Women in combat. Women in space. Women taking national and international assignments for their companies. Women pursuing opportunities, passions and -- in the case of female soldiers -- a sense of patriotic duty. All of that, of course, is simply women following paths long open to men.Aside from the fact that Drexler apparently believes that women serve in combat, which they don't according to military regulation, she's right; women are indeed doing all of those things and more. But she elides the difference between that behavior and "walking away" from children She views working long hours to support children and leaving them altogether to be just "a little further along the continuum of choice over children." No, it's not. Bringing home the bacon is a loving, caring act, not to say a necessary one. It is that irrespective of who performs it, mother, father or both. Leaving a child is different. It's not loving, it's not supportive, it's not caring. It's probably selfish. The fact that Dr. Drexler fails to see that speaks volumes, and one of the things it says is that she's trafficking in the same stereotypes she believes she's attacking. After all, if she really believes that working long hours is just another form of child abandonment, then she must agree with courts that routinely penalize fathers for doing just that. Until Drexler realizes that what fathers typically do for their children is just as valuable as what mothers typically do, she's just recycling the same old stereotypes, all the while bemoaning the fact that they're not changing. And while we're on the subject of fathers and divorce court, I wonder where Drexler and the women she cites get the idea that losing your children to the other spouse constitutes freedom. She refers to at least two "walk-away" mothers, but doesn't tell us whether they're paying child support. Fathers use a lot of terms to describe the system of child support in this country, but "freedom" isn't one of them. Words like "slavery" and "debt peonage" come up pretty often, but not "freedom." And her failure to look at any but the distaff side of the issue blinds Drexler to the fact that fathers who care for children have at least as much difficulty with society's expectations as do walk-away mothers. But for her the coin has only one side and that side shows only the difficulties women face. All of that is too bad, because the interplay of changing times, changing roles and social mores and accepted ways of being can be interesting stuff. But the fascinating ideas those things can generate will never be served by ignoring half of the population or half of the problem. Contrary to what Drexler and the others may think, this is not about women alone. Women alone do not suffer the confusion of changing sex roles. She might consider the concept that men and women are in this together. What's true is that over the course of many decades, we've moved much closer to equality of the sexes than ever before. What's also true is that that movement has consequences far beyond those anticipated when the movement began. One of those consequences is that women can and should do more paid work than before; another is that fathers can and should do more childcare. And each can and should reap the benefits of having done so. Well, we've done a lot of the former, and very little of the latter. As Drexler rightly points out, our society "is easily accustomed to women in challenging, male-dominated and even dangerous jobs..." But we're nowhere near being accustomed to fathers getting primary custody of children. Aside from the irony that those who most actively promote women in the workplace also oppose fathers' rights, courts, laws and innumerable practices stand between fathers and children. In so doing, they stand between women and greater achievement in paid work. Society has gotten ahead of itself. It's leapt forward on women's rights without checking with its people to see if they were ready to call fathers and mothers equal. So far the answer is 'no.' If that's how it stays, we'll inevitably see the erosion of women's gains. I would never argue for any parent to walk away from any child. But when it comes to changing roles in the family, strangely, Drexler's "walk-away" moms, may be heading in the right direction.
Jessica remembers the exact date she first met him in the halls of Hudson High School. It was Aug. 25, 2003, her freshman year.
"You don't know it yet, but you are my future boyfriend," she said to him a day later.
The following morning, he was waiting for her at her bus and by lunch time, they were inseparable.
Kris had never had a girlfriend before. He wore glasses and was kind of geeky. She was outgoing and had auburn hair and hazel eyes. His world shrank. She was it.
Their relationship was tumultuous. They fought, broke up and always reconnected. In between, she dated other boys.
They joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at their high school. They talked about one day getting married, having kids. They first had sex in early May 2005 in the back seat of his 1997 Mazda 626. He was 17, she was 17.
She got pregnant later that year, but miscarried two months later. She remembers the hospital, Kris standing there. He looked pale, scared.That incident convinced both of them to refrain from sex. Into the bargain, a doctor told them in December of 2005 that "Jessica would now be particularly fertile, so they decided to avoid sex." But that changed a short time later.
On Jan. 6, 2006, Jessica and Kris fought and she broke up with him again. He was in love, he said, and he begged her not to leave him. So she invited him to her church youth group meeting that night.
Their friends drove, but the church was closed, so they headed to Hudson Beach in Pasco County. The other couple went for a walk.
Kris and Jessica sat in the back seat. He said he was looking out the window at the smooth water when she got on top of him and said: "You know you want me."
The passenger seat in front of him was tilted back at a 45-degree angle. She used one arm to pin him down, he said, the other to unzip his pants. At the time, he said, he was 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds and she was heavier.
"At any time do you make a statement to her about you will not have sexual intercourse with her?" asked his lawyer, Kerry O'Connor, at the hearing.
"I told her, 'No, I do not want this.' And that's when she said, 'It's going to happen.' "
"And did you specifically use the word 'no'? "
"Absolutely . . . several times."
He said he tried to push Jessica off. He said he tried to pull the door handle to open the car door. He said she slammed her hand over the lock. He said it was over pretty fast.After a delay, Kris notified a sheriff's deputy who seemed skeptical of his story, but promised to follow up. He never did. A few weeks later, Jessica learned she was pregnant and she and Kris sat down with his parents to explain. They now say she admitted to forcing him to have sex.
How did this happen? his mother asked. The doctor had told them to be careful. They had agreed to refrain from sex.
Kris, his mother and his father all say that at that moment, Jessica admitted that she forced Kris to have sex against his will.
"I made him," Connie Bucher recalls her saying.Today, Jessica Fuller denies forcing Kris to have sex with her that night. The two broke up and Kris has had nothing to do with the child, a boy, who was born to Jessica, and she's never asked for his help or companionship. But she is asking for his money to support the child whom DNA testing has proved was fathered by him. She moved to Michigan, but eventually started receiving welfare and that means the State of Michigan wants Kris' money to reimburse it for its outlays to Fuller. Kris and his attorney say he shouldn't have to pay to support a child that was conceived despite his repeated "no's." So far, the Florida trial court disagrees. There's no provision in the law to absolve a man or boy from paying to support a child his sperm helped produce when the sexual encounter was forced by the woman. And in other jurisdictions, men have been forced to pay for children conceived when, for example, they were unconscious, or when the woman surreptitiously retrieved semen from a condom and used it to inseminate herself. So my guess is that Kris Bucher's odds of winning his child support case are slim at best. Let's be clear about some things. First, it's a very common misconception that men or boys can't become sexually aroused in a coercive situation. Anyone who's ever been a 16-year-old boy knows that's pure bunk. Here's a good article by Tracy Clark-Flory that corrects some of those misconceptions (Salon.com, 8/3/11). Indeed, it's long been known that women too can be aroused and even have an orgasm during rape. In Bucher's case, no criminal charges were ever brought against Fuller, and of course she's entitled to the presumption of innocence. In family court, Bucher has the burden of proving that the encounter wasn't consented to by him. But at this point, we're not dealing with the facts of the case. We're dealing with the law that seems to hold that, even if Kris could prove beyond doubt that Jessica raped him, it would make no difference in his child support case. She could have held a gun to his head in front of 100 eyewitnesses and he'd still have to pay. Such at any rate is my guess, and the trial court's decision corroborates it. This of course is the logical extreme of what we see throughout American jurisprudence regarding fathers and their children. I've said it more times than I can count - mothers control fathers' parental rights. We see it in divorce and custody cases, paternity fraud cases, adoption cases and child support cases. We say that parents have rights to their children, but in case after case, the exercise of those rights by fathers is placed, not in their hands but in mothers'. What, after all, could be more controlling than what Jessica Fuller did to Kris Bucher, if she did? And it doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure out why. It looks suspiciously like Jessica Fuller wanted a baby and did what it took to get one. Remember, the doctor had told them she was particularly likely to get pregnant if she had sex, and she did, apparently over the wishes of the underage boy she was with. So she knew that she was likely to conceive. Then there's this:
They remained together, Jessica said, for about a month afterward, until Kris discovered that Jessica had had sex with another guy that same night. They didn't see each other much after that.So she had sex with Kris and then with another guy the same night. According to evolutionary psychologists, that's a classic strategy to enhance the possibilities of pregnancy. It seems that sperm from different men tend to compete harder to fertilize an egg than those of just one man. That means a higher likelihood of conception. I wasn't there, so I don't know for sure, but from here it looks a lot like Jessica Fuller's earlier pregnancy and miscarriage likely encouraged her to try again. The doctor's advice told her it was a very good time to conceive and she did what she wanted to do so. In short, this doesn't look like an accident. The law on child support relies mostly on biology, although not exclusively. If a child has a man's DNA, he'll be expected to pay, regardless of how that came about. But should Kris Bucher suddenly decide he wants to play daddy to the boy his sperm helped produce, he'll learn that biology isn't so important after all. He'll get acquainted with the term "best interests of the child," and the fact that they require his virtual absence from the boy's life. In less highly evolved times, that was called a shell game. And so it goes. Across the spectrum of family law regarding fathers and children, fathers find their parental rights given to them and taken from them by the actions of the mothers of their children. Nowhere else in law do we place the rights of one adult in the hands of another. Until we stop doing that, until fathers have rights that they alone choose to exercise or not, we can't pretend that we're an egalitarian society.
As bad as all this looks, Walsh"s lawyer claims that the congressman "had no more problems with child support than any other average guy.'That sounds about right.
Most people viewed the incident with horror, but not so the five hosts on the CBS daytime show The Talk. From the instant host Julie Chen introduced the topic of Becker"s alleged attack on her husband, both panel and audience were laughing and applauding.
Host Sharon Osbourne called the man"s sexual mutilation "quite fabulous' and "hysterical.' Other panelists avidly joined the hilarity. One frankly said that sexually mutilating a man was appropriate in some situations.
For decades now we"ve been told 'There"s no excuse for domestic violence.' Yet, as the panelists on The Talk again make clear, women"s violence against men is routinely excused by popular culture. It"s also overlooked by police, courts, and the news media.
During the school year, the defendant had visitation with the children once a week after school until 7:30 p.m., and one additional midweek evening per month from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. During the summer, he had visitation twice a week from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. In addition, the defendant had visitation on alternating weekend days and holidays. The agreement did not provide the defendant with any overnight parental access.It didn't take long for Richard to want more, so he duly went to court requesting a modification of the original order. That took place during a time in which the appellate court says the two "engaged in classic, high conflict postdissolution litigation regarding family matters." After a 14-day hearing on various matters raised by Richard and Marlene, the trial court expanded Richard's visitation time with his son to that which is commonly ordered in custody cases for the non-custodial parent, i.e. every other weekend plus Wednesday nights. This act of noblesse oblige was in response to the report of the court-appointed guardian ad litem Michael Perzin.
Perzin testified that when he visited with C at the defendant's home, C seemed to be "very happy, relaxed . . . [and] having a really good time." Following that visit, Perzin indicated in his notes that there was "no apparent reason why [C] shouldn't have expanded [visitation] time [with the defendant].. . ."So based on that positive report, the court gave Richard the type of parenting time I've repeatedly argued is insufficient to sustain an adequate parent-child relationship. My argument is supported by social science showing that the usual visitation order tends to result in a gradual lessening of contact and a diminution of parental authority. For Richard Balaska, that was the good news. The bad news was that the court ordered that he have no contact whatsoever with his daughter. Why? What outrage had he committed to be removed entirely from A's life? Apparently none at all. Indeed, the bad actor in the drama was Marlene whom the trial court judged to have so poisoned the girl's relationship with her father as to amount to hatred of him.
The court also indicated that it had performed "significant research" on the topic of parental alienation syndrome, particularly by reviewing several treatises and articles devoted to alienation. After summarizing that research, the court noted that this case presented facts consistent with alienation. In this connection, the court stated that the plaintiff's (mother's) "disdain, dislike [and] hatred of [the defendant] (father) was obvious to the court during her testimony," and that her "virtually radioactive" hatred toward the defendant had "poisoned" A. Moreover, the court found that, consistent with parental alienation, the plaintiff's feelings of hatred for the defendant had been transmitted to A.In so doing, the court relied on this definition of "parental alienation syndrome."
Parental alienation syndrome "occurs when one parent campaigns successfully to manipulate his or her children to despise the other parent despite the absence of legitimate reasons for the children to harbor such animosity."Therefore, the trial court found that there was no "legitimate reason for A to harbor such animosity" toward her father and that Marlene's "virtually radioactive hatred" toward Richard had caused A's animosity. The court's solution? Reward Marlene's alienating behavior by cutting off all contact between Richard and his daughter. After all, that's the ultimate goal of parental alienation - to get the other parent out of the child's life so the alienator can have the child all to him/herself. So the court accurately observed alienating behavior, read up on PAS and promptly rewarded Marelene for having alienated her daughter from the child's father. Parental alienation is child abuse. It's the intentional attempt to come between a child and its other parent, without justification for doing so. That malicious effort to deny a child the love, affection, support and counsel of a fit parent is plainly abusive. It can result in lifelong psychological problems. The trial court studied parental alienation and PAS, but didn't get the message that both are harmful to children. That in itself is amazing enough, but seems to fit nicely with the court's previous willingness to deny to Richard Balaska even the meager child access so many fathers have and that has been shown to be insufficient at sustaining healthy parent-child relationships. The silver lining to this case is the fact that the trial court saw PAS and, without being goaded by the lawyers, read up on the matter. Better still, the appellate court found no error in its having done so. Did anyone argue that PAS is a "discredited theory?" If they did, it's nowhere stated in the court's opinion. In fact, both courts seem to take the validity of PAS as a given.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Toothaker said he had expected Sayasane"s wife to testify favorably on his behalf July 20...
"She was going to testify very favorably to get him out of trouble,' Toothaker said.But if you're Mary N. Kellett, you don't let a little thing like your only witness to the incident testifying for the defense get in your way. So she got creative.
Two days before the trial was to start, the prosecution told the wife that Sayasane had killed his first wife, Toothaker said. The news "sent shivers up her spine, as it should,' he said.But there was just one thing wrong with that bit of information - it was a lie. Sayasane does have a 25-year-old manslaughter conviction, but against another man, not his ex-wife. That part was added by Mary N. Kellett. The whole scheme backfired. When Sayasane's wife heard Kellett's lie, she understandably backed off of her defense of him. But when his attorney found out about Kellett's witness tampering, he moved for dismissal, which was granted. Another loss for Kellett in a case that never should have been pursued in the first place. I wonder how much taxpayer's money Mary N. Kellett has wasted in her single-minded drive to ignore the canons of ethics and try every man accused by any woman regardless of how shaky the evidence. Her tampering with a witness in the Sayasane case should be reported to Board of Overseers of the Maine State Bar. Kellett plainly violated ethical guidelines for prosecutors and should be disciplined. The more complaints bar associations receive, the more likely they are to take disciplinary action. From here, Kellett looks like a loose cannon. Moreover, she looks like she's got an anti-male agenda. Consider this: Vladek Filler's sentencing is scheduled for August 10th. The prosecution (no longer Mary N. Kellett; she was pulled from the case for reasons I think I can guess) intends to seek the maximum sentence for the Class D misdemeanor of which he was convicted - one year hard time. Vladek has no criminal record. Plus, he's the sole custodian of two minor children. But as this article shows, the same prosecutor, Paul Cavenaugh, sought only a 30-day sentence for a female teacher who sexually abused a 13-year-old boy (Bangor Daily News, 11/21/08). His reasoning? She had children at home who'd be without their Mom. Of course the kids also had a father as well as his mother in the home to care for them. But when it comes to Vladek Filler's kids, Cavenaugh apparently believes they don't need any parent for a year. Amazing. Of course Paul Cavenaugh and Mary N. Kellett are two different people, and the one shouldn't be tarred with the bad acts of the other. But they also work for the same District Attorney's office, and that office time and again shows its willingness to try to imprison men based on patently unbelievable claims by women. The suspension or disbarment of Mary N. Kellett would be richly deserved. It would also send a message to other prosecutors in Ellsworth, Maine, that her methods aren't acceptable.
Back then I cited the latest figures from the University of Wisconsin National Survey of Families and Households, which showed that the ratio of housework done by women to that done by men was about two to one, that the child care ratio was three to one and that both measurements had been at those levels for decades.Yes, the NSFH was the go-to dataset for those whose aim was to find men wanting. That's because of the way the data were arrived at. The NSFH, like other similar surveys, asked respondents to record how much time per day they spent on certain activities. And when it came to domestic chores the designers of the survey simply omitted much of what is typically done around the house by men but not by women. That makes it easy to distort men's contributions, which those who cite the NSFH data are wont to do. Here's a piece I wrote about that very subject last year. I emailed the folks at the University of Wisconsin asking why their survey omitted so much of what men usually do around the house. They replied that they didn't know why and that mistakes are always possible. That's something Lisa Belkin didn't take into consideration when she concluded, along with so many others, that men are slackers. Now, many years later, she's learned the error of her ways, and, to her credit, admits it, albeit through the words of the Time article's writer, Ruth Davis Konigsberg.
My conviction that I carried a heavier load was validated by similar complaints from my female friends as well as scholarly books and morning TV shows, all reinforcing what has become a global notion that working women -- and working mothers in particular -- toil much more than their partners. But what we weren"t seeing was that there was a mounting body of evidence that women were not, in fact, workhorse wives picking up their husbands" slack, that there are several variables in the dual-earner equation, debits as well as credits that need to be tallied in order to take a true measure of who does more...
… a year and a half into a new decade, it may come as a surprise to you, as it did to me, to discover that on balance, husbands and wives have never before had such similar workloads. According to data just released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, men and women in 2010 who were married, childless and working full time (defined by the bureau as more than 35 hours a week) had combined daily totals of paid and unpaid work -- which is to say, work at the office and all the drudgery you have to do at home -- that were almost exactly the same: 8 hours 11 minutes for men and 8 hours 3 minutes for women. For those who had children under the age of 18, women employed full time did just 20 minutes more of combined paid and unpaid work than men did, the smallest difference ever reported. No, men were not doing the same amount of housework as women, but neither were women pulling the same number of hours at the office as men.Finally! Those simple truths have been known and reported by countless people, myself included, for years. As gratified as I am to see the mainstream media finally get the message, their tone of miraculous new discovery rankles. Face it Ms. Belkin and Ms. Konigsberg, this is not new. If you'd been paying attention years ago, you'd have known it all along. Unfortunately, old habits die hard. For Konigsberg and Belkin that means only looking at the distaff side of things. That's what got them into trouble in the first place, so you might think they'd change their ways. Nope. Belkin sensibly asks, "Why, then, the lingering impression among women that inequity exists?" Part of the "answer," according to Konigsberg is that,
Time diaries don"t take into account the stress women feel from being household managers, keeping that precisely calibrated family schedule in their heads at all times or knowing what"s for dinner, what ingredients are required and their exact location in the refrigerator.Yes, and time diaries don't take into account the stress a man feels from wondering if the boss is going to make him work Saturday when he promised to take Johnny to the zoo or if that key witness will actually show up in court as promised. See? That's what happens when you think about the other side of things. Yes, women worry about stuff that they don't record in diaries for the BLS. So do men. But despite their best efforts, Konigsberg and Belkin just can't seem to grasp that simplest of concepts - look at both sides of the issue, not just your own. Neither do they seem to know about the recent findings of the Families and Work Institute that I've reported on. Contrary to everything we've heard for decades, it's actually men who experience far more work-family conflict than do women. In the FWI analysis of longitudinal data, 61% of men said they experienced significant conflict between work and family obligations while only 47% of women said the same. In fact, over the years in which women's advocates have been complaining about the Second Shift, it's been men who've experienced most of the stress. But those are facts Konigsberg and Belkin overlook. Maybe 10 years from now they'll write an article pretending to discover those facts too. Thanks to John for the heads-up.
In light of the hundreds of articles (not all empirical) that have been published in this country and around the world, there is no question that parental alienation meets that standard. This is so despite the fact that there is some controversy regarding it. The reason is that much of the controversy is about various facets of the theory but not with the theory per se. For example, many of the critics object to PAS being included in the DSM or worry that PAS can be misused by the courts, or complain that too little is known about treatment.
Each of these arguments starts with the assumption that parental alienation exists, that is, that some children can be manipulated by one to reject the other parent.That's a hugely important point. The anti-dad crowd is fond of calling PAS "discredited." That's their way of saying it hasn't yet been approved as a discrete syndrome or disorder for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.
A small handful of critics do disagree with the theory in toto but they are not social scientists nor do they offer compelling criticisms because they grossly misrepresent the theory and the background of Dr. Gardner, the person who coined the name for the phenomenon.So yes there's a debate in the psychological community about whether PAS should be included in the DSM. But there is no debate about the existence of parental alienation or its harmful effects on children. That's why you see courts taking those things for granted when confronted with evidence of alienation. Baker goes on to sketch the Daubert requirements.
Other states rely on the Daubert standards for admissibility of expert testimony. Daubert presents criteria for deciding whether scientific testimony should be allowed; (1) validity, (2) reliability, (3) error rate, (4) falsifiability, and (5) peer review. According to my careful review of over 15 empirical scholarly studies, the twin concepts of parental alienation strategies and parental alienation syndrome do in fact meet the Daubert standards. To date every case in which I am hired, my testimony is allowed because of the obvious face validity of the concept of parental alienation.Interestingly, she concludes by saying
I have yet to be submitted to a Daubert hearing but I welcome the opportunity to submit the evidence to the courts regarding the scientific merit of the theory of parental alienation.Well, it turns out that's no longer true. Dr. Baker emailed Fathers and Families with some good news. Recently she was called as an expert witness in a custody case in Massachusetts and the court, applying the more stringent standards of Daubert, approved her as an expert witness and accepted her testimony on parental alienation. In short, applying the strictest standard in the country for admissibility of scientific evidence, PAS, well, passed. As I said, it's cold comfort to the anti-dad crowd, but the science of parental alienation is there, it's growing and courts tasked with ascertaining the best interests of children aren't ignoring it.
"When I actually see him again, it will really hit me," Danny Dimm said Wednesday. "I don't know for sure how I will react. It's been a long road...and it's sort of coming to end."Let's hope so. Dimm's sister is coming from Toronto to be with him and Timber and apparently the whole community in which he lives has been following his case. Timber looks like he'll have a full plate when he gets back to British Columbia.
He has enrolled the 5-year-old in a British Columbia preschool and has him lined up for pottery classes and piano lessons. He's also been eyeing a dog for Timber.Bartell-Dimm faces one felony count of depriving Danny of parental or custodial rights. The maximum penalty for that is two years in prison. She's in jail awaiting extradition now. Needless to say, she needs to do some hard time. She's done the same thing twice to a boy who's mildly autistic. As I've said before, parental child abduction is child abuse, so Wendi Lee Bartell-Dimm needs to be punished not only for what she did to Danny but for what she did to Timber. Once she gets out, she should have at most supervised vistitation with the child. She's obviously a danger to him and has little respect for the orders courts make. Still, all's well that ends well and Timber is now where he should have been all along - in the loving arms of his father.
The audit is intended to be the most comprehensive probe in years seeking to identify whether systemic flaws contributed to fatalities in Los Angeles and other counties across the state. Lawmakers said it probably would result in legal reforms.Fresno, Sacramento and Alameda counties have all complied with requests for records by the auditor, Elaine Howle. Only Los Angeles County remains recalcitrant, refusing to allow a single record to be reviewed. That refusal is criminal according to the auditor's general counsel, Sharon Reilly. It's also quixotic in the extreme. The excuse offered by Los Angeles County is that the records are all protected by attorney-client privilege and therefore cannot be turned over to the auditor. Put simply, that's pure bunk. It seems that the DCFS sent the files to outside counsel for review and according to them, that somehow cloaks them with the privilege. But the privilege is meant to allow attorneys and their clients to speak candidly without their discussions being subpoenaed by hostile parties. That's reasonable, but the privilege doesn't come into being after the fact. Simply put, all those DCFS records were created long before any attorney knew about them. To allow attorney-client privilege to prevent disclosure to the auditor would blind every investigative agency from ever discovering documents relating to wrongdoing. Think of Bernie Madoff. What if he, when the feds were closing in, simply gathered up all the records of his Ponzi scheme and passed them to his attorney? Presto! He's cloaked with the privilege, the FBI and the SEC are in the dark and Bernie goes free. It doesn't work that way, and L.A. County knows it. Officials there are stonewalling which strongly suggests they've got something to hide. As with virtually every child welfare agency nationwide, I'll be surprised if they don't. We'll know soon enough.
"But make no mistake, we will not relent in accomplishing our mission of performing the audit that we were directed to perform by the Legislature," wrote Sharon Reilly, chief legal counsel for state auditor Elaine Howle, noting that her office now intends to investigate Los Angeles even more deeply and broadly.That's a certainty. After all, the L.A. County DCFS receives 70% of its funding from the state and federal governments. Its legal contention that the public entities that fund it aren't entitled to know what goes on behind its doors is too silly not to fail. Indeed, apparently the county's lawyers don't even believe it themselves.
County attorneys have privately told supervisors that a judge is not likely to agree that the documents can be withheld, according to two sources familiar with the deliberations. A majority of the board nevertheless urged lawyers to fight the disclosure because of fears that the material could be used in lawsuits accusing the county of failing to provide proper child welfare services.That - the fear of civil suits - likely is the bottom line. Like the Woody Iocavetta case in Arizona, when negligence by child welfare agencies results in the injury or death of a child, lawsuits get filed as they should. Otherwise, the agencies would have free rein to act as they wish. But headlines every day tell us that child welfare agencies throughout the country repeatedly fail the children they exist to protect. Some of that can't be avoided; no one expects perfection from CPS. But we're a long way from perfection. Caseworkers are overworked, underpaid and undertrained for the important job they're tasked with doing. That's a recipe for the disasters which all too often occur. Laying bare those shortcomings and their sometimes gruesome consequences for all to see is the first step toward improvement. Hiding the truth accomplishes the opposite. It's worth mentioning that governmental agencies have a way of preferring darkness to light. They, like most people and organizations, like to operate in private. But when you receive your operating budget from We the People, we're entitled to know what you're up to. We're also entitled to make changes when necessary. You can bet that both will be occurring in the Los Angeles County DCFS in the near future. But not before a string of horror stories from the audit hits the press.
"I"ve had him crying on my couch over this girl,' [friend Ryan Fitzpatrick] said. "He was aware. … I guess that"s where Kevin comes into play, that it was really, really important to keep his family together. He just wanted the family for some reason and that was the way it was going to be.'
"He was a very hard worker, very dedicated to his family. He just wanted to be a good father and a good family man,' Fitzpatrick said. "I saw him quite often when the business day was done. We would go over to his place, sit on the couch, play with the kids.'Mengel owned and operated a landscaping business that his wife helped run. That's where she met Stephen Shappell who is 12 years her junior. He mowed lawns for the company, and co-workers report that it wasn't long before he and Morgan were having an affair. That began in May; by June, Kevin told her he'd "had enough" and would move out of their residence.
[Detective David S.] Maurer testified that Morgan Mengel said he wanted her husband dead because she did not want to go through a "messy divorce" that would likely prompt her husband and his mother to seek custody of the children.Given his powerful connection to his children (relatives say that Fathers Day was his favorite holiday), Kevin Mengel likely would have done just that. And given Morgan's history of petty theft convictions, he might just have won. In the past, she's had at least two convictions for theft and neighbors say she stole a blank check from them and made it out to herself in the amount of $300. They never filed charges against her, settling for her repayment of the money. So Morgan allegedly convinced Steve Shappell to help her kill her husband. According to police, she poisoned his bottle of Snapple that he drank at work. The poison apparently impaired his central nervous system enabling Shappell to bludgeon him to death with a shovel owned by the landscaping business. The two then buried his body in a field not far from the high school Shappell had attended just a few years before. Amazingly enough, the pair were texting each other during the commission of the crime. Here's the exchange gleaned by police from their cell phone records:
6:22 a.m., Mengel to Shappell: We ready? 6:23, Shappell to Mengel: Yep at the shop now, al just pulled in. 6:24, Mengel to Shappell: K im jumping in shower. Ur not gona chicken out? 7:32, Mengel to Shappell: OK I told him i left his snapple there. Make sure u shake it. 10:08, Mengel to Shappell: He drinkin" it? 10:11, Shappell to Mengel: Ya kinda, really just waiting for him to bend over I have shovel in my hand haha. 10:33, Mengel to Shappell: U backin out? 10:39, Shappell to Mengel: It"s done get up here now. 10:39, Mengel to Shappell: Seriously? 10:42, Mengel to Shappell: Answer me.? 10:42, Shappell to Mengel: Dead serious. 10:42, Shappell to Mengel: Get up here now! 10:43, Mengel to Shappell: On my way. Pulse?Morgan Mengel and Stephen Shappell are both charged with multiple counts including first and third degree murder and conspiracy. Pennsylvania law doesn't permit prosecutors to seek the death penalty in this case due to the absence of aggravating factors. Kevin's parents apparently told prosecutors they wouldn't want the two executed even if the death penalty were available. The three children are being cared for by Kevin's parents. On the surface, this is about the "eternal triangle" of husband, wife and lover. As happens on rare occasions, one decides to take the life of one of the others. But that's not what this case is about. It's about the kids. If it hadn't been for the kids, Morgan Mengel could have divorced and gone her merry way with whomever she wished. But the couple had three children to whom Kevin was passionately devoted. With the numerous black marks on her record, Morgan likely figured she wasn't a shoo-in for custody so she decided to get their father out of their lives. Reliable social science shows that about 70% of divorce cases are filed by women. It further shows that the reason women file more than men is that they know they'll get the kids. Losing custody of the children is the most powerful force preventing men from initiating divorce. So my guess is that Morgan Mengel saw herself in their place - likely to lose custody of her and Kevin's children. A couple of sidelights: First, there have been a good many articles written on this case by a couple of different publications. So far I haven't found a single one that refers to the murder as "domestic violence." That accords with almost every case of intimate partner violence perpetrated by a woman against a man. The facts are reported, but the fact that the crime is one of domestic violence seems never to occur to the reporters or their editors. Second, Kevin Mengel's death will not be recorded as a spousal murder by law enforcement authorities. It'll be called a "multiple offender homicide," meaning that two or more people participated. That's perfectly accurate of course, but also skews the statistics on how many husbands are killed each year by their wives. It seems that when women want to kill their husbands or boyfriends, they tend to hire someone else to do the job rather than doing it themselves. So while official statistics show that about 1,300 women are killed each year by their husbands or boyfriends and about 300 men are killed by their significant others, those statistics understate the number of men killed. The actual number is higher due to the "multiple offender" category.
I spent almost 6 years in a field unit collecting and enforcing child support. There was not one occasion in six years where I felt the non-custodial parent (95% of the time, the father) was treated with respect, let alone, fairness. That is primarily the reason I resigned because I could no longer maintain my integrity and destroy people's lives, relationships with each other and mainly, their children.Once Melissa told us of a Texas case where Abbott's office got a default judgment against a 16-year-old boy and declared him the father of children who were almost as old as he is! Earlier this year, Melissa told us that Abbott's office now had her foster son Keddrick Clemons in its sights. She wrote:
My foster son hooked up with a woman four years ago and apparently produced a child (or so she says)...He only saw her 3-4 times and then he never saw her again...All of a sudden, he gets served with papers---a "Petition to enter non-agreed child support order." He was never notified to appear at anything before he was defaulted.
Now they stuck him with three years of back child support and medical support and are garnishing his wages. He has to appear in court on Thursday where they may put him in jail for six months.
The mother is refusing a DNA test. This kid makes $8.00 an hour and has custody of his daughter. Do you have any suggestions? He's really hurting right now. The kid could be his, but also might not be his, and now he has lost his chance for even a DNA test, even if I agree to pay for it. He cannot possibly afford an attorney. Any ideas?Puntenney then went to work in defense of Clemons, and won a rare and stunning victory. We salute Melissa---Fathers and Families Board Member Robert Franklin, Esq. has the full story below. Together with you in the love of our children, Glenn Sacks, MA National Executive Director, Fathers and Families 'We Won!' TX AG's Office Apologizes for Wrongful Child Support Order Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office tried to railroad Keddrick Clemons; now it's tied to the tracks. Clemons's foster mother, Melissa Puntenney emailed me the good news. "We won!" Did they ever. Puntenney's story throws back the curtain from the inner workings of the Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General of the nation's second largest state. And it's not a pretty picture. Back on March 31, 2010, the AG's Office held what's called a Child Support Review Conference in Abilene, Texas to establish paternity for a little boy, Brody Anderson, who was then three years old. His mother, Courtney Anderson had identified Keddrick Clemons as the father. She'd identified two other men previously, but in both cases DNA tests proved them not to be the father. So she went to plan C, which was Keddrick Clemons, who was 29 at the time. That would all have been OK, except Greg Abbott's office neglected to let Clemons know about the review conference. The first thing he knew about it, Courtney Anderson texted him wondering why he hadn't shown up. Clemons called Greg Abbott's office to demand a DNA test. He faxed them three times requesting the same thing. They set a court hearing for July, and when Clemons called the AG's Office, he was told he didn't have to be there. That wasn't true. At the hearing, the judge issued an order establishing him as the boy's father and garnishing his wages to the tune of 50%. The AG's attorneys didn't mention his multiple requests for DNA testing. In short, they got the judge to issue a default judgment against Clemons because he wasn't in court. They also didn't send him a copy of the judge's order. To recap, in the space of less than four months, Greg Abbott's office had:
- Failed to inform Clemons of the review conference,
- Falsely told him he didn't need to attend the July hearing
- Failed to tell the judge why Clemons wasn't at the hearing
- Failed to tell the judge about his requests for DNA testing
- Taken a fraudulent default judgment against Clemons
- Failed to deliver a copy of the order to him.
When we got to court, they ushered him into this little room and told him that "it was over." The Judge had not granted him a DNA test and she wouldn't. The AG's office could not request a DNA and the mother had denied even a private one. The only two options he had were to pay child support for the next 14 years, or terminate his parental rights. He came out of that room absolutely horrified. He didn't know what to do and so I told him if they will not give you a DNA test and if the Court won't and if the mother won't, then you have no choice. Although you have no rights to terminate, it's basically your only option. The mother had hired an attorney to do the paperwork, so we went to the attorney's office and he signed it. He was devastated, but he felt he had no other choice. After getting back to Austin, I called the AG's office to find out what they intended to do with his IRS refund and when were they going to stop garnishing his wages, and the poor soul on the phone made the mistake of telling me that the Judge had ordered a DNA test, which had been ignored.So the lawyers added lying about the judge's order to their previous malfeasance. They then used that to get the man to terminate his parental rights. The one reason this turned out alright is the inadvertence of a functionary at the AG's Office who wasn't in on the lie. Armed with that, Puntenney started climbing the bureaucratic ladder, calling ever higher-placed individuals and threatening to go to the press. Soon enough, the AG's Office agreed to file a request for an Equitable Bill of Review. Now, in Texas, an Equitable Bill of Review is the way a party can attack a judgment when the time for appeal has passed as it had in the Clemons case. The kicker about an Equitable Bill of Review is that it can only be granted if the judgment was based on fraud or material mistake of fact. I can only say that it's rare indeed that parties attack a judgment favorable to them due to their own fraud. It must be a first, but that's exactly what Greg Abbott's office did in Keddrick Clemons's case. Puntenney says they "fell on their sword," which is about right. The lawyers came into court figuratively bowing and issuing mea culpas right and left. The judge was none too pleased with their performance. She actually asked Clemons what sort of sanctions he'd like her to issue against the AG's Office, to which he replied that he just wanted a DNA test and an apology. He got both, as well as a refund of the money they'd been holding pending the outcome of the test. The test turned up negative; Keddrick Clemons is not the father of Brody Anderson.
Fathers and Families has no position on same-sex marriage. But we do have a position on same-sex ‘divorce."
Once a child has bonded with two adults as her parents, she is deeply and often permanently hurt by the sudden, court-ordered absence of one of her parents, regardless of the parents" sexual orientation, of which the child has no understanding.Echoing the pain of millions of noncustodial parents, Hobbs told Cincinnati City Beat:
It's devastating. The sunflowers Lucy planted in the garden are blooming, and she's never going to see them. Her puppy is still here, her fish, all left behind. What's worse is that I know Lucy's probably hurting, too. She doesn't know what happened to me. I was there, then I'm not. No explanation...
A couple of weeks before (the court ruling), Lucy was walking up the stairs and stopped. She looked at me and said, 'I know my mommy doesn't like you, but if she ever doesn't let me come over, I'll get in my car and drive over anyway'...
I know she loves me. And I hope if anyone sees her, they tell her that I miss her and I love her.Fathers and Families salutes Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer, who wrote the dissenting opinion in the case. According to City Beat:
Scott Knox, the Cincinnati attorney who had drafted many of the couples' earlier agreements and later testified in the case...[said] "There were so many indications of Kelly's intention to share custody, from the initial in vitro documents to estate planning, that included that phrase 'co-parent in every way'...Frankly, I don't know how broader you can make the statement...
Justice Paul Pfeifer...was the only member of the court to agree...
"Can an agreement that another person is a co-parent in every way possibly not include a right to custody? It cannot," Pfeiffer wrote.
He added: "Once a natural parent promises a co-parenting relationship with another person and acts on that promise, she has created a relationship between the co-parent and the child that has its own life. The natural parent cannot simply declare that relationship over."
He also pointed out that, in his view, the court hadn't given proper weight to Hobbs' documents, and too much weight to "a document that did not exist" -- Mullen's written revocation of Hobbs' "co-parent" rights.
"A maternal relationship existed between Hobbs and Lucy. Mullen taught her daughter to call another woman 'Momma' and to love her as a mother. She now wishes she hadn"t, and for the majority, that"s enough," he wrote. "It shouldn"t be."Malaska writes:
The case, and the ruling, have grabbed its share of national attention and debate from unexpected corners.
Mullen drew support from Liberty Counsel, the Virginia-based nonprofit litigation and policy group affiliated with Jerry Falwell's Liberty University that has opposed same-sex marriage and gay adoption issues.
Meanwhile, Fathers and Families, a parents' rights group based in Boston, has supported Hobbs despite its focus on fathers' rights.
"Most of the public looks at it as a gay rights case," says Ned Holstein, the group's founder and chairman. "The Ohio court looked at it as a matter of what the technical definition of a parent is under law. We don't see this case through either prism. We look at it as a case of what's best for the child."
When a child identifies two people as their parents for such an extended period of time, Holstein says, it's best to maintain those relationships.
"You just don't yank a parent away," he adds.
Holstein says, while the decision in this case wasn't a surprise, it is a looming concern. With more than 12,000 children living with same-sex couples in Ohio, and thousands more nationwide, the same issues will come before judges again.
"Courts are more inclined to make sole-custody rulings, and most of the time custody goes to the mother,' Holstein says. "Where does that leave non-biological parents? They stand to lose, and so does the child.'
- A Visitation Enforcement Bill. We looked to do such a bill in 2011 and it is still a possibility for 2012. Wright pointed to this as one of the major inequities of the system, noting that "fathers are assigned little value as parents."
- Alimony "Double Dipping." Wright discussed inequities in the alimony system, particularly "double-dipping," which his SB 481 is designed to address--to learn more, click here. Wright said that despite media and public perception, alimony abuses aren't a gender issue, as successful women business owners and entrepreneurs are increasingly finding themselves being exploited financially by their ex-spouses. One of our members on the call is a talented businesswoman who currently faces being "double dipped" in her divorce.
- In response to a question from Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S., Founder and Chair of the Board of Fathers and Families, concerning how Wright's family court reform advocacy impacts his political career, Wright lamented the fact that endorsements from groups such as the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood carry a lot of weight but that there is no corresponding equivalent for family court reform advocacy.
- Paternity fraud. This is an issue which is clearly near and dear to Senator Wright's heart. He talked about his disappointment in 2002 when he got a paternity fraud bill all the way through the California legislature, only to have it vetoed by Governor Gray Davis. (To learn more, see our column Preserving Paternity Fraud, Orange County Register, 10/3/02). Wright noted that some of the problems in the system were subsequently changed via legislation and court cases. However, much needs to be done, and he pointed to the Schwarzenegger paternity case as an example. (To learn more, see our column Bill would give 'duped dads' some fairness under the law, Los Angeles Daily News, 6/2/11).
- Wright praised the Colorado child support system, which he said is based around social workers, as opposed to enforcement agents. Under that system, fathers who are concerned that their child support money is not being used for their children can instead pay direct costs for their children, such as child care or into a college fund, and have it count towards their child support obligation.
- Welfare reform/paternity fraud. Wright explained that the 1996 Welfare Reform led to a widespread attack on men who were often inaccurately accused of parentage. (To learn more see our column Changes Opened a Paternity-Fraud Trap for Men, Baltimore Sun, 8/20/06).
- Wright emphasized the importance of father involvement for children and said he also wants to do more to promote shared parenting.
- Wright discussed the COAP program, which he helped create to assist low income parents struggling under the weight of artificially-inflated child support arrearages. To learn more, click here.
Overberg was trained in social work before most social work programs adopted the philosophy that all domestic violence is rooted in patriarchal power and control. She believed that family violence needs to be viewed holistically, and her commitment to the principle of equal treatment for all informed everything she did.
Although most battered women's shelters refuse admittance to sons 12 years or older and force mothers to place their sons in foster care or be denied entrance to a shelter, Overberg refused to require mothers to choose between their own safety and the well-being of their children...
Erin Pizzey, founder of the first modern battered women"s shelter, says: "Pat was a brave, honest and courageous woman. She faced persecution from her colleagues in the domestic violence field and fought back. All of us who work at the coal face of human relationships owe Pat a great deal.'
Because of Overberg's principled refusal to discriminate on the basis of sex or sexual orientation, she was treated as a pariah by many of her peers. In a 2002 sworn deposition, Overberg testified that she "was subjected to continuous abuse by other shelter directors for sheltering battered men."
Patricia will be remembered by many as a hero...Her policy of inclusion remains in place today under a new director.Overberg encouraged Marc E. Angelucci, Esq. to file a successful lawsuit challenging California's discrimination against male domestic violence victims and their children. Fathers and Families' legislative advocate Michael Robinson, who assisted Angelucci with the lawsuit and worked extensively with Overberg over the years, calls her "One of the true pioneers dedicated to equality and equal treatment." This legal victory makes it unconstitutional for the State of California to exclude male victims from state-funded domestic violence services. Overberg"s children Virginia, David, and Theresa have informed us that gifts in memory of Patricia can be made to her "favorite organization," The Valley Oasis Shelter, by contacting Carol Crabson at 661-547-5879. Her children have also set up a memorial site for her at http://patriciaoverberg.remembered-forever.org/. Together with you in the love of our children, Glenn Sacks, MA National Executive Director, Fathers and Families
Crime has a context and part of that context is that children are "growing up not knowing the difference between right and wrong,' he said.
"In too many cases, the parents of these children -- if they are still around -- don"t care where their children are or who they are with, let alone what they are doing,' he said. "The potential consequences of neglect and immorality on this scale have been clear for too long, without enough action being taken.'
"Upon further investigation the deputies watched a video recording the male had made that showed the female telling him that she was calling the police because he was making her leave the apartment and she would tell the police he assaulted her."The woman was arrested for making a false report to police. It's an important lesson. Within the bounds of the law, people can protect themselves against all sorts of things by the simple expedient of recording - either by audio, video or both - what another person is doing. The man in this case certainly saved himself a trip to jail and possibly prison time and a lifetime on the sex offenders registry, just by recording the woman with his phone. Check out the law on recording others, in private, in public and on the telephone. Depending on your jurisdiction, some or all of that may violate criminal law. Educate yourself about who and where you can record; then protect yourself accordingly. Thanks to Jerry for the heads-up. Next up is this article (ABC News 4, 8/4/11). Breast cancer in men isn't common, but it happens. According to the Center for Disease Control, about 2,000 men per year will be diagnosed with the disease each year. Sadly, that's just what happened to Raymond Johnson, a 26-year-old tile layer from South Carolina. Johnson is uninsured and not a wealthy guy, and the diagnosis and treatments for his cancer are costly. So he went the Medicaid route, for which he qualifies. But there's a catch; Medicaid reimburses health care providers for services for breast cancer only if the sufferer is female. Men and boys aren't covered.
A patient advocate from the Charleston Cancer Center, Susan Appelbaum, applied to a state program that provides Medicaid for breast cancer patients on Johnson's behalf, but Johnson was denied because he's a man. He recently underwent his second round of chemotherapy, which runs around $10,000 a treatment, and will need several more.Apparently the state's Department of Health and Human Services has known about the anti-male discrimination in breast cancer care for a long time and has begged the feds to change the regulations, but to no avail. My guess is that Raymond Johnson will find himself the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services soon. Any lawyer will see this case for what it is - a slam dunk. It's as plain a case of discrimination based on sex as I've ever heard of. Let's just hope Raymond Johnson is around to get the benefit of it. It's a bit hard to figure out why Medicaid excludes men from treatment for breast cancer. The Department surely knows men get the disease and, since so few do, the amount of money saved by not treating them is insignificant. Plus of course it's blatantly illegal. I wish Mr. Johnson the best of luck with his treatments and with his lawsuit. Surely this will encourage the Department to change its regulations denying men coverage for breast cancer care that should never have been promulgated in the first place. Thanks to John for the heads-up. Finally, I've written a couple of times recently about the heavy flak being taken by the Los Angeles County child welfare authority. It's currently resisting compliance with a state-ordered audit of it and similar offices in three other counties. Its resistance is flagrantly illegal, but the office is digging its heels in anyway, strongly suggesting its got a lot to hide. It's the kind of thing that happens when 70 children die in less than three years after the child welfare office was notified they were in danger. Now this article tells us that parents in Utah are demanding a state audit of the state's Division of Child and Family Services (Salt Lake Tribune, 8/12/11).
Led by Darcy Van Orden, an activist who is one of the leaders of Utah"s tea party movement, the protesters claimed the entities are unjustly taking children and placing them with foster and adoptive parents because it"s more lucrative than working to reunite families. The event was part of a national protest of government abuses, Van Orden said.
"I believe there is corruption in the system with built-in incentives for caseworkers to remove children from homes," Van Orden said, adding that too much federal funding goes to support foster care and adoption rather than family reunification services.I've got my doubts about the notion that states make money on the foster care system. I've never seen any reliable data that suggests it's a money-maker for states, but I'd be glad to look at any well-done study of the matter. What's more interesting is the fact that the Division has already undergone an audit that revealed budgets that stand its mission on its head. Child welfare agencies are usually tasked with keeping families together if at all possible. That's known as "family reunification."
A legislative audit released in February found DCFS spends more than $112 million on foster care and adoption assistance, but just $7 million on in-home services aimed at helping reunify families. The audit recommended that the division "reverse its practice of diverting resources from in-home programs."So for whatever reason, the DCFS prefers foster care and adoption to family care. My strong suspicion is that a large subset of that is a preference for foster care over father care. We know that the problem of child welfare agencies ignoring fathers when children are taken from mothers for abuse or neglect is nationwide. That's what the Urban Institute reported four years ago. Indeed, although the identity of the father is known in over 80% of cases, no effort to even contact him is made in over half the cases in which a child is taken from a mother. That's despite federal guidelines encouraging child welfare caseworkers to contact fathers as possible alternatives to foster care. So almost surely that's what's been going on in Utah. The spending habits of the DCFS strongly suggest it bypasses dads in favor of foster care and adoption. And I'd be willing to bet that has more to do with an anti-dad culture among child welfare caseworkers and administrators than it does with making money for the state.