and two computers--among other amenities.
What it doesn't have is running water.  But the Leonards get that there at the warehouses.
The Leonards believe they are guilty not of breaking a law, only of having fallen on hard times. "We have access to running water," insists the soft-spoken Charlomane. "We get it right here at the storage facility, in a five-gallon drum."
The article mentions nothing about sanitary facilities, but I assume the Leonards rely on the storage units for that too.
The Texas Family Code, says Mrs. Leonard, defines physical neglect as a parent's failure to provide a child with food, clothing or shelter necessary to sustain life and health. She and her husband, she maintains, have provided all those things, notwithstanding their choice of residence. "The law doesn't say you have to have a pretty little house."
Their children, she says, "were not removed due to the breaking of any laws, but because of someone's perception of where we should reside. We are not criminals, drug abusers or child abusers, just plain old loving parents who are working hard to secure a future for our children."
In fact, Texas law exempts from the definition of "neglect" the failure to provide the necessities of life that is caused by "financial inability."  In short, it requires CPS workers to distinguish between neglect and poverty. For their part, the Leonards are certainly on hard times financially, but that may change soon.  Prince is a certified welder and he and his wife think of their situation as temporary. But whether it is or not, they do raise some pithy issues that CPS needs to address.
She and her husband have worked hard, she says, to transform the storage space into a home--one far safer, she says, than the crime- and rat-ridden apartment buildings and motels where the family had lived before. Safer, too, in her opinion, than a homeless shelter.
So, running water or not, their choice of abode makes a certain sense.  A run-down apartment with rats, drug addicts and nightly gunfire, or a clean safe storage unit without a faucet inside?  I suppose I don't have to point out that families have raised healthy children for millennia without indoor plumbing.  Few people prefer that given the choice, but it certainly can be done. The owner of the storage units made that very point.
The place where he himself grew up, Hill says, had no running water. "My grandpa's property up in Livingston had no running water, just a well with a pump, and an outhouse." Growing up that way didn't do him any harm. The Leonard's housing solution, he says, "beats living on the street."
And then there's something even more pertinent - the health and well-being of the kids.  Are they happy, healthy, clean, well-fed, properly clothed?  They seem to be in the Leonard's case and, after all, isn't that the point of "child protective services?" The owner of the storage units says the kids are great.
"I have never seen a more happy group of children. Well-mannered. Well-kempt. Their manners are better than my kids. And I live in a rich neighborhood--just a bunch of spoiled brats here."
So if the kids are alright, what are they doing in foster care?  The answer to that is the classic bureaucratic one.
The family had been living happily in storage until a CPS investigator, responding to a tip, discovered the Leonards' solution to weathering the recession and determined it to be bad for kids. Mrs. Leonard quotes the investigator as having said, "My supervisor isn't going to like this at all."
That pinpoints something that seems to be a universal truth when it comes to government bureaucracies, the iron law of CYA.  The caseworker seems to have paid less attention to the realities of the children's wellfare than to the realities of keeping his/her job. And speaking of the children's welfare, the Leonard's youngest child was still nursing when CPS took him away from his mother and father.  Mrs. Leonard says "my son was forced to wean then and there."  Nice. Just to put a cherry on top, the children were taken away one day before Fathers Day. So it goes.

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The New York Times has a forum here with the provocative title "How Can We Get Men to Do More at Home?" (New York Times, 7/6/11).  Despite its headline that proves to a certainty that the paper has little idea of the realities of the topic under discussion, at least a couple of the commentators do. That said, they also miss a lot.  They miss things that anyone with a firm grasp on the subject would at least mention. The setup for the piece is pretty much what we'd expect: women do more paid work than before, so why don't men keep up by doing more at home. As two of the commentators note, they do.  Men still don't do as much child care and other domestic tasks as women, but women still don't do as much paid work.  And when the two are added together, they come out equal as even a casual glance at the American Time Use Survey of the Bureau of Labor Statistics would tell them. But that's not part of the NYT forum, which I count as odd since it's so obviously germane to the topic. Here's a thumbnail sketch of the forum. Neil Gilbert of Cal Berkeley points out some obvious things about the difference between the classes who chatter about work and family and the vast majority of parents who don't have the means or the desire to hire nannies or daycare.  His unstated point is that for them, someone has to stay home with the kids and in fact, someone will probably want to do so given the fact that kids are at home full time for about five years.  That leaves the parent 30-40 years in which to enjoy the wonders of paid work. Jeremy Adam Smith, author of "The Daddy Shift" writes that greater workplace equality has indeed resulted in greater equality in childcare at home (contrary to the implicit view of the NYT).  He points to "structural and interpersonal sexism" as one of the culprits.
Studies consistently show that 80 percent to 90 percent of mothers still expect fathers to serve as primary breadwinners (and very few will consider supporting a stay-at-home dad). At work, only 7 percent of American men have access to paid parental leave, among other structural limitations.
Ute Frevert notes that our attitudes change more slowly than do our laws and institutions (I don't agree).  Her culprit is children's books "that lead present-day women to feel responsible for the social and emotional set-up of the family.  This comes in handy for men..." who, according to her, leap at the chance to stay at work and avoid childcare.  She hopes our "mentalities" on the subject of work and childcare will change, and, although both men and women need to work on that, "[m]en"s education is thus badly needed. If they resist change, our striving is bound to fail." Andrea Doucet of Brock University in Canada has a suggestion that, while sincerely intended, simply won't do much to address the problem.  It's non-transferable parental leave for fathers.  She cites countries in which it's been tried and high percentages of dads take off work to be with their kids.  That's nice, but the leave is only one or two months depending on the country. Needless to say, a month or so of leave for dad will not impact the long-term gender imbalance in childcare in the least.  That's particularly true since mothers in all those countries have much longer periods of leave than do the fathers.  Add to that the fact that the prospect of the U.S. passing laws requiring parental leave at the bottom of a depressed economy is about as likely as the Houston Astros winning the World Series this year. Sandrine Devillard sees that women "remain at the center of family life," and that they seem to have an aversion to doing what it takes to get to the top of the heap in the corporate world.  Devillard sees this as a problem to be solved.  (I see it as a suggestion that women have their priorities in order better than men.)  Her solution?  "Visible commitment by top executives and programs to develop women as leaders stands at the heart of any attempt at effective gender diversity."  Needless to say, if every top management spot in the country were occupied by a woman, it would make no discernible impact on the time spent at home and at work by the tens of millions of other men and women in the workplace. That's not all the commentators, but you get the picture.  For what is presented by the Times as a serious inquiry into the "problem" of why men do more paid work and women do more domestic work, this is thin gruel indeed. Predictably, not one of the commentators flipped the coin over and looked at the other side.  Not one made the simple, obvious remark that if women want to do less at home, they need to do more at work so the dads can tend the kids.  The single-minded notion that it's men who must do more at home ignores the fact that women must do more in the traditionally "man's world." Equally predictable is the unquestioned idea that work-family conflict exists for women but not men.  As Devillard wrote, "[t]his "double burden" of work and family responsibility weigh (sic) heavily on women..."  That's the narrative we've been read for the last 30 years or so; "work, employers, society, daycare, etc. must all change because women are stressed with their "double burden." So the Families and Work Institute's recent finding that for some 30 years, it's been men more than women who've suffered from work/family conflict, must have come as quite a shock - too great a shock apparently for Devillard or any of the commentators to mention. A final oversight is child custody post-divorce.  Divorce is common, and people know it.  The divorce rate in the U.S. is over 40%.  What's also common (far more so than divorce) is mothers receiving primary custody and fathers being kicked to the "visitation" curb.  That too is well-known to fathers and mothers alike. So why would dads knock themselves out doing childcare when they know the high probability of divorce and the vanishingly small probability that they'll play any meaningful role in the children's lives they've so diligently helped raise? The answer many would give is that, if fathers opt out of childcare while married, they can't expect a judge to fix it for them.  That would be reasonable if we didn't see so many hands-on dads get the same treatment that their less involved peers do.  It would be reasonable if we didn't know that a single allegation of abuse, whether founded or not, can be all it takes to deprive the best father of his child. It also ignores the fact that we already have plenty of evidence judges can use to give dads equal time with their kids.  In the vast majority of cases, there is no impediment, factual or legal, to their doing just that, but they don't. The fact is that children don't need their fathers less because Dad spent 50 hours a week at work and Mom only 30.  Children don't care about that and it doesn't adversely affect their outcomes.  But family courts routinely identify the "primary parent" (i.e., the one the father's work allowed to stay home with the kids) and give primary custody to her. We can't realistically ask fathers to sideline careers in the vain hope that, if divorce comes along, a judge will notice.  Chances are he won't. So, while some of the pieces in the Times forum have merit (Gilbert's and Smith's notably), the exercise generally is awash in outdated notions of female victimization and male failings. And its central organizing principle - that women really want to chuck this motherhood thing in favor of corporate striving - is loony enough to be certified.  Here's a hint.  In essentially all mammal species including our own, the female does either all or most of the childcare.  That is not a patriarchal construct of gender; it's a biological fact of life. I'm all for women working and earning more; I'm all for men spending more time with the kids.  But when individual men and women choose to address the work/family balance their way and not mine, I'm not one to criticize. I guess that's what makes me different from the New York Times. Thanks to Paul for the heads-up.

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[caption id="attachment_17414" align="alignright" width="250" caption="F & F member John Eisendrath of Sony Pictures Television."]john-eisendrath[/caption] Veteran writer-producer John Eisendrath of Sony Pictures Television has been Executive Producer of numerous successful TV series, including Alias, Felicity, Beverly Hills, 90210, and numerous others. John has been helping us raise money in the entertainment industry, and has also given generously to Fathers and Families. John first joined our efforts in California in 2004 when he worked with us in our successful effort to protect the CA Supreme Court's LaMusga move-away decision from a legislative assault. In his Los Angeles Times column "Divorced Dads and Fairness" (8/4/04), Eisendrath wrote:
[Recently] the California Supreme Court issued the landmark LaMusga ruling giving divorced fathers a fighting chance to prevent their ex-wives from moving away with their children. It was an important decision, reinterpreting the court's 1996 Burgess decision, under which custodial parents...have been allowed to drag the kids off to different cities, states and even countries, even if a judge agreed that such moves were bad for the kids. The April decision articulated a single premise: Decisions such as this one must be based on the best interests of the child... I care about this issue because it happened to me. In October 2002, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied my ex-wife's request to move our two young boys 200 miles north to San Luis Obispo. The judge ruled the move would be detrimental to them because it would destroy the close relationship they shared with me and that it was not in their best interest.
[caption id="attachment_17419" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Eisendrath has been Executive Producer of numerous successful TV series, including Alias."]alias[/caption]
My ex-wife appealed. In May 2003, a three-judge appellate panel remanded the case back to the lower court. Citing Burgess and related cases, the panel concluded that detriment related to the move--including the damage done to a child's relationship with his father--was not a sufficient reason to prevent it. All that mattered, according to the law, was that my ex-wife spent more hours of the week with our two boys than I did, which of course was based almost solely on the fact that I work and she doesn't.
And by the way, she was not moving to San Luis Obispo to improve our children's economic prospects, to place them in better schools or to be near relatives. It was a pure lifestyle choice. She wanted to live on a farm with her new husband, and the court said that was OK. The result was that in August 2003, the same Superior Court judge who had originally denied the move because it was bad for the boys now ordered it to occur. Visibly frustrated by what the appellate court was instructing him to do, the judge made his feelings plain: "The order I'm about to make is not in [the boys'] best interest," he said from the bench. "Let's get that real clear. I haven't changed my mind from the last time. It's simply no longer relevant." Imagine how that feels: Being told by a family court judge that under the laws of the state of California the best interests of your children are not relevant.
[caption id="attachment_17428" align="alignright" width="250" caption="Eisendrath has been Executive Producer of numerous successful TV series, including Felicity."]felicity[/caption] Today John says:
This is a cause near and dear to my heart. Children have the right to have a relationship with both parents after a divorce or separation--a right that is routinely violated by our court system. We've long needed a strong, well-funded national advocacy group that can represent the interests of children of divorce. We need to bring balance to a system rife with gender bias and which devalues the importance of the father-child bond. This isn't about my custody case--my case is long done. But I owe it to my sons and I owe it to all children to address this terribly damaging and oft-ignored social problem. I support Fathers and Families because they are professional and effective, and are our best hope for change. I urge everybody reading this to volunteer to be a part of Fathers and Families by visiting www.FathersandFamilies.org/volunteer and to contribute to Fathers and Families by visiting www.FathersandFamilies.org/give.

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Across the pond, governmental agencies are targeting fathers in ever-more bizarre ways.  Here (The Courier, 6/30/11) and here (Daily Star, 7/5/11) are a couple of recent examples. In the first, David Hawksworth is doing three months in Perth Prison in Scotland courtesy of Sheriff Richard Davidson.  What's the normally mild-mannered Hawksworth doing there?  According to Davidson he committed a crime the sheriff deemed "threatening" and (gasp!) "inappropriate." It seems Hawksworth has been denied all access to his son, so, on the boy's eighth birthday, he placed 100 balloons outside his school.  That, according to Davidson, constituted the crime of "harassment."  Of whom? one wonders, but the sheriff didn't get into that. Meanwhile, the activist organization New Fathers 4 Justice plans to protest the outrage of jailing a father for attempted celebration of his son's birthday.
"Whilst David is in Perth Prison, Blairgowrie Golf Club will also be targeted with direct action. Fathers' rights group New Fathers 4 Justice will close down arterial routes in Scotland ... after activist Dave Hawksworth was jailed for three months in Dundee last week.
"Dave crime (sic) was to place 100 balloons outside his sons (sic) school on his 8th birthday after being denied access for many years. He was told that he had no business at protesting at his course and clear off back to England, he has not had any direct contact with his son in 7 years."
The statement also claims that Tayside Police had given permission for Hawksworth to place the balloons outside the school.
Apparently the mother has denied Hawksworth access to his son for seven of the boy's eight years.  If she's been punished in any way for that violation of his parental rights, it's not been publicized.  My guess is that she's been given a pass on that. So, in this case, total deprivation of contact between a boy and his father is acceptable behavior on the part of a mother, but placing balloons outside his school on the child's birthday is a crime.  Letting the child know he's still there and thinking of him gets a father jail time.
Real Fathers For Justice chairman Mike Kelly said online, "It will come as no shock to those within the movement as to how this father has been treated by the authorities, lambasted, racially abused and then hung out to dry in prison alongside murderers and rapists. All he wants to be is a father to his kids."
Does it get any more outrageous?  (Well, there was the Australian father who was jailed for sending his daughter a birthday card, but I won't go there.) Meanwhile, farther south in Rochester, Kent, Ian Burrowes was recently informed by England's Child Support Agency that he owed £11,500 in back child support for his two grown daughters.  Burrowes was stunned.  He'd never known about the young ladies he was told he'd fathered. On searching further, he learned that the mother of the girls was someone he'd never met and didn't know existed.  He informed the CSA of that fact. He then found photographs of them.  They're black and he's white.
He spent two months trying to clear his name and traced a photograph on the internet of the now grown-up "children' – two women with thick afros.
He said: "I was stunned. I"m a pale, white guy with ginger hair and these women were black.
"It was obvious just by looking at us there was no way I could ever be their father.'
So he contacted the Child Support Agency whose representative did what any self-respecting bureaucrat would do; he/she got indignant and passed the buck.
When he rang up to protest his innocence and demand a DNA test, an advisor at the CSA told him: "It"s not for us to prove you"re guilty, it"s for you to prove you"re not.
"As far as we"re concerned you are the father and you need to pay.'
Notice that the folks at the CSA didn't do what any normal human being would have done.  They didn't say, "Gee, you've got a point there.  Let's see what we can do to fix this.  After all, the real dad is out there somewhere."  No, it was more on the order of "We made this mess, now you fix it.  If you don't, we'll put you in jail. You're guilty until proven innocent." And when I say it was CSA who made the mess, I'm just telling the truth.
DIY manager Ian was told the CSA had files listing his name, previous address and National Insurance number on their birth certificates alongside the mother, a woman named Darlene.
How'd that happen?  How could CSA possibly have all his information when he had no connection to the woman or her kids?  The answer?  CSA put it there. It seems that when Mom was filling out the requisite forms for the kids, she left out her National Insurance number.  So somehow someone from CSA just filled in a number and that number happened to be Ian Burrowes's.  Really, that's how these people operate. Burrowes hired a soliciter and CSA backed down and even apologized, claiming he'd been the victim of an "unprecedented" error.  Unprecedented?  I doubt it. But before all that, the whole foul-up caused consternation in the ranks of Burrowes's actual family who initially thought he'd been leading a double life.
He also faced questions from his own family, including his daughters Hazel, 22, and Kirsty, 20, over the claims.
He said: "They were concerned that I had been living this double life.
"It caused a lot of grief and made a lot of people doubt my integrity.'
In the minds of CSA functionaries, all that's taken care of by an apology. Then of course there's the matter of the real dad.  Where's he?  Who is he?  Why did his two daughters grow to adulthood without a father?  Why will he ultimately be forced to pay a large lump sum of child support when he's been refused all access to and perhaps all knowledge of his own flesh and blood? Those are questions the article doesn't ask.  More to the point, I suspect they're questions the CSA neither asked nor cares about.

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Good news on Massachusetts alimony reform--from the State House News Service's new article "House Advances Bill Overhauling Alimony Laws" (7/7/11):

The House signaled Thursday that it appears ready to tackle an issue that policy makers have long eyed as in need of reform: the alimony system...the House gave initial approval to a sweeping reform bill and Rep. Paul Donato, (D-Medford), a member of Speaker Robert DeLeo"s leadership team who presided over Thursday"s session, said the House would likely hold a formal session next week to debate the changes.

Under the proposal, state law would lay out for the first time specific guidelines on the levels and duration of payments to former spouses.

Critics of the current system say it is inconsistent and arbitrary and leaves many without redress even if their financial situation deteriorates. The changes would also curb "lifetime' alimony, something reform advocates say Massachusetts judges award too often.

The bill (S 665) has 133 co-sponsors from both parties and support from a large majority in each branch.

Alimony reforms have failed to pass in the past, but the recession has helped push the issue up on the Legislature"s priority list, lawmakers involved in drafting the bill said. The Joint Committee on the Judiciary heard testimony on the proposed changes in May.

Critics of the current system have argued some alimony payers found themselves out of work or their businesses failing when the economy took a tailspin, but judges were unable to revise alimony payments because the law did not make any allowances.

Sen. Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham), who led the legislative task force charged with looking at the issue, has said the bill does not abolish alimony, like some people fear. "Nothing could be further from the truth,' Candaras told the News Service during an interview in May.

Candaras said the task force worked with people on all sides of the issue to "make sure nothing they did would negatively impact" people affected by divorces...The bill would establish a timeline for payments, granting payments based on the years of marriage. If someone is married five years or less then the person receiving alimony would get payment for half of the number of months of the marriage. For a 10 to 15-year marriage, judges would award payment for between 60 to 70 percent the number of months the couple was married. The spouse of a 15-year marriage would be entitled to payments for 80 percent of the number of months. It would still be up to a judge's discretion on how many months of payments to award for any marriage longer than 20 years.

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"[GOP presidential hopefuls] Gary Johnson, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich apparently are all saying 'yes' to divorced and separated fathers."--Eagle-Tribune, 7/10/11 Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign is a nonpartisan grassroots campaign with the goal of injecting family court reform into the 2012 election campaign. In GOP candidates hammer president on jobs (7/10/11), the Massachusetts newspaper Eagle-Tribune discusses the candidates' positions on taxes, the budget, creating jobs---and family court reform. The newspaper wrote:
"[GOP presidential hopefuls] Gary Johnson, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich apparently are all saying 'yes' to divorced and separated fathers. That's according to Fathers and Families, a national organization that pushes for court reform to give fathers better standing in legal proceedings involving their children. The group calls these fathers "the largest untapped voting bloc in America."
To comment on the piece, click here. To write a Letter to the Editor of the Eagle-Tribune, click here. To learn more about Fathers and Families' Election 2012 Campaign, click here.

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The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine ran a feature interview (pictured, right) with Fathers and Families" Board Chairman and founder Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S. on Father's Day. In the piece --- Fighting dad (6/18/11) --- Holstein discussed our shared parenting bill H02684, which has been endorsed by nearly a third of the Massachusetts legislature. Holstein explained:
Women"s groups are also against [the bill],

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[caption id="" align="alignright" width="223" caption="Troubled New England divorced father Thomas Ball, who committed suicide in front of a courthouse June 15."][/caption] Thomas Ball, a troubled New England divorced father, took his own life in front of the door of the courthouse in Keene, New Hampshire on June 15. His suicide apparently was precipitated by Ball believing he would soon be jailed for being behind on a child support obligation he says he was unable to meet. Ball left a lengthy narrative of his experiences with the court that detailed how he lost his children. It revealed a deeply troubled individual who nevertheless understood clearly the workings of family courts. Fathers and Families" Board Chairman Ned Holstein, M.D. said:

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Short Version: We want you to go with us to ask Governor Deval Patrick to do more to support our shared parenting bill on Tuesday, July 26 in Boston. If you can attend either event, please email [email protected] your name, email address, phone #, and which event(s) you can attend.

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A domestic violence advocacy group has released model legislation it hopes will replace VAWA.  Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) has drafted legislation that would transform existing federal domestic violence law if passed.  Here's SAVE's website. As those who follow VAWA and domestic violence issues already know, current federal law is riddled with problems.  Beginning with its title and the history of its original passage, VAWA has always been radically anti-male. Since its inception, the law has been amended to contain gender-neutral language (except its title), but its effects have been, and continue to be, anything but.  As but one example, federal dollars fund hundreds of shelters for women, but not one for male victims of DV. And speaking of shelters, although hundreds of millions of dollars go into DV shelters every year, we know little about what actually happens inside their walls.  That's because the federal government seems not to much care.  As little as 18 months ago, the website for the Office of Management and Budget rated federally-funded DV shelters as "non-performing."  That means they don't bother to put forward any criteria for success with the unsurprising result that no one knows if they're successful. In short, DV shelters take the money, but no one asks them to report on their activities or measure them against any objective criteria.  Is our money being spent wisely or not?  We don't know because our government doesn't ask and the recipients don't tell. What studies have been done of DV shelters are sketchy, but should be enough to spur aggressive inquiry by oversight agencies.  (You can access some of those on the SAVE website.)  Among other things, most DV shelters don't require any verification that an applicant actually have been the victim of domestic violence.  Simply making the claim is sufficient. So it comes as no surprise that many DV shelters serve as homeless shelters for women who don't care for the Salvation Army.  And given that, what one finds inside the shelters are often drug dealers and women who need psychiatric care more than a shelter. All of that is what led shelter resident Ebonee Barnes to call shelters she's lived in "beyond livable."  She of course is far from the only one.  Blogs by women living in DV shelters paint an unflattering picture of violence, theft, drug abuse and dysfunction. Of course not all shelters have those problems.  But with neither standards nor oversight, shelter owners are largely free to provide any sort of conditions they choose.  And that's an open invitation for abuse and corruption. So the fact that federal law is anti-male is only one of its many problems.  And even that would be acceptable if it in some way reflected the reality of domestic violence in this country, but it doesn't. We've known since 1976, the year in which the first major study of domestic violence was done for the national Institute of Mental Health, that men and women perpetrate DV equally.  At the same time we've known that about 35% of those injured in DV incidents are male.  And yet we utterly ignore male victims and therefore female perpetrators. A woman concerned about her propensity for attacking her male partner and seeking treatment, might as well look for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.  DV shelters don't believe she exists and their ideological construct of domestic violence has no concept that she might need help.  Therefore, there is none. Oh, if she has the money for a private therapist and is lucky enough to find one who knows the science, she can get help.  But that's what government money ought to do; it ought to heed the huge amount of science on DV and bring realistic solutions to bear. But VAWA has always prevented that.  Now SAVE has created its model legislation in the hopes of bringing reason, balance and science to the topic of domestic violence in the United States. It's called the Partner Violence Reduction Act and, according to SAVE, it,
1.      Gives first priority to real victims and reduces false allegations by constraining definitions and distinguishing between an allegation and a judicial finding of domestic violence.
2.      Makes the law gender-inclusive and removes discriminatory policies.
3.      Seeks to protect and restore families when the abuse is minor.
4.      Removes harmful mandatory arrest, predominant aggressor, and no-drop prosecution policies, thus helping to restore due process.
5.      Allows legal assistance to be provided both to the alleged victim and alleged offender.
6.      Improves the accountability of domestic violence organizations.
7.      Curbs immigration fraud.
8.      Removes provisions that violate the Constitution and restores civil rights to the accused.
Now, I don't have remotely enough time or space to go into those in detail.  But each addresses a major shortcoming of domestic violence law at the federal level.  Here's a link to the text of the model legislation itself. What I will do is point out that domestic violence law is one of the major culprits in the break-up of families and the separation of children from their fathers.  Pretty much anyone who follows issues related to fathers and children knows that even bare allegations of violence can be used to separate the two, sometimes permanently. We read frequently about allegations of abuse that are raised for the first time during divorce and custody proceedings.  According to a recent study of custody evaluators, far more mothers than fathers level allegations of abuse at their partners.  When they do, family courts routinely issue temporary orders restricting the fathers' access to their children.  Those temporary orders create a fait accompli keeping fathers and children apart permanently. Indeed, often as not it seems that opponents of fathers' rights to access to their children have but one bullet in their gun - domestic violence.  In Australia, the modest gains dads made in the 2006 amendments to the Family Law Act are under attack based on essentially one claim - dads are violent and shouldn't be around children. Never mind that mothers abuse children twice as much as do fathers.  The anti-dad crowd's got it's story and they're stickin' to it. Domestic violence law in this country is based, not on responsibly-done science, but on the ideology-based claims of a few who in the beginning were frankly anti-family and anti-male.  Their claims have always been factually wrong and politically motivated.  As such the basis they form for DV law ignores the science on the subject and the equal protections of both sexes by the Constitution. This country must scrap VAWA and start again with legislation that is science-based and that treats men and women equally.  Until we do that, we'll continue to throw huge sums of money at programs that don't work because they don't acknowledge what the problem is. SAVE's model legislation won't be enacted any time soon.  The forces arrayed against it are far too strong to allow reason and justice to win the day.  But SAVE's representatives have been walking the corridors of the Capitol talking with congresspeople and their aides, and they've gotten a generally favorable reception. That's a long way from passing legislation, but they've begun the process of education of Congress.  In so doing, congressional representatives and their staff have been educating SAVE.  The more they talk, the more SAVE will come to understand where the weak spots are in the armament of VAWA's defenders.  In time that will mean more effective lobbying and legislation that's more apt to attract sponsors. It's only the beginning, but that's what's needed; we need to begin to end the tyrany of VAWA over innocent men and their children.  SAVE has done just that.

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Vicki Larson writes the truth about domestic violence and society's propensity for male-bashing.  Her article is here (Huffington Post, 7/12/11).  It should be posted and re-posted.  It should appear above the fold in every morning paper and as the cover story of every weekly magazine.  It should be required reading for every holder of an elective office. Her piece isn't long and it's not difficult.  (It's amazing how easy the truth can be when it doesn't have to fight against ideological constructs.)  It skims the surface of a number of topics related to DV, and so it doesn't go deeply.  But it says things that need saying.  They've needed saying for a long time. And the fact that Larson is saying them in a widely-read online publication means that her ideas are getting traction in the larger field of public discourse in the United States. It's high time.  Up until recently, and for over three decades, the most outrageous claims have been made about men and domestic violence.  Never mind that they were false; never mind that they were impossible; never mind that they contradicted good science and common sense.    Those who chose to believe the lies and half-truths were pleased to ignore the facts and continue to promote claims they thought people should believe in lieu of the truth. Do I have to remind readers of the claims that "all men are rapists?"  What about the claim by the Women's Educational Equity Act Publishing Center's claim that 4 million women are beaten to death each year and that violence is the leading cause of death among women?  Do I have to cite Joan Zorza's assertion that between 25% and 35% of all women admitted to emergency rooms nationwide are there because of domestic violence?  (The Centers for Disease Control, that tracks the data, says the figure is between 0.01% and 0.02%.) I could go on indefinitely citing claims that range from the delusional to the made-up to the merely misleading.  We've been collecting them for over 30 years, after all. Of course what's part and parcel of the false claims is that no consequences seem to attend them.  As long as people know that they can say anything, regardless of how silly or libelous, and get away with it, it's no surprise that the nonsense keeps pouring forth. All of that is to say that Larson's article should not only be reprinted prominently, it should appear and reappear daily for the next several decades in order to, in some small measure, balance all that has gone before. Her point of departure is "whom do we believe?" when claims of abuse are hurled at men?  The woman or the man?  And if we believe her, why do we do so? Her answers come from various people who've been asking the same or similar questions.
Men, of course, aren't the only ones who can do damage; statistics show that women can be just as violent as men. But while the Violence Against Women Act provides millions of dollars for shelters for abused women, you don't see too many shelters -- any, actually -- for abused men. "It's often been taken for granted that women can't really do that much damage, so it's OK to maybe slap your boyfriend or do something of that nature," says Kellie Palazzolo, an assistant professor at Arizona State University's Hugh Downs School of Human Communication who is overseeing research on how college students perceive female and male perpetrators.
About those slaps, how many movies dating back to the 30s have you seen in which a woman slaps a man?  I can't count, but it used to be common as dirt.  More to the point, it never hurt and he always deserved it, having said or done something she didn't like. And the beat (so to speak) goes on in popular culture.  Larson rightly points out that many women cheered when Elin Nordegren attacked Tiger Woods (if she did).  He'd cheated and, according to them, that justified domestic violence.  But only because it was a woman doing it to a man.  Reverse the sexes and the same people would be calling for his scalp. "Thelma and Louise," one of the most popular "chick flicks" of all times, is virtually nonstop female violence against men.  And they all deserve it, according to the film, because in a variety of ways, they treat the two protagonists wrongly. Of course we don't have to stop at popular culture when searching for a societal double standard on DV.  Just listen to Vice President Biden give a lengthy interview to Glamour magazine on the subject and never mention the possibility that a woman might have ever struck a man.  The complete absence of public funding for male victims or female perpetrators of DV speaks volumes. Or read the newspapers.  Almost without exception, when female perpetrated domestic violence is reported, it's not called "domestic violence."  As but one example, I recently followed the trial of Rosa Hill in the San Francisco Bay area.  Several area papers covered the case in which Hill carried out her carefully planned attack on her ex-husband and his grandmother.  She killed the 91-year-old woman and tried to kill her ex.  Out of at least four articles in each of three papers, not one included the words "domestic violence." So, as Larson notices, when it comes to DV, men are indeed silenced.  Their voices are ignored, their injuries unreported, their very existence denied.  Our national narrative repeats that it is men, not women, who hurt their intimate partners.
And so men walk around somewhat guilty until proven innocent. And sometimes, no one's too interested in proving them innocent.
"As a society, we don't typically think of men in the role of a victim. We can't even recognize it when we're confronted by physical evidence," [Dr. Tara] Palmatier writes. "On the other hand, we're inclined to believe accusations about men."
All this began with the words and deeds of true misandrists who made little effort to hide the fact.  But, like Frankenstein's monster, it's taken on a life of its own, blundering about the countryside damaging everything in its wake.
Not only is it unfair and dishonest, [Palmatier] says, but it's "damaging to boys and young men, gender relations, relationships, families and 'the best interests of the children.' And it gives the women who are predators a free pass."
That says a lot in a few words, and every one of them is true.  Vice President Biden should read them again and again until he understands the deep and broad damage that he is doing.  The lies and half-truths that have been repeated ad infinitum have had their toxic effect on people, laws and institutions.  We are reaping what we allowed to be sowed - a harvest of bitterness, mistrust and the decline of the rule of law. And
Automatically assuming the worst of men is a form of discrimination, [Palmatier], [Warren] Farrell and others say. And they're right.
It's what we've taught ourselves to do over the last 40 years.  Someday, we'll look back at those years, shake our heads and wonder "How could we?"  We'll also look back at Vicki Larson and know that she was one of the many who pointed us in the right direction - back toward sanity, reason and the truth.

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Fathers and Families today released the press release below concerning the new Ohio Supreme Court ruling in the lesbian child custody case pitting biological mother Kelly Mullen against lesbian social mother Michele Hobbs. F & F has long-defended Hobbs and other lesbian social mothers--to learn more, see the Holstein/Sacks MSN.com column With Gay Marriage Comes Gay Divorce: The Rise of Lesbian Custody Battles (10/15/09) and our post High-Profile Ohio Lesbian Custody Battle Again Highlights Injustices Faced by Noncustodial Parents.

Ohio Supreme Court"s Lesbian Child Custody Ruling Ignores Importance of Social Mom"s Bond with Her Child

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The Daddy Wars continue, this time at CNN.  I mean that literally, or at least almost. This year, CNN did what we see every year in a number of media outlets; it chose Fathers Day to denigrate dads.  Here's Jeff Pearlman's exceptionally disgraceful and fact-free diatribe against fathers (CNN, 6/17/11).  And here's Josh Levs's rejoinder (CNN, 7/12/11). Pearlman, you see is a stay-at-home dad.  He works there too.  And his attitude falls into line with about half of everything said about fathers - they're bums.  Specifically, according to Pearlman, fathers (except him) want nothing to do with their kids, shift all the childcare and housework onto Mom and slouch through work at the office following the latest sports news and celebrity scandals. Meanwhile, the ones who really slave are the stay-at-home parents, of which he is coincidentally one.  Funny how that works. So disdainful of these imaginary fathers is Pearlman that he lays out his ten commandments for them that include things like  don't play golf on weekends, wash dishes, change diapers, etc.  The commandment to paint your toenails eluded my comprehension, but I guess that makes me a bad dad in Pearlman's book.  Mea culpa. In short, Pearlman's piece is straight out of the anti-dad playbook we've all been reading since I don't know when.  Somehow these people manage to convince themselves that fathers are layabouts, that working 50-hour weeks is a walk in the park and that fathers stop at nothing to avoid their children. That of course brings me to my one commandment for Jeff Pearlman and all his fellow travelers - learn some facts. You see, Jeff, it's really not good enough to deliver insulting, condescending diatribes on subjects you plainly know nothing about.  Oh, I'm sure you're just too busy to actually do any work beyond what you already do.  After all, being a SAHD is the next thing to indentured servitude.  We know; you told us.  But if that's the case, don't write anything at all.  It's far better than spreading your own ignorance to others. But in truth, the facts aren't hard to find.  Probably an hour online would have been enough to show Pearlman that essentially all of his concepts are wrong.  He could start with the Bureau of Labor Statistics American Time Use Survey that shows that, when paid and unpaid work are added together, men and women do essentially identical amounts.  Men do more paid work, women do more domestic work including childcare.  No one's the slave, no one's the master, and no one has his feet up while the other toils. He would have found that women are far more likely than men to hold no paying job, if they do have one it's far more likely to be part-time and even when they work full-time, women still work fewer hours than men who do.  What all that means is that it's men's paid work that allows mothers to stay home with the kids.  Pearlman disdains that, but someone has to pay the rent. From there he could have moved to the countless studies (of for example, attorneys, MBA graduates, and women working in science, technology, engineering and mathmatics fields) that show women opting out of careers in order to care for children.  Pearlman of course would claim that fathers force mothers to do that because they refuse to, but, if he'd bother to actually read the studies, he'd learn that the opposite is true.  Amazingly, mothers actually want to be mothers and adjust their schedules accordingly.  Who'd have guessed? Then Pearlman could have gone to the recent Families and Work Institute survey showing that fathers have far more work-family conflict than mothers do and have for about 30 years.  That's because they're toiling to do just what Pearlman fantasizes they aren't doing - work a more-than-full work week and do a whole job of fathering when they get home.  Pearlman didn't get around to any of that; too busy painting his nails, I guess.  But if he can't be responsible enough to learn an actual fact or two about his subject, you'd hope a CNN editor might intervene.  You'd hope a reputable news organization might demand some minimal level of knowledge or accuracy on the part of writers it publishes.  Apparently not.  Apparently "attitude" is an acceptable substitute for, well, everything else. Fortunately, someone seems to have had second thoughts about the Pearlman piece, so Josh Levs was given space to answer.  For my money, Levs is far too respectful of Pearlman, but he does know something of his subject and lets us know that Pearlman is off the wall.  CNN too.
The idea that anyone thought this was an appropriate message for Father's Day is preposterous...
Who are these "millions" he's imagining? They're none of the fathers I know, none of the fathers I've interviewed in my work covering the changes  in American fatherhood.
Yes, actual knowledge about fathers is a real obstacle to the type of denigration of them Pearlman prefers.  So Levs provides a few facts about fathers and what they do.
• 44% -- The percentage of working dads who are sole financial providers, up from 2010, according to a careerbuilder.com survey. More than one in five work more than 50 hours a week, and one in five bring home work at least three days a week. • Three hours -- The average time working dads spend with their children every workday, according to a survey by the Families and Work Institute. • 80% -- The percentage of dads who report that they change diapers as often as or more often than their wives when they're home, in an Ipsos poll for Pampers. Pearlman complains about dads who refuse or don't even know how. (The women polled say they change diapers more often but don't say their husbands shirk diaper duty altogether.) • 36% -- The percentage of young children who had 15 or more outings with their father in the previous month, according to the census. Another 24% had eight to 14 outings; 37% had one to seven outings. Only a sliver had none, for any number of reasons. (These can be just with dad or with both mom and dad.) Pearlman describes dads who never take their kids out. From a Pew Research study: "Almost all fathers who live with their children take an active role in their day-to-day lives through activities such as sharing meals, helping with homework and playing."
And here's another thing.  Why is it that people like Pearlman believe that earning the money to support the family is something to be ashamed of?  To him "a staggering number of fathers suck at being fathers" because they don't change as many diapers as mothers do.  But mothers don't "suck" at being mothers because they willingly leave the earning to Dad. I'll make it simple: earning money is parenting irrespective of who does it.  Putting a roof over your child's head, food on the table and clothes on his back is not ignoring your child.  It's caring for him.  It's childcare every bit as much as preparing the meals and changing the diapers. Face it, dads' working is what allows moms to stay home with the kids which study after study shows they strongly desire doing.  But obvious concepts like that, together with simple respect for both sexes always elude the anti-dad crowd.  It's why their views are at last becoming marginalized.  Too bad CNN didn't get the message.

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Childhood obesity is the latest reason being promoted for CPS taking kids from parents. This article reports on a recent piece in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association recommending that seriously obese children be placed "temporarily in foster care." (Worcester Telegram, 7/13/11).
Dr. David Ludwig, an obesity specialist at Harvard-affiliated Children"s Hospital Boston, said the point isn"t to blame parents, but rather to act in children"s best interest and get them help that for whatever reason their parents can"t provide.

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The first fissures have appeared in congressional support for VAWA. Hearings are currently going on in the Senate Judiciary Committee for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  Read about them here (Washington Times, 7/14/11).  And as you might expect, representatives of Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) were on hand to report on the proceedings. SAVE's Dr. Edward Bartlett tells us that, in the past, Judiciary Committee hearings on VAWA were collegial affairs, which is to say that everyone agreed on pretty much everything and the waters of committee discourse remained calm. This year it's different.  For one thing, SAVE had nine people there wearing T-shirts with the message "I Was FALSELY ACCUSED of Domestic Violence." More importantly, ranking Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa had two witnesses whose testimony may outline the fissures in the support for VAWA I mentioned.  One of those was Julie Poner whose ex-husband used false allegations of domestic violence in his native country to gain legal entrance to the United States.  So Fissure Number One is the problem of false allegations.  That's important for countless reasons. Bartlett reports that after yesterday's hearing, SAVE representatives approached committee member Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and "emphasized how every false allegation takes away desperately needed services and protections from real victims."  Apparently Klobuchar got the message and was sympathetic. The second fissure is the problem of where the money goes. 
Reviews of VAWA grantees have uncovered vast problems with record-keeping and unallowable expenditures, said Mr. Grassley. "Simply put, in today"s economic environment, we cannot tolerate this level of malfeasance in federal grant programs.'
I disagree.  I would prefer Grassley to have said "we cannot tolerate this level of malfeasance in federal grant programs in any economic climate."  But I'll take what I can get. What level of malfeasance is the senator referring to?  Well, for starters, the president's Office of Management and Budget candidly admits that it doesn't have enough information on what shelters and other grantees do with the money we give them to assess their success or failure.  We also can't do that because there are no standards for success or failure.  Those standards don't exist because no one's thought to establish them.  In short, shelters and other recipients of the $551 million in VAWA funding are pretty much free to spend it any way they want with no consequences for the rampant "malfeasance" Grassley referred to. And that brings us to Fissure Number Three.
Government Accountability Office official Eileen Larence testified about the dearth of data related to VAWA and domestic-violence issues. But she cautioned Congress that "challenges exist for collecting this data,' such as people"s confidentiality and safety, staffing costs and definitions of abuse.
She gets the day's prize for understatement.  Put another way, DV shelters refuse to tell the government that pays them what they do.  So there is indeed a "dearth of data."  There need not be, but there is.  All Congress has to do is treat VAWA the same way it treats every other federal program except the CIA (interesting comparison, no?) and we'd at least be headed in the right direction. Congress needs to establish standards for DV shelter performance and require accurate reporting of what's done, what's spent and for what.  Some agency with enforcement authority needs to oversee compliance.  That's as basic as it gets and yet DV shelters have to date been all but exempt from all of it.  One of the consequences of VAWA funding and shelter behavior flying under the radar is to take the entire system out of the democratic process.  When administrative agencies are empowered by Congress to establish standards of performance and oversee compliance, we the people are able to know what is going on behind the closed doors of those receiving our tax money.  That way, we can demand change if it's warranted. But when we don't know what's going on inside DV shelters, we can't very well bring our influence to bear on our elected representatives.  What would we say? As far as I know, that wasn't mentioned at yesterday's hearings, but for the first time since its original passage, there are cracks in the edifice of VAWA's hitherto unquestioning support.  And that portends more of the same.  There are plenty of other issues with VAWA beyond the three that have come up, but once Congress gets the regulatory bit in its teeth, the law will unavoidably become more sensible, gender-neutral and recipients of grants will have to conform to the standards set. None of that is ideal.  The ideologues will still rule the roost, but as time goes on, they'll more and more be expected to prove their claims, justify the exclusion of women with teenage boys, verify that those receiving services are actually victims of DV, etc.  Shelters will less and less be havens for drug dealers.  Homeless women will be directed to homeless shelters so that actual victims of DV will have room at shelters.  Male victims will start to receive protection and female perpetrators will get treatment. And with the emphasis on tight budgets, I'd expect the definition of domestic violence to be narrowed considerably.  At some point, some senator is bound to start asking why federal funds are being used to house women because their husbands shouted at them or they were afraid they might.  Remember, that's one of the things Eileen Larance emphasized as problematical - "definitions of abuse." All that is to say that the edifice is finally showing signs of cracking.  Will VAWA be reauthorized this year?  Of course it will be.  But change is in the wind.

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Dr. Phillip "Dr. Phil" McGraw gave inaccurate and biased testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee on VAWA.  He testified on Wednesday on behalf or reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.  He was called by committee chairman, Senator Pat Leahy, D-Vt. Over the years, "Dr. Phil" has taken on a number of issues related to fathers on his television program.  To say that he has an anti-father bias is putting it mildly.  A few years ago he had a show dedicated to showing how lazy fathers are.  Hey, he and Jeff Pearlman should team up; great minds think alike. Then there was the "Dr. Phil Show" in which he asserted that abusive fathers routinely get custody of their children.  One of the "examples" he gave was that of Sheldon Creek (a pseudonym) in which the mother accused the dad multiple times of child sexual abuse of his young daughter.  The only problem was that every single doctor, nurse, clinic, hospital, custody evaluator, guardian ad litem and child welfare agency that investigated, concluded that there had never been any form of abuse.  Into the bargain, the judge concluded that the mother fabricated the accusations shortly before court hearings on custody. To Dr. Phil that meant the father had abused his daughter.  What apparently didn't mean much to him was that the child had to undergo five separate medical examinations due solely to her mother's false claims of sexual abuse against her dad.  That concerned the girl's guardian ad litem as well as the judge.  From Dr. Phil?  Not a peep. Glenn Sacks demolished the "Creek" case here. So when Dr. McGraw  showed up to testify on behalf of VAWA, we knew we were in for a rough ride.  And so we were.  Here's a transcript of his testimony. In keeping with so much commentary on domestic violence, Dr. Phil evinces no awareness that women ever injure their male partners.  In that he's reading directly from the Joe Biden handbook.  Biden, who's proud of nothing more than his support for VAWA, has no notion that women ever perpetrate domestic violence or that men are ever their victims. (As an aside, a matter of hours before his testimony, Catherine Kieu of Garden Grove, California, drugged her husband's food and, when he went to bed feeling sick, tied him to the bed, cut off his penis with a kitchen knife, and ground it up in the garbage disposal.  She did nothing to stop his profuse bleeding and the 60-year-old man was listed in serious condition at the hospital.  Kieu told police "he deserved it."  The two are in the middle of divorce proceedings.  In keeping with the Biden/Dr. Phil take on DV, no article has yet called her actions "domestic violence."  Here's one article on the case (NBC Los Angeles, 7/14/11). So McGraw's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee was both wrong and biased.  It's wrong because women perpetrate domestic violence at least as often as do men and possibly more.  It's wrong because, while men are more likely to injure women than vice versa, over one-third of DV injuries including deaths are suffered by men.  And of course, we've known this to a certainty for 36 years, ever since the first major study was done for the National Institute of Mental Health in 1976. And yet Joe Biden and Dr. Phil can still tiptoe merrily through the tulips pretending we don't know what we've in fact known for decades.  Keep in mind, this guy was testifying before a senate committee charged with gathering facts - facts, mind you - about domestic violence, VAWA, it's shortcomings, its strong points, etc.  Wouldn't you think they'd want informed people before them?  Wouldn't you think they'd demand accuracy?  After all, there are hundreds of millions of dollars at stake and national policy is being made. But Dr. Phil didn't stop there.  He came out with this doozey:
Domestic violence is now the most common cause of injury to women ages 15 to 44.
No, actually it's not.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, it's nowhere in the top five, being far outstripped by things like falls, motor vehicle accidents and overexertion.  Indeed, anyone who's ever taken a defensive driving course would hesitate to say that anything causes more injury to the young than do motor vehicle accidents.  The least regard for accuracy would have stopped Dr. Phil from making the patently untrue claim and the committee from hearing it. From the outright false, McGraw improved to the merely misleading.  For him, all DV is done by men and all of it is serious.  He's like so many in the DV establishment who are pleased to inflate the definition of DV to include every minor push or shove and every raised voice.  That's on one hand; on the other they call all DV "battering." That allows them to vastly exaggerate how many instances of DV there are and at the same time pretend they're all life-threatening.  They shift their definitions without letting on they're doing it.  And so it is with the august Dr. McGraw.
2,000,000 women a year are victimized meaning as we sit here today in the 1st hour of this hearing, 228 women are being beaten, terrorized and intimidated, all behind closed doors, all undoubtedly feeling very alone.
See what I mean?  If you define DV to include imagined slights, shouts and minor pushes and shoves, then yes, 2 million women may indeed be victims.  But if you define it as being "beaten, terrorized and intimidated," the number is a small fraction of that.  Indeed, the Scottish study I've referred to frequently found that there was no injury at all or only a minor cut or bruise in 80% of domestic violence incidents, i.e. far from "battering." Dr. Phil, like so many in the DV establishment, wants to define the term as he wishes when he wishes.  He wants to have it both ways. Reading what McGraw said to the committee, the untutored might actually believe he meant it.  How's this for a clarion call?
And so I pledge to you today our campaign to End the Silence on Domestic Violence is just beginning. With legislation like VAWA we can turn obstacles into stepping-stones. I will continue to use the Dr. Phil platform to raise awareness and educate the public. We will advocate for victims of violence and partner with others, from the roadhouse to the Whitehouse until we can at last, lay down our swords.
Stirring stuff, no?  Well, it would be if he had any intention at all of "educating the public" or "advocating for victims of violence."  But, based on his previous behavior and his testimony to the committee, he has no such intention. Dr. Phil will no more educate the public about male victims like Catherine Kieu's husband than the man in the moon.  He has no intention of advocating for men.  To him, male victims of violence at the hands of their intimate partners are just so much collateral damage in a war declared long ago - a war in which Dr. Phil is a high-ranking officer, a war on the truth, a war on male victims of female violence. Phillip McGraw talks about ending the silence, but he himself silences every male victim of domestic violence.  It's how the DV establishment likes male victims - voiceless. He added,
I long ago resolved to never speak unless I could add something to the silence.
Would that it were true.

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The Ohio Supreme Court denied parental rights to a lesbian woman despite her care of the child for two years.  Here's one informative article about the case (HRC Backstory, 7/13/11). Back in 2000, Michelle Hobbs and Kelly Mullen formed an intimate relationship.  They lived together for three years and decided to have a child with Mullen being the one to conceive and carry the child to term.  Hobbs had a friend in Georgia, Scott Liming, whom they contacted about being a sperm donor.  He agreed and, along with Mullen signed an agreement under which he would have no obligation to the child.  Nevertheless, Liming was named as the child's father on the birth certificate. In due course, Mullen became pregnant via in vitro fertilization and the child was born.  During all that time, Hobbs was present and actively supported Mullen.  Once the child was born, Hobbs took a similarly active role in its care and upbringing. That was reflected in certain documents Mullen executed.
 Of particular importance to the Court were documents which Mullen signed which named Hobbs as the child"s guardian and gave Hobbs a durable power-of-attorney and a health-care power of attorney, granting her the ability to make school, health, and other decisions for the child.
But about two years after the child's birth, Mullen and Hobbs broke up.  Hobbs immediately petitioned a trial court for joint custody of the child.  She was denied there, denied at the appellate level and denied once again by the Ohio Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Liming has moved from Georgia to Ohio to be near his child.  He's taking an active role in its care.  Whether he or Mullen is paying child support, the article doesn't say. (Just for the record, the agreement he signed absolving him of responsibility for the child isn't worth the paper it's written on.  Had Mullen gone to court seeking a child support order, that agreement would have been 100% ineffective to prevent her from getting one.  The same will be true if she ever does in the future.) The court's reasoning in the case echoes what many fathers have experienced in family court.  I've complained many times about the fact that fathers' parental "rights" are often placed squarely in the hands of mothers.  That's of course particularly true when the two aren't married, but can happen as well in married couples. Essentially, a few well-worded misrepresentations by the mother are usually sufficient to either deny altogether or sharply restrict a father's exercise of his parental rights.  Simply disappearing from the man's life as soon as she knows she's pregnant is the easiest method.  That way, he'll assume she was no longer interested in seeing him and go about his business.  Even if he finds out later about his child, he'll find his right to custody all but non-existent.  Why?  Because he hasn't taken a hands-on approach to childcare.  The fact that she intentionally deprived him of any chance at doing so is routinely ignored by courts. Of course if she wants child support at any time in the future, she need only file a petition with the court and - presto! - the money starts flowing from the stunned father.  If that happens, his parental rights miraculously spring up from nowhere, again courtesy of the mother. Other methods, such as lying about paternity work almost as well. In the case of adoption, the state usually does the work for her.  Putative father registries and other laws designed specifically to facilitate denial of fathers' rights require little or no effort on the mother's part. So it's interesting that, in Michelle Hobbs's case, the Ohio court placed particular emphasis on the fact that the child's mother, Kelly Mullen, retained the right to revoke those powers of attorney at any time.  She also refused to enter into a shared custody arrangement that's permitted by Ohio state law. In short, the outcome of Hobbs's attempt to continue as a parent to the child depended not on her actions but on Mullen's consent.  As with fathers, her rights were placed, not in her own hands but in those of another person altogether - the mother.  Try as she might, Michelle Hobbs could do nothing to improve her chances at sharing custody.  It was not up to her; it was up to Mullen, and when their relationship soured, their child was left permanently without one of the only two parents he/she had ever known.  Why?  Because the mother said so. No one in family court has the power that mothers have.  Indeed, with one exception, nowhere else in American jurisprudence does one adult control the exercise of valuable rights held by another adult.  And that exception is telling.  When one adult has been adjudicated to be non compos mentis and in need of a guardian, then another adult is appointed to exercise the other's rights and discharge his/her obligations. The relationship of guardian and ward is the closest thing American law offers to the relationship of mother and father. So now Michelle Hobbs knows a little bit about what it means to be a father in today's United States.  She may have paid half of the child's expenses.  She may have done all she could as the child's parent; she may have loved it, cuddled it, changed its diapers, bathed it, fed it, sung it to sleep.  The child may have smiled every time it saw her.  Once it learned to, it may have toddled eagerly to Hobbs for a hug and a kiss. But all of that means nothing in Ohio law.  Let Hobbs suffer; let the child suffer.  But on no account diminish the power of the mother to control who will act as its parent today, and who will tomorrow. Thanks to Don for the heads-up.

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