Background: Dads of Michigan, the American Coalition for Fathers and Children's Michigan affiliate, the Family Rights Coalition, and other Michigan shared parenting advocates are fighting to pass HB 4564, a shared parenting bill. They have the votes to pass the bill but are fighting to get it out of committee, where it is bottled up.
In May, the Michigan National Organization for Women put out an Action Alert opposing HB 4564. I discussed NOW's opposition to the bill and laid out the case for shared parenting in my column HB 5267 Will Help Michigan"s Children of Divorce (Lansing State Journal, 5/28/06), which I co-authored with ACFC Executive Director Mike McCormick. (HB 5267 was the 2006 bill which is identical to HB 4564).
The Editorial Board of the Oakland Press
, one of Michigan's larger newspapers, just came out with a well-reasoned editorial endorsing HB 4564.
Jay A. Fedewa, PE, Executive Director of the Family Rights Coalition
, is asking that the bill's supporters email Allan Adler, the editorial page editor of the Oakland Press
, to commend the paper and express support for the bill. His email address is [email protected]
. Please remember to be polite and positive.
The Oakland Press
editorial is below.
Equal parenting bill worth passing
House Bill 4564 seems to make a very reasonable request: It calls for equal parenting time for fit parents.
The bill was proposed by state Rep. Glenn Steil, R-Cascade and introduced with the support of Reps. Fran Amos, R-Waterford Township; Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy; John Stakoe, R-Highland Township; James Marleau, R-Lake Orion; and 18 other representatives. It is currently in the Families and Children"s Services Committee.
It"s a shame a bill like this is needed but historically, dads have been on the short end in court cases involving custody and visitation when the parents divorce.
The "best interest of the child' should always be the top priority but too often that "best interest' leaves dads out of the equation.
Judges have expressed concern that the bill may take away some of their "judicial discretion.' Well, we"re all for judicial discretion, but someone has to stand up for the rights of fathers, those who are "fit' and more than willing to share parenting duties.
Our courts say they are doing this now, but judges admit that in the past, the tendency has been to side with mothers, giving them more custodial and/or visitation rights.
If the courts are truly doing this now, then why do so many fathers and their supporters feel the need for this legislation?
We think anything that helps "good fathers' stay "good dads' is worth passing. If the law has to be tweaked so that some judges don"t feel so put upon, then make the necessary changes.
But it"s time dads had some rights, too.
What don"t family court judges know? An awful lot. For instance, a child"s heart.
I am always struck that judges, along with attorneys, are so often asked what is best for children. They have not the slightest training in child development. They have never counseled a distraught parent, or hugged an agonized child.
As a physician accustomed to rigorous scientific scrutiny of what works and what doesn"t, it is inconceivable to me that judges have been put in charge of our lives based on their seat-of-the-pants guesses about what is best for kids.
And here is the ultimate disqualifier: they have no means of learning what happened
. Without follow-up, they continue as blind as the day they put on the robe. In medicine, we study what happened, and we correct our mistakes of the past. That"s why we don"t still apply blood-sucking leeches to cure typhoid fever. But the judges are still trapped in the 18th
century, when there was little alternative but to give sole custody to one parent (in those days, it was the father).
A member of ours wrote movingly about what happened
after the decision of a Massachusetts family court judge to allow his daughter to move to Delaware. This is what the courts never see.
"Heather is almost 10 and has lived in Delaware since October of 2005. And what is ironic is that I am sure the courts would consider this move a success.
She is doing well in school, has adjusted and made friends, and, overall, is doing very well. The big problem? She never wanted to go and hates having her parents so far apart. We miss each other each and every day. She tells me, "Dad, when I am in Delaware I miss you and when I am in Massachusetts I miss Mommy."
"I just got back from my seventh or eighth trip down there. I don't think that it's fair for her to have to fly back and forth every month so I break it up by going down there every few months.'
"The courts would see our situation as a success story. The problem is, Heather and I both hate the way things are. And we are the only ones who ever have to make sacrifices. Her mother gets off easy. Justice served? Hardly.'
This man feelingly describes his child"s heartache – something the courts will never know. So they"ll make the same mistake the next time -- until we do something about it.
The myth of the "deadbeat dad" is pervasive in our society--in some circles, "divorced dad" or "noncustodial dad" are practically synonymous with "deadbeat dad." One malignant outgrowth of this can be seen when divorced fathers try to install financial responsibility in their children by linking school performance or behavior to money provided for cars or consumer items. The letter below in a column from Annie's Mailbox last year is a good example.
"Dear Annie: I have a 16-year-old son whom I love very much. I have been divorced from his mother for eight years, remarried for the last six. 'Brendan' lives with his mother in the same city, so I see him a lot.
"We had a good relationship until recently. I told Brendan I would give him a car and pay for the insurance if he kept his grades up. He agreed. His first report card, he got a D in one subject. The car stayed at my house. Four weeks later, he got another D on his mid-term.
"The day after he received his grades, Brendan gave my wife and me a very impressive presentation, with charts and everything. He promised to work hard, do extra credit and show us his test scores every week. We caved and let him have the car. Well, he had an excuse every week why he didn't have his test scores. When his grades came, he had two Ds.
"I told Brendan to bring back the car, and he said I needed to talk to his mom, my ex. Naturally, she took his side and wanted the car to stay at her house, and didn't care that Brendan and I had an agreement. The car is now back at my place, but Brendan is angry with me, and my ex is probably going to buy him a car.
"I want my son to learn that there are consequences for being irresponsible. Am I wrong? -- Worried Dad
"Dear Dad: You are not wrong. A car is a privilege, not a right, no matter what some kids think. You kept your end of the bargain, and if his mother buys him a Porsche, let it be HER problem. Your ex is teaching Brendan that he doesn't have to work for anything and that it's OK to renege on agreements. We hope you will keep trying to teach him otherwise, Dad."
One can almost hear 16 year-old Brendan fuming to his friends that his dad is a cheapskate. I wonder who helped teach him to think that way about his dad?
"Of course there were areas of safety; nothing could get at me if I curled up on my father's lap, holding onto his ear...All about him was safe."--Naomi Margaret Mitchison, Scottish Novelist and Poet
I think all of us hope our daughters will have the same type of memories of us...
Below are some recent articles and items of interest from Fathers & Families'
latest News Digest.
Fathers not short-changed by B.C. Adoption Act, minister says
(The Canadian Press, 10-2-07)
Parents to have money taken away from child support payments
Dancers lead fight for fathers' rights
(The Morning Sun
Televangelist's Husband Denies Abuse
(Associated Press, 10-3-7)
Waterford Police Pursuing Mother in Abduction Case
(CBS 6 Albany, 10-3-07)
Family judges campaign to take the bitterness and costs out of divorce
TV chef must sell seafront restaurant in £3.6m divorce
Home at last; Dad brings abducted tot home (The Record, 10-7-07)
A loan that helps couples go solo (Times Online, 10-8-07)
Rise of collaborative divorce is not for everyone (The Washington Times, 10-8-07)
Background: The Melinda Smith/Thomas Smith Los Angeles foster care outrage is one of the most egregious child welfare injustices I've ever seen. In my co-authored column, Choosing Foster Parents over Fathers (San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/11/07), I explained:
"In the heartbreaking Melinda Smith case, a father and daughter were needlessly separated by the foster care system for over a decade. Last week, Los Angeles County settled a lawsuit over the case for an undisclosed sum...
"Smith was born to an unwed couple in 1988. Her father, Thomas Marion Smith, a former Marine and a decorated Vietnam War veteran, saw Melinda often and paid child support. When the girl was four, her mother abruptly moved without leaving a forwarding address. Two years later, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services found that Melinda"s mother was abusing her. Though the social worker for the case noted in the file that Thomas was the father, he was never contacted, and his then 6-year-old daughter was placed in the foster care system.
"Thomas--whose fitness as a father was never impugned nor legally questioned--continued to receive and pay his child support bills. Authorities refused to disclose his daughter"s whereabouts, and didn"t even inform him that his daughter had been taken by the County. Smith employed private investigators and attorneys to try to find Melinda and secure visitation rights, but he eventually ran out of money.
"Rather than allowing Smith to raise his own daughter, the system shuttled Melinda through seven different foster care placements. An understandably angry child, her outbursts led authorities to house her in a residential treatment center alongside older children convicted of criminal activity--when she was only seven years old.
"Melinda says that during this period she was told that her father was a 'deadbeat dad' who had abandoned her. When Melinda was 16, she told an investigating social worker that the 'most important thing' for her was to find her dad. Moved by her story, the social worker began searching for Melinda"s father--and found him in one day. In 2005, Thomas and Melinda were finally reunited."
The terms of the settlement in this case are revealed in a recent Los Angeles Daily News
article, and apparently Smith is going to receive $225,000 from Los Angeles County. I don't know much about how these settlements are done, but I'm surprised--Smith should be paid millions
for what was done to his little daughter. I know it's comparing apples and oranges, but it seems particularly low in light of the millions that Los Angeles County had at one point agreed to pay former firefighter Tennie Pierce
over a questionable racial harassment complaint.
As part of their agreement with Smith, the County generously agreed to "forgive" Smith's fake child support debt, not one dime of which should he ever have been asked to pay. Moreover, much of the "debt" piled up after Smith and his daughter were already reunited, as the County still kept sending him child support bills.
The Daily News
article by Troy Anderson
, who has done a good job in his pieces on this case, is below.
Child-support case may be settled
Father would get $225,000 from county
By Troy Anderson
A decorated Vietnam War veteran who spent more than a decade searching for his daughter would be paid $225,000 by the county, which mistakenly allowed him to pay child support for the girl although she was in foster care, under a settlement recommended Monday.
The Los Angeles County Claims Board recommended the payment to settle a lawsuit filed by Thomas Marion Smith, who was never told that his young daughter had been taken away from his ex-wife and placed in foster care. The Board of Supervisors will vote on the settlement Oct. 16.
"This is a landmark case having a profound impact on the system," said Smith's attorney, Linda Wallace. "At the point of entry, county departments are now notified to make sure children are not lost in the system."
Lisa Garrett, chief deputy director of the Child Support Services Department, said her agency is working to improve communication with the Department of Children and Family Services to avoid a recurrence of the Smith case.
Smith's suit claims that county employees were negligent for failing to notify him that his daughter was in foster care. Had he known of the girl's whereabouts, he would have obtained custody of his daughter and eliminated the need for county intervention.
Read the full article here.
Background: The taxpayer-funded domestic violence industry vilifies men and promotes unfair and misleading stereotypes about domestic violence. One example is this amazing series of domestic violence public service ads from HomeFront, a Canadian domestic violence agency.
To learn more and to watch the ad "Restaurant," the other ad in the series, click here.
The ad "Boardroom" is another example of the way the domestic violence industry views and portrays men. To watch the ad, click here
, or see below.
The tagline to the ads is: "You wouldn't get away with it here--you shouldn't get away with it at home." The ads were produced in 2003 by HomeFront, a Canadian domestic violence agency.
Television reporter Tina Stein
(pictured) of WIFR in Rockford, Illinois did an excellent job on the child support piece below. The piece details the case of Ed Conley, an electrician who broke his leg, was out of work for three months, and who nearly went to jail for it. Conley's friends and relative came up with several thousand dollars to keep him out.
The case is typical of the way the child support system manufactures "deadbeat dads." Let's break it down:
1) Conley has a track record of 13 years of "mostly on-time payments." Then he breaks his leg and can't work.
2) He repeatedly tries to contact the child support agency to tell them and to get a downward modification, but can't get through to anybody. Reporter Stein tries this also, and confirms Conley's experience.
3) Ex-wife hires attorney to pursue Conley for the support she knows he shouldn't be asked to pay. Her attorney blames Conley, saying, "He could file motions to where they could have child support reduced because they don't have any income to pay for child support." Conley had tried to resolve the issue the best he could--his only other alternative would have been to hire an attorney, which he obviously could not afford to do.
4) State doesn't care, pursues him anyway, threatens him with jail, and only relents when his friends and relatives pay his child support for him.
This kind of outrage isn't unusual--I hear stories like this all day long. It's to Stein's credit that she pursued this story. I spoke with Tina this morning and commended her--I suggest that readers send her a quick note to thank her--click here
. Her story is below.
Child Support Concerns
Oct 1, 2007
Reporter: Tina Stein
A basketball injury didn't earn Ed Conley any sympathy from the state's Division of Child Support Enforcement, despite his 13-years of mostly on-time payments.
"There were breaks in my leg I have got 2 plates 19 screws in there. I didn't just sprain my ankle and want to stay off work," Conley says.
The electrician was off the job for three months and his ex-wife didn't get any of the 38-hundred dollars owed for those three months either.
"She hired an attorney and that attorney contacted me and basically said I had to pay in full what was owed right then, and sent papers wanting me to be sent to jail."
In Illinois, the Association for Children for Enforcement Support says nearly three billion dollars are owed in back child support. More than one in three cases are in collection, making us one of the worst states in the country. And while Conley promised to pay once he returned work, his ex-wife's attorney, Donald Ray says he should have come up with the money sooner.
"He could file motions to where they could have child support reduced because they don't have any income to pay for child support," says Attorney Ray.
Unfamiliar with what to do, Conley tried getting help through the child support hot line.
"Three different times I called that number and got put on hold for 20 minutes and then it says due to the high call volumes your call will now be dropped," Conley says.
I wanted to see if Conley was right. So I called and it took more than five minutes to speak to someone. And then I was transferred a half-dozen times before deciding to hang up.
Read the full article here
On numerous occasions I've discussed the ways the taxpayer-funded domestic violence industry vilifies men and promotes unfair and misleading stereotypes about domestic violence. "Restaurant," an amazing domestic violence public service ad from HomeFront, a Canadian domestic violence agency, captures perfectly the way the domestic violence industry views and portrays men. To watch the ad, click here
, or see below.
Apparently the ad was blocked from airing on TV by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
. HomeFront uses the ads in their trainings and has them on their website, and the ads are used in DV seminars. The ads in this series portray only men as batterers and women as victims. HomeFront's slogan is "Stop It Where It Starts."
Research clearly shows that women are just as likely as men to initiate violence in the home. Men suffer a third of all domestic violence-related injuries, and women use weapons and the element of surprise to help balance the scales. To learn more, see my co-authored column October"s Domestic Violence Awareness Month Ignores Many Victims
and others, 10/4/06). To learn more about problems with the way our legal system and the media handle domestic violence, click here
One common theme in Parental Alienation cases is the alienating parent punishing the children for having any positive interactions with the targeted parent. In Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties that Bind, several of the adults interviewed by Amy J.L. Baker report having this experience.
One of them is David,
whose parents divorced when he was six, and who was caught in his mother's long-term alienation campaign against his father. (To learn more about David's case, click here
David's mother drove his father out of his life, but even years later he would be made to pay a price for expressing interest in his father. David explains:
"I remember one time I mentioned about talking to Dad and she said, ‘I"ll take you out of my will." That sticks in my mind because at the time I was thinking about calling him.'
Baker writes, "It was not enough for his mother to have eliminated all visits, she also had to eliminate any discussion or mention of the father as well. She made it clear that to talk about him was a betrayal of her."
"Even when I was in high school and college if I talked about my dad that was like sticking a knife in her. It was just something you did not want to do. It was almost as if I knew if I mentioned that I wanted to go see my dad I would be brow beaten into submission. I was thinking this is crazy that it seems like every time I talk about my dad all hell breaks loose and it was almost easier… it was easier to not broach the subject. It became about survival…at that point in my life to survive you just don"t talk about him at all.'
The alienation and browbeating was so severe that David waited until three years after his mother was dead to contact his father, explaining, "Only then was I beginning to feel comfortable talking to my dad. It still felt like I was betraying her. It took three years for her to be dead.'
I've often criticized what one might call the "paternal abandonment script"--the standard assumption that if a father doesn't remain in his children's lives after a divorce or separation, it's because he "abandoned the family" and/or chose to remove himself from his children's lives.
This script is pushed heavily by both the left and the right, including: feminists; influential fatherhood expert David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values; presidential candidate Barack Obama; former Vice-President Dan Quayle (and his famous 1992 Murphy Brown speech decrying fatherlessness); and countless others.
I've detailed in numerous newspaper columns
the many barriers mothers and the family law system place between fathers and their children and won't reprise the argument here. But many times I see references to fathers who "abandoned" their kids when, upon closer inspection, it is very unclear that such "abandonment" occurred. This is particularly common when dealing with African-American fathers.
I noticed this again recently when reading the autobiography of Dick Allen (pictured), probably the best hitter in the major leagues during much of my childhood. There are numerous media references to Dick Allen (aka Richie Allen) being raised by a single mother. For example, in Dick Allen, the Phillies, and Racism
, William C. Kashatus writes, "Allen was the youngest of three boys raised by a single mother."
The Encyclopedia of Arkansas
reports that Dick Allen was the son of "Era Allen and her husband, a traveling truck driver who later divorced her. Era Allen raised her youngest son primarily on her own."
Allen doesn't focus on this issue in his autobiography, but in passing makes several assertions which contradict the paternal abandonment script written about his family life. According to Allen, his mother and father had a rocky, up and down relationship which finally ended when the couple divorced. That's not exactly "abandonment."
Allen's mother and father divorced when Allen was 15, meaning that the father had been with the mother as they raised all of the other children and up until Allen, the youngest, was almost grown. That's not exactly "abandonment," either.
In the book, Allen wonders what became of his father, but says that he would never discuss it in his family because any mention of his father greatly upset his mother. In other words, Allen thought that if he had a relationship with his father, it would have been a betrayal of his mother. Allen was fiercely loyal to his mother, often with good reason. But the "having a relationship with your dad is a betrayal of mom" is a central part of Parental Alienation
. Again, this isn't exactly "abandonment."
Dick Allen's father was a traveling truck driver, so he was probably gone a lot, even during the time his relationship with Allen's mother was good. Allen's dad probably wasn't a Father of the Year candidate, but there's not much evidence that he was a bad guy, either. All we know for sure is that he didn't get along with Allen's mother. And that doesn't mean he abandoned his kids or was a bad father.
Richard Allen Jr., Dick Allen's son, wrote to me about my piece above, and adds some new information. According to Richard Jr., Dick Allen, in contrast to the paternal abandonment script, "did have a relationship with his father, however it was separate from his mother." In other words, he continued his relationship with his father after the divorce, but probably refrained from mentioning his relationship with his father to his mother.
Sources I've read say that Dick Allen's father was a truck driver and Allen was the youngest child. According to Richard Jr., Dick Allen's father was a sanitation worker, not a truck driver, and he was not quite the youngest in the family--he had one younger brother, in addition to several older siblings.]
Recently my daughter and I were watching her second favorite movie, The Sandlot 3
. (Her favorite movie is The Sandlot 1
). The movie is the story of arrogant baseball star Tommy "Santa" Santorelli who (warning: plot spoiler ahead) travels back in time to 1976 and relives his boyhood days on the sandlot baseball team. This time he chooses friendship over individual accomplishments, and ends up turning his life around, becoming a beloved baseball star instead of a hated one.
When Santorelli goes back to his childhood he is reunited with his mother, who died when he was about 12. The boy's bond with his mom is touching and sad, no question. However....Santorelli's father is not mentioned.
I don't mean that he's not there--we're used to that. Normally when they want to depict an absent father they'll depict him as dead or, more commonly, as having run off. (Just once I'd like to see a kid in a mainstream movie casually say "Oh, my dad's not around--mom divorced him and used family court machinations to drive him out of my life when I was younger.") But here, unless my daughter, my wife and I all missed something, Santorelli's father is not referred to at all. A child not having a father has become so routine that the screenwriters don't even feel obligated to throw in a one sentence reference to dad and why he's not here.
This is an increasingly annoying feature of many modern movies--"John Tucker Must Die" and Toy Story" are a couple of other examples. It seems particularly offensive here because, dammit, this is a baseball movie.
Dads, boys and baseball go together. So in honor of the father-son-baseball bond which The Sandlot 3
has besmirched, I've put together some details about the loving bonds many current and former major league baseball players shared with their dads. Some examples include:
Former New York Mets relief pitcher John Franco, one of the better closers in baseball during the 1980s and 1990s, always wore an orange NYC sanitation T-shirt under his baseball uniform, in honor of his father, a New York City sanitation worker.
Former New York Yankee right fielder Paul O'Neill published the book Me and My Dad: A Baseball Memoir
after his playing career ended. O'Neill's father, Charles "Chick" O'Neill, was a paratrooper in World War II
and pitched in the minor leagues. He died after Game 3 of the 1999 World Series. Paul O'Neill went to his father's funeral, then played in Game 4, helping the Yankees complete their sweep of the Atlanta Braves.
Former Kansas City Royals third baseman George Brett honored his father in his Hall of Fame induction speech
Current Houston Astros star first baseman Lance Berkman recently told a reporter, "My dad is my hero...I think so much of him. He's just got tremendous moral values, and he's just a wonderful person and somebody who's very comforting to be around...He's someone I've learned through by example more than anything else, particularly with his honesty...He's not a man of many words. He's not very charming. He's not necessarily a guy that will walk up and take the floor and talk a bunch. But the way he lives is an example to a lot of people. He's a true gentleman. He's got a lot of people that look up to him and the way he carries himself. A lot of times actions speak louder than words, and he's a guy that certainly lives that out."
A reader recently reminded me of a story I told on His Side with Glenn Sacks
a couple years ago, one of the saddest I've ever heard: "The secretary at another radio station where I used to do the show told me a story about her son. The father and the mother broke up when the boy was about four or five, and the father soon disappeared from the boy's life. "When the boy started school, he always worked very hard and did all his homework and got good grades, even though his mother never pushed him to do well in school or to do his homework.
This gettin' up early, pulling double shifts / Gonna make an old man of me long before I ever get rich / But I'm tryin' / It's been two years since we've finalized / I still ain't used to puttin' ex in front of wife / But I'm tryin' / Send more money right away / is pretty much all she has to say when she calls these days / and don't you be late
Another good divorced dad song is Trace Adkins' I'm Tryin'
--to watch the music video, click here
. The lyrics are below. In the picture, the father has just spent some nice time with his son, the ex-wife is coming to pick the son up, and she's ripping him away from his father and angrily criticizing her ex. We'll put it in our divorced dad song collection,
Dr. Ned Holstein addressed the ancient question of how best to live one's life after suffering serious injustice. Ned's remarks were offered at the September 24 meeting of Fathers & Families near Boston. Over 80 people attended to hear Dr. Amy Baker on the subject of parental alienation, to honor Dan Hogan for his service to the fathers' and children's movement, and to hear Ned. His attempt to answer the question of injustice in human affairs follows. The meeting was lively, with good energy and high resolve to end injustice to our children.
The Answer to an Ancient Question
September 24, 2007
About five years ago, the Boston Globe
ran a headline story claiming that the leading cause of death of pregnant women was murder at the hands of their male partners. The story was occasioned by a Massachusetts Department of Public Health special report, accompanied by a press release. As a doctor, I was dubious about this claim, so I looked up the DPH report. It did not surprise me to find that medical causes of death far outnumbered any other cause, and that motor vehicles and drugs came next, with domestic violence making a modest contribution. The Massachusetts DPH never distanced itself from the Globe story, despite its own research report that contradicted the Globe
Two years ago, PBS ran a so-called documentary called "Breaking the Silence.' Its central claim was that two-thirds of fathers who seek the custody of their children, even shared custody, are secret batterers. There is no research basis for this claim whatsoever. I know, because I asked the authors of this travesty for their sources, and then I studied the papers they cited, and I found that this slander was a complete fabrication.
About the same time, I learned that Australia Airlines and New Zealand Airlines will not seat unaccompanied children next to men. Instead, they will ask the men to switch seats. This is profiling, and it occurs in the absence of any data whatsoever showing that men have ever molested children on an airplane.
Recently, the state of Virginia erected billboards showing a picture of a grown man holding the hand of a child. It instructed citizens to report men holding the hands of children to the child abuse agency, since, apparently, if you hold hands with a child, you are likely to be a sexual pervert.
And, about a month ago, Steve Patterson of Fathers & Family alerted me to the fact that an esteemed organization, the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children -- or MSPCC – was running an ad on television intended to inspire the public to support the fight against child abuse. Its style was that of a trailer for a horror movie. Filmed in creepy black and white, the camera angle was that of a child hiding under her bed, and then in a spooky garage, and then in a frightening basement. Every ten seconds or so, the screen dissolved to black, and titles appeared in stark white: "Where would you hide . . . . if you were ten years old . . . . and your father was coming home . . . . and he was angry. . . . . very angry . . . and he was looking for you . . . . like he did last night . . . . and the night before. . . and the night before that…' I"m sure the average viewer now mistakenly believes that fathers commit most child abuse, whereas the opposite is true.
The fathers" movement targeted three of these outrages and got them taken down.
But we cannot escape the larger point: We live in a society in which respected institutions such as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Boston Globe
, the State of Virginia, two international airlines, the MSPCC and PBS are content to stereotype fathers as vicious villains, stereotypes that are unfounded lies.
And when we are not vicious, we are foolish, egotistical, narcissistic idiots. Just watch prime time television, and you will see a parade of male buffoons far more offensive than the ditzy females served up in the fifties. At least Lucy was a lovable ditz, not a repugnant narcissist. This is well documented on Fathersandhusbands.org and by a study several years ago by the National Fatherhood Initiative.
Does this slander matter, or is it harmless fun? Yes, it matters. We need to remember that family court judges are ordinary human beings. They watch the same shows and read the same newspapers that everyone else does. Few of them are intellectuals, and they were never trained in child development, or how to understand research data, or how to identify a good study vs a bad one. That doesn"t seem to stop them from considering themselves experts on these topics, taking their "wisdom' from the corrupted images of men perpetrated in the media.
So it should not surprise us that the treatment we receive in family court as fathers and men reflects the ugly stereotypes we are seeing from respected authorities such as PBS or the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. It is little wonder that we are treated as selfish, dangerous, indifferent to our children, cheaters, workaholics, or philanderers, since that is how we are widely portrayed. Most crucially, we are treated as a stereotyped class of underlings, not as individual human beings to be judged on our merits. Why is it surprising, then, that so many loving, caring and wise parents, especially fathers, are deprived of their children?
At this time of year, we always read of those parents who take their first child to college. They carefully put the sheets on their kids" dormitory beds and neatly arrange their clothes -- a momentary nostalgic return to the childhood years that have fled. The new collegians are desperate for them to leave. They depart. They look over their shoulders at their beloved child, overflowing with emotion. They arrive home, open the door -- and the house is silent. The doors do not slam. The phone does not ring. No backpacks are plopped down on the floor. The cereal has not been devoured. And they feel empty. They gaze at the photographs of their boy when he was three.
And they know that what was, is no more, and can never be.
How much worse when this happens before its proper time, when the children are young, when it happens to a loving parent who has done no wrong, when it happens simply by order of an ignorant judge, influenced by degrading media portrayals of men, and empowered by blind laws. This we never read about.
And here is the ultimate wound: it is done, they say, because it is in your child"s best interest– to be torn away from you! These amateur psychologists have concluded that your child is harmed by your loving care.
Many of those who do this to us are haughty and arrogant. The haughty are worse than those who sin, because the haughty believe they are free of sin. And they are ignorant. They do not see that they are injuring children. They do not see that they are ruining lives. They do not see because they do not wish to see.
And I must tell you that these same people are feted -- they are celebrated. Dinners are held to honor them. They receive awards. They sit on distinguished panels, and respectful drivers are sent to pick them up. Their opinions are sought. They are full of honors.
And so this brings us to an ancient question: Psalm 94 asks, "Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph?' And Job asks: "Why do the just suffer and the wicked flourish?
So there is nothing new about our dilemma. Show me one time in all of history when the wicked did not flourish!
Wise philosophers have struggled to answer this question for thousands of years. We tonight will not solve the question of why the wicked flourish.
Instead, we must struggle to repair our lives, to fill the gaping hole, just as millions of victims of injustice over the millennia have had to do. We are one with people of all ages who have suffered.
How do we do this? How can this be possible? The sorrow is too great. The anger intrudes into our thoughts every day.
It helps to remember that the past is gone
-- for all of us, for every human being. No one can live in the past. It simply does not exist -- for anyone
. It slides out of our grasp. We must stop trying to recover what once was.
And the future is equally elusive. We cannot grasp the future even though so many of us frantically pursue it. If only we can get the next promotion, or work hard enough to get the next raise, or be elected to office, or buy just the right car, or make the furnishings perfect -- or win the next court battle
-- then we will be happy.
But when the future comes, it is no longer the future -- it is the present. And it is still we who inhabit it. We have brought ourselves along, bearing all our inner conflicts. And we are still pursuing the future, or trying to grasp the past.
The only place we can live is the present. Right here. Right now
. No other time or place. What was, is no more, and can never be again. For any mortal human. We must be here now.
There is a story about the famous violinist Yitzhak Pearlman. He was the featured soloist at a very big, very important concert, attended by a huge crowd of those who glitter. He lurched out on the stage on his crutches -- he had suffered polio as a child -- made his way to his chair in the front, sat, picked up his violin, and nodded to the conductor that he was ready. The orchestra began to play, and after a few bars, Pearlman"s violin joined, soaring over the orchestra like a heavenly angel, the sound unbelievably sweet.
Suddenly, there was an unmistakable "ping' as one of his strings broke. The audience expected the orchestra to stop, for everyone to wait while he re-strung his violin. Instead, Pearlman nodded to the conductor to continue, and he played through the entire sonata with only three strings. Where he needed his fourth string, he improvised brilliantly, sometimes moving far up the third string, sometimes going down an octave, sometimes inventing an entirely new line as he went. It was as beautiful as anything the audience had ever heard.
Afterwards he was asked, "Why didn"t you replace your fourth string?' He answered, "My heart demands to make beautiful music with however many strings I may have.'
And that is what we must do. We cannot try forever to recapture a past that is gone. We cannot be the captive of an imagined future when we will have four strings. We must play our lives with what we have. We must make music with however many strings we have, we must sound the trumpet we have, and we must ring whatever bells remain in the tower.
And there is something else that we must do. We must help others. There is no more certain way to heal ourselves than to devote ourselves to helping others. A woman of 96 years had lost her parents, her husband, all her brothers and sisters, three of her four children and even two of her grandchildren. She had outlived her money, and she had lost most of her hearing. Her friends were amazed that every morning she arose promptly, dressed and went out in good humor.
They asked her where she went. She answered, "To the soup kitchen to serve soup to the homeless. I have many friends there, and my life is rich.'
That is why we must unite together to help others. The greatest beneficiary will be you. You can help those who will go down the same road as you unless we do something about it. To be perfectly honest, I do not know for sure how long it will take to revive the angel of justice. Perhaps it will be in time to help you, and perhaps it will not.
But I do know that you can help those innocents who do not yet know what will befall them if we do not help. I do know that we will right the scales of justice. I do know that the little children will not forever have their hearts broken by a judge ordering that they need not see one of their parents; that the one they love will be there to protect them from the neighborhood bully; that he will wrestle with him, letting him win, and then tuck him into bed; and that he will secretly let him steer the snowmobile like a big boy.
You can help these victims of the future, prevent them from re-living what you and your child have lived in the past. Let us live together today, in the present. Let us be here now. Together we will clear a path, make the rough way straight, and remove all obstacles. Together we will sweep away injustice. We can do this. We will do this. We will win. Help others today and tomorrow, and God bless you.
Background: The "Elian Gonzalez II" case in Miami is a battle over a 4-year-old Cuban immigrant girl which pits her Cuban father, Rafael Izquierdo, against wealthy Cuban-American foster parents Joe Cubas, a well-known sports agent, and his wife Maria. Just as Elian's father Juan Gonzalez faced numerous unfair hurdles to get his son back, Izquierdo has been manhandled by the child welfare system, in part because of the system's anti-father bias.
In 2005, the girl's mother brought the girl to Miami from Cuba. The Florida Department of Children & Families removed the girl from her mother's custody in 2006, after an investigation found that the woman's mental illness rendered her an unfit parent. She was placed with a foster family, and Izquierdo came to the US to bring his daughter home.
Izquierdo has spent months in the US and has been denied custody of his daughter--an outrageous violation of fathers" rights. Izquierdo should not have to fight to raise his own child. He is a fit father--how and where to raise his daughter is his decision.
Last week, Judge Jeri B. Cohen faced down the angry Cuban-American community and did the right thing, ruling that Rafael Izquierdo is a fit parent who did not abandon his daughter, and should be permitted to take the girl back home to Cuba. Outrageously, the Florida Department of Children & Families has done everything it could do to malign Izquierdo and wrest custody away from him, spending over a quarter million dollars to do so. To learn more, click here.
Havana journalist/professor Manuel E. Yepe Menendez's article Twisted Justice in Miami
(The Cuban Nation
, 9/27/07) gives the Cuban government's view of the "Elian Gonzalez II." I'm not familiar with the Atlanta case Menendez discusses near the end of the article, but I believe his view of the Elian II is more or less accurate, though somewhat exaggerated.
Twisted Justice in Miami
The Cuban Nation
By Manuel E. Yepe Menendez
Havana's Higher Institute of International Relations.
Similar to the kidnapping of the Cuban boy, Elian Gonzalez, seven years ago, a five year-old Cuban girl is today the center of an international dispute over her custody in the only place in the world where something like this could happen: the U.S. city of Miami, in south Florida.
Like the Elian case that won world notoriety, the plaintiff is the father of the child and the arguments of the kidnappers are mostly based on the irrational policy of the United States against Cuba.
In this case, the alleged kidnapper is a wealthy entrepreneur involved in human trafficking called Joe Cubas who, under the façade of a sports agent, has made a fortune in the illegal dealing of Cuban athletes using intelligence logistics and US subversion against the island and the support of Cuban-American extremist groups which have transmuted hatred of the Cuban socialist project into a money-making business which includes political wheeling and dealing directly involving top-ranking government officials of the state of Florida in the United States.
Bob Butterworth, secretary of the Department of Children and Families in the State of Florida (DCF in its English acronym) whose lawyers are battling to prevent the Cuban father from obtaining custody of his daughter, told the Miami press that this "unusual" case is the costliest he has ever seen.
The little girl is daughter of the Cuban campesino from Cabaiguan in the central region of the island and Elena Perez a 35-year-old woman who left Cuba legally and arrived in the United States in December 2005 with the daughter in question and her son. Shortly after her arrival in the Miami, her new husband, Jesus Melendres, abandoned them.
According to reports in the Miami press, Elena, evidently disturbed because of the economic situation she faced for several months, tried to commit suicide. This was the reason her children were taken from her. The DCF took her children from her in March of 2006 and placed them in the care of Joe Cubas.
When Rafael Izquierdo found out, he decided to assume his duty and his right as a father, and was able to travel to the United States to bring his daughter back.
The mother has been categorical in declaring that if she cannot have her daughter she wants her to return to Cuba with her father "who loves her and wants to be with her". Anything would be better – the mother said - than leaving her in the United States in the care of Joe Cubas who has kept the little girl for over a year and formally adopted her brother.
According to the local press, the 13-year-old adolescent told his mother that he wants to stay with Joe Cubas amidst the luxury in which he is kept.
Elena has declared that she regrets having left her small town of Cabaiguan where her children were happy. "I know this country seems marvelous to many people but I am disappointed in it", Elena Perez expressed and described her attempted suicide in a moment of weakness amidst a situation of desperation and destitution.
"One horrible night I decided that my children would be better off without me and so I did something stupid," she declared. I am not crazy. I have been depressed and stressed-out and spent many sleepless nights but I am ok".
The U.S. judge, Jeri B. Cohen, risks her career attempting to act impartially in the Miami environment, in a legal process which is becoming ever more political. She acknowledged that the case would have another outcome in which "the United States government refuses to repatriate the child to a communist country where her father lives." She also revealed that "employees of the state of Florida" – the name given to the legal representation of a state government in trial – want the child to remain in the United States in the custody of a Cuban American family. "They would have acted differently if the child's father lived anywhere but Cuba."
"In over 10 years of presiding over cases of child welfare I had never seen lawyers of the Department of Children and Family of the State of Florida act against a father to raise his child unless he had repeatedly failed to comply with a court-ordered stipulations, the judge declared.
Considering the tense relations between the United States and Cuba, I believe that "the father may never see his daughter again if he returns to the island without her".
It is easy to understand, however, that the judge is working under great pressure and that the trial is not taking place in a fair climate of objectivity and impartiality.
Read the full article here.
Background: Mary Winkler--who shot her husband in the back and then refused to aid him or call 911 as he slowly bled to death for 20 minutes--walked away a free woman last month after serving a farcically brief "sentence" for her crimes. She is currently in a custody battle with Matthew Winkler's parents, who have been raising their three daughters for the last 18 months. The Winklers seek to terminate Mary Winkler's parental rights and adopt the girls. I support their position. Last week, Mary Winkler was granted supervised visits with her daughters--an important step towards getting custody of them. To learn more about this horrendous injustice, see my co-authored column No child custody for husband-killer Mary Winkler
(World Net Daily
), or click here.
A Tennessee appeals court yesterday blocked a supervised visit between Mary Winkler and her children, in response to an appeals by Dan and Diane Winkler, the children's grandparents.
When there's domestic violence and it's committed by a woman, it's not domestic violence. Here a woman allegedly hit her husband with her car, drove a 1/2 mile with him on the roof, fractured his leg, and drove off--and she says she's
the victim. She is being charged with some appropriate crimes--at least until her "I was afraid" shtick
gets some traction and the prosecutors cave--but there's no mention of "domestic violence."
Woman Allegedly Drives With Hubby on Car
Associated Press, September 27, 2007
HASTINGS, Minn. - A Farmington woman accused of driving for half a mile with her husband on the hood of her car and her 9-year-old child in the front passenger seat now faces criminal charges.
The Dakota County Attorney's office filed a felony criminal complaint this week charging Jill Ann Miller-Cooper, 34, with two counts of criminal vehicular operation resulting in substantial bodily harm and one count of child endangerment.
Miller-Cooper is accused of hitting her husband on Aug. 15 in the parking lot of the restaurant he owns. The complaint said the impact tossed Randall Cooper onto the car's hood and Miller-Cooper drove off. The complaint said she eventually stopped and her husband fell off the car, then she drove away.
However, Miller-Cooper told the St. Paul Pioneer Press
that her husband climbed on the car while it was parked.
"He was very threatening, and I wanted to leave," she said. "I stopped two times. He put his leg down, and I slammed on the brakes. ... It's been an ugly situation."
Cooper suffered a fractured knee.
Thanks to Mike Saucedo, a reader, for the story.
[Note: If you or someone you love is being abused, the Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women provides crisis intervention and support services to victims of domestic violence and their families.]
Below are some recent articles and items of interest from Fathers & Families'
latest News Digest.
Ex-tended clans: Divorce often leaves some family ties intact
DHS program helps noncustodial parents
Helping hand for single dads
(Rocky Mountain News
Child Support Payments More Accessible
(North County Gazette
Divorced from Reality
(New York Times
Duke Apologizes to Lacrosse Players
(Associated Press, 9/29/07)
Proposal on domestic violence policy angers FOP
San Mateo Co.: Governor Signs Child Support Bill into Law
Judge grants father custody in state's longest divorce case
Centers For Disease Control Finds Women Commit Half Of Domestic Violence, Reports National Coalition of Free Men
I first noticed the article The Daddy Track
, 7/8/07) because there's a nice quote in it from Dan Hogan of Fathers & Families
about the anti-father gender bias of our family courts. However, there are several other items of interest in it: 1) "Donna Booth, a Saugus divorce lawyer, says that...Even in divorces where a mother has been the family breadwinner and the father has stayed home, a lot of women who come into her office, Booth says, insist on fighting for sole custody."