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April 13, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The Final Report of the Australian Law Reform Commission reads like it was written by opponents of shared parenting.  Indeed, it may have been.  Here in the U.S. and throughout the English-speaking world, we see the same straw-man arguments against shared parenting again and again.  Like all straw men, they carry no weight.  The ALRC’s report, as regards parenting time and children’s best interests, is more of the same.

Its recommendation is that the current requirement that judges consider equal parenting time be done away with.  Why?  The one and only problem claimed by the commission with that requirement is that it introduced “an unnecessary additional step in the process for determining care-time arrangements.”  In short, “considering” shared parenting arrangements is inconvenient for judges. 

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April 11, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

It’s a spectacularly bad idea, but the Australian Law Reform Commission is recommending that the requirement that judges at least “consider” shared parenting in child custody cases be “scrapped.” (The Australian, 4/11/19).  What, if anything, the commission’s report recommends to replace that requirement, the linked-to article doesn’t say.

Legal scholar Patrick Parkinson wouldn’t mourn the loss, but

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April 10, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Here’s a good article on parental leave policies and how they may be out of step with the desires of workers (Financial Times, 4/6/19).  Parental leave policy seems to be very much a front-burner issue in the U.K. these days.

The article’s points are straightforward: fathers generally want to spend more time with their kids, when they do, mothers are freed to do more paid work and the earnings differential between men and women narrows.  I’ve said the same many times over the years.  Data out of Sweden for example, a country with equal parental leave for men and women, suggest that the author may have a point.  There the workforce participation rate for women was 70% in 2017 compared to the U.S. in which it was 57%.  And the earnings differential between men and women in Sweden was 12.5% versus 15% in the U.S.

Still, the FT piece is too facile by half.  The idea that the only thing standing between men and childcare, and women and the coveted cubicle is parental leave policy is dubious at best.  The writer, Pilita Clark, actually admits as much, although I’m not sure she realizes it.
The discrepancy [in earnings] takes off after women give birth and continues to rise so that by the time a child is 12 years old, the gap is around 33 per cent.
How does Clark figure that parental leave that never covers more than a year off work, could still be affecting the choices women make when a child is 12 years old?  She doesn’t say for the good and sufficient reason that it has no such impact.

So the differences between men’s and women’s involvement in paid work and childcare are considerably more complex than parental leave policies indicate.  Now, we all want equality between the sexes and parental leave is a significant part of that.
The British government pays 26 times more to a mother on the average wage in the first year after a birth than a father, according to family researcher Duncan Fisher, one of a growing number of men calling for the scales to be balanced.
So yes, companies and governments should equalize their policies.  Fathers and mothers should get the same amounts of time off at the same pay rates.  That done, the parents can decide for themselves what they want to do with their leave.

But Clark’s omissions extend further.  She inveighs against governments giving mothers more time with the kids but never considers the possibility that that’s what mothers want.  After all, motherhood is as powerful a biological urge as there is among humans.  The hormones that connect adults to children and vice versa have a way of being obeyed.  Countless studies and sets of data demonstrate that, given the choice between staying at home with baby and returning to the gray cubicle, mothers tend strongly to opt for the former.  They do so overwhelmingly because oxytocin, beta endorphin and the like encourage them to be with and nurture their children.  They’ve been doing that for untold millennia and aren’t about to change now.  Unsurprisingly, data assembled by researchers like Dr. Catherine Hakim show most women’s preference for childcare over paid work.  They also show men’s preference for the converse, men being the resource providers that they’ve always been.

So basic biology tends to militate against the idea that men and women are interchangeable parts in the scheme of human survival.  We aren’t and never have been.  Indeed, Dr. Anna Machin stresses the fact that evolution abhors replication, i.e. too much overlap in roles.

Perhaps more important though is the role played by family courts in keeping men out of the nursery.  By now, many men have become aware of the rather extreme anti-male/pro-female bias of family courts.  In the U.K., a father’s chance of getting meaningful parenting time with his child post-divorce is somewhere between slim and none.  Even researchers like Maeb Harding who want to convince us that family courts are evenhanded end up showing that it takes a seriously dysfunctional mother for a dad to get custody of a child.

So why would a man devote himself overmuch to his child knowing that it could be taken away at any minute by a so-inclined ex and a compliant judge?  Family court reform is one of the keys to equality between the sexes.  Without it, parental leave will accomplish little.

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April 5, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Dr. Anna Machin’s new book, The Life of Dad, is the greatest leap forward in our comprehensive understanding of fathers and fatherhood to date. It seems the more we learn about fathers, the more we understand their importance to children, to mothers and to society. Machin weaves the threads of genetics, bio-chemistry, anthropology and behavioral science together to form a tapestry of the human father.  She does so in a way that’s easily accessible to non-scientists.  The Life of Dad is a must read.  It will transform the reader’s understanding of fathers, children, mothers and the human family.

Machin likes fathers, not because they help mothers or some other indirect reason.  She likes them for their unique selves.  Her prose is peppered with the word “wonderful” to describe what fathers do and what our increasing knowledge about them reveals.  She demonstrates her respect by interviewing fathers and actually listening to what they say.  All that is refreshing in a day when the discourse about fathers often ranges from disrespectful to actively hostile.

Machin makes no bones about it: without fathers’ active involvement in the care of children, the human race would never have made it at all, much less to where we are.  That’s because, some 500,000 years ago, when our already big brains took another great leap in size and our upright gait narrowed females’ birth canal, our offspring were born even more helpless than before.  With females bearing usually but a single child who then took many years to reach maturity, the only way for our hominid ancestors to survive was if Mom could hand off the child to someone else, stop nursing it and once again become fertile.

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April 4, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

In late January of this year, Public Policy Polling of North Carolina conducted a survey of Texas voters’ attitudes about shared parenting.  As in numerous other states, Texans strongly favor shared parenting.  And, again as in other states, that support crosses all lines of sex, race, party affiliation, etc.

So for example, 77% of women and 77% of men agreed with the statement “it is in the child’s best interest to have as much time as possible with both fit, willing and able parents following a divorce or separation.”  71% of women and 80% of men said they thought children have a right to spend equal or near equal time with each parent following divorce or separation.  65% of women and 69% of men said they believe that children spending equal time with each parent would reduce re-litigation of custody cases.  And 63% of women and 69% of men said they thought an equal parenting law is needed in Texas.

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March 31, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The Kansas Senate’s Judiciary Committee has passed NPO’s shared parenting bill.  NPO’s Will Mitchell’s article is here (Kansas City Star, 3/28/19).  From here, the bill’s prospects look good.

That’s because SB 157 has a whopping 17 co-sponsors out of a total of 40 senators.  Plus, the lead sponsor is the President of the Senate, Susan Wagle.  Her comments on the bill were predictably on point.

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March 29, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Texas is privatizing its child welfare system (Texas Monthly, 3/6/19).  It’s a change that makes many child advocates uneasy.

As readers will remember, the Texas system has for years been a shambles.  It’s been found by a federal judge to violate children’s civil rights and by an independent auditor to be chronically understaffed, overburdened and underfunded.  Caseworker turnover approached the astonishing rate of 30% per year.  And then there was the steady drumbeat of anecdotal evidence of children killed and injured, children known to be at risk by CPS.  The most famous of those involved the 2016 death of a little girl in the Dallas - Fort Worth area.  Her caseworker was swamped with 70 cases – five times the industry standard.

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March 28, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Anne Stuhldreher gets it (Los Angeles Times, 3/27/19).

She’s something called the director of financial justice for the City of San Francisco.  I have no idea what that position’s job description is, but Stuhldreher’s writing about child support and specifically that paid to mothers who’ve received some form of public assistance such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.  As we all know, when Dad pays child support to Mom who’s received public assistance, the money goes, not to her but to the state to reimburse it for the money it paid her.

I’ve never understood the connection.  Why does Dad’s money go to the state that paid, not him, but Mom?  He owes the state nothing, but pays it back anyway.  My guess is that federal and state governments noticed a source of funds and decided to grab them, sidelining in the process all their solemn comments about children’s need for support.  If public assistance were even close to sufficient to support a family, then I could see a dollar-for-dollar reimbursement scheme.  But in most states, it’s nothing like what’s required for families to make ends meet, so the only person deprived by the scheme is little Andy or Jenny.

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March 26, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Recently, I reported that a judge in New Jersey had declared unconstitutional its child support enforcement scheme that automatically suspended the driver’s license of anyone owing back child support in a given amount.  Now it appears Missouri is doing much the same thing.

And the organization Equal Justice Under Law doesn’t like it one bit.  It’s suing the state for suspending the license to drive of anyone owing $2,500 in child support or who’s been in arrears for three months, whichever amount is less.  This article makes some telling points about the advisability of doing so (Liberty Unyielding, 3/22/19).

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March 25, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Certain Mississippi lawmakers, one state Supreme Court justice and the commissioner of Child Protective Services are all going to bat to provide attorneys for parents who find themselves in juvenile court facing charges of parental unfitness, child abuse or neglect (News Observer, 3/10/19).  So far, in at least certain counties, those parents haven’t had access to state-supplied lawyers.

Of course, the vast majority of parents in juvenile court are poor and have attained only modest levels of education.  That means they’re the least able to defend themselves, understand the charges against them, produce evidence on their behalf or grasp the consequences of failure to do so.  Few people in any court need legal representation more than parents facing the loss of their kids.

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March 22, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Call it Everyman’s “Shawshank Redemption.”  Vladek Filler has won again (Bangor Daily News, 3/16/19).  His victory is now complete.  On March 12, federal Judge John Woodcock issued his ruling awarding Filler $1.77 million in damages for his illegal and immoral persecution by various authorities of the cities of Gouldsboro and Ellsworth, and Hancock and Washington counties.  (The award is against a single person, Linda Gleason.  Filler previously settled out of court with other defendants.)  Perhaps more important than that award though was this statement in open court by Judge Woodcock:

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The National Parents Organization is hugely pleased and privileged to feature a blog by Oxford Behavioral Anthropologist, Dr. Anna Machin.  She's recently published a book entitled "The Life of Dad."  I'll be reviewing it soon encourage and strongly encourage readers to buy it and read it.  Put simply, it's the most up-to-date analysis of the biochemistry of father-child attachment as well as that of the countless benefits of paternal love to children.  It is both indispensable and easy to read.  We thank Dr. Machin for her blog, her book and her work in the field of fathers, families and children. 

The First Love

The attachment between you and your parents as a child is arguably the most significant relationship in your life.  It is this bond that constitutes your first experience of human relationships, shaping the very architecture of your brain and influencing every relationship you have from here on in.   And as relationships are now acknowledged to be the most influential factor in your longevity, health and wellbeing, this very first ‘love’ has a vital role to play whatever age you are.

When Bowlby first defined the concept of attachment in the 1950s he saw it very much as a state which existed exclusively between mother and child, the mother being the sole source of the food, water, care and nurture which are critical to the survival of the largely helpless human baby.  However, in recent years as our knowledge of the science and behaviour of fatherhood has grown it is now very clear that both parents experience this profound and intense bond with their child. But the nature of these attachments are crucially different.

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March 20, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke put his foot in it the other day.  The former Texas Congressman who’s seeking  the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination was on a speaking tour during which he announced that his wife raises their children, “sometimes with my help.”

That set off a mini-firestorm of protest from some who argued that only “white male privilege” could allow such a casual approach to childrearing .  And indeed, O’Rourke is highly privileged.  Forbes figures he’s worth between $5 million and $10 million and his father-in-law’s net runs to the hundreds of millions.  So O’Rourke, unlike the vast majority of other dads has no pressing need to go to work every day to ensure the kids have food on the table and clothes on their backs.

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March 18, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

The Missouri Department of Social Services appears to be discriminating against non-custodial parents in its child support enforcement policies and, more important, violating federal and state laws and regulations regarding non-custodial parents’ access to downward modifications of child support orders.

That’s the message sent by NPO’s Linda Reutzel and three others in two letters to the DSS acting director and the director of its child support division.

DSS regulations routinely refer to the parent owing child support as the “absent” parent or the “non-custodial parent.”  Both suggest a state of affairs that’s generally untrue in child custody cases.  The notion that the payer of child support is in any way “absent” from his child’s life is almost always untrue.

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March 17, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

We’ve seen effort to discredit both the very idea of parental alienation and efforts to help alienated children and their targeted parents before.  And it looks like we’ll be seeing them again.  Here’s another, this time courtesy of “Reveal” for the Center for Investigative Reporting (Reveal News, 3/9/19).  But if this is investigative reporting, I’ll eat my hat.

The program that was aired by, among others, National Public Radio, runs to type.  Its message is that (a) the idea of parental alienation is “controversial,” (b) that if a kid says he/she despises one parent, there’s a good reason, (c) the idea of parental alienation is nothing but a legal “strategy” with which an abusive parent can gain custody and (d) programs to help alienated kids don’t work.

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March 13, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

This case is a couple of years old, but offers a view of the adoption industry that we often get glimpses of but rarely see at such close range.  In re Sanford P. Krigel is a review of disciplinary action taken against adoption lawyer Krigel.  It’s amazing because the Missouri Supreme Court gives Krigel little more than a tap on the wrist for conduct that the dissent in the case argues merits disbarment.
Krigel is suspended from the practice of law for six months, with execution of such suspension stayed, subject to Krigel’s completion of a two-year term of probation in accordance with conditions imposed by this Court.
In other words, Krigel was allowed to continue practicing law as if nothing had happened.  If he received no other complaints within two years, he would be out from under the watchful eye of Missouri’s disciplinary authority.

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March 15, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

One of the common rejoinders from anti-shared parenting advocates to the call for equal parenting is that judges pretty much order shared parenting anyway, so there’s no reason to pass a law establishing a presumption of equality.  That would be a cheerful thought if it were true, but, whenever we see an analysis of actual custody outcomes, the claim is never borne out.

The Dads’ Resource Center, a non-profit in Pennsylvania devoted to ensuring the meaningful involvement of both parents in children’s lives, studied 700 cases in the Keystone State and, sadly but predictably, the results are much what we’d expect (WTAJ, 3/13/19).

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March 8, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

I’m pleased to see the Irish Examiner editorializing in favor of greater rights for unmarried Irish fathers (Irish Examiner, 3/7/19).  The piece begins with a trenchant quotation from Irish poet Seamus Heaney, who, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for poetry, was wryly dubbed “Famous Seamus” by his friends.

Heaney’s poem honors his father and connects his farm labor with the poet’s own poetic labors.  Both men “dig.”  Given the value of fathers to children, the Examiner then poses the important question,

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The National Parents Organization welcomes back Jeremy Lanning.  He's posted to our site before.  Here's his invaluable take on how to negotiate divorce and child custody.

There is a difference between those who handle their divorce well and those who do not, especially when children are involved. Often what it means to “handle things well” is to handle them with help and guidance.

As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Psychotherapist I once ran a support group years ago for isolated and alienated parents. Unsurprisingly these were all men in various stages of divorce. There were 18 of them in all. Most strikingly, there was a distinct difference between those fathers who had help and guidance through their divorce and those who didn't. To put it simply, the men who went at it alone and by the seat of their pants were in the same relationship with their ex-spouse they were in prior to their divorce but with barely any time with their kids and they were often fleeced financially. The other men were not.

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March 3, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Sigh.  Another day, another court that’s failed to protect children (The Chattanoogan, 2/22/19).

The current case is one of international child abduction that a trial court in Tennessee knew was a risk, ignored it, allowed Mom to take the children to Denmark and now no one knows where they are.

Bart Critser and Denmark native Majken Wadum were married for 10 years, but divorced in 2018.  They have two daughters, Ebba and Silvia.  Wadum apparently has long-standing problems with alcoholism that have impaired her ability to be always a fit parent to the girls. 

When Critser filed for divorce in August of 2017, he cited Wadum’s alcoholism and was given primary custody by Judge Robert Whitwell.  But shortly thereafter, Whitwell ordered both children to live with Wadum in Oxford Mississippi.

In June of 2018,
Judge Whitwell grants Majken’s request to again travel to Denmark, this time with both daughters, during the month of July. He returns Majken’s passport to her, along with the passports of the girls. Bart’s legal team objects, stating that Majken is a clear flight risk, noting particularly that the children had indicated to Bart that they are “moving.” 
So the girls’ understanding of what they and their mother were doing was “moving” to Denmark.  To Whitwell, that didn’t signify a risk that they wouldn’t return, so he allowed them to go.  Amazingly,
Judge Whitwell orders Majken to return to Mississippi with the children no later than Aug. 5.
So apparently, the judge figured that a mother who’s planning to abduct her children to her native Denmark would be thwarted by a Mississippi court order telling her not to.  He of course was well aware that Danish courts don’t enforce the orders of Mississippi courts and that the jurisdiction of his court doesn’t extend to Scandinavia.  But he let her go anyway.

Guess what happened.  On August 5,
Majken sends Bart an e-mail saying that she and the girls were staying in Denmark to start their new lives.
That required Critser to travel to Denmark four times over the next six months.  The first trip was to initiate proceedings under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.  The second was for the hearing on that suit in the lower court and the third and fourth times were for Wadum’s appeal of the lower court’s decision. 

All decisions by the Danish courts have been in Critser’s favor.  And those decisions, like that of the court in Mississippi, plus $4.99 will get Critser a latte at Starbucks.  They’re so far worth nothing.

To no one’s surprise, Wadum is no more interested in obeying the orders issued by Danish judges than she was of obeying Judge Whitwell’s.
Majken agrees for Bart to collect the girls on Feb. 6. Bart goes to her apartment – there is no answer at the door. Neighbors say they have not seen Majken and the girls in four days. Bart has made numerous attempts to find the girls. Danish police have searched the apartment. Majken’s mother and brother claim they do not know where she is. She has deleted her email account, her bank account and credit cards are frozen, Interpol has put a warning on her passport – and yet she has disappeared with the children without a trace.
Now, Interpol can track the use of a passport, but of course passports aren’t necessary to travel around Europe.  But there are plenty of other indicators Interpol can rely on, such as the use of credit cards, checks, etc.  But Wadum’s bank account and credit cards are useless, so apparently someone is assisting her in her abduction.  That of course makes that person(s) a conspirator in child abduction.  Who might that person be?

Who knows?  But here in the U.S., we had a similar case in which a mother snatched her son from his father’s custody in Canada and simply disappeared off the face of the planet.  A certain private detective in Minnesota who specialized in parental child abduction cases didn’t hesitate to say where he thought they were – in a DV shelter.  And sure enough, he was right.  Shortly thereafter, both were found in a shelter in South Dakota.  

If the police want to find Majken Wadum, they’d be well advised to start with the local shelters.

We’ll see how this one turns out.  In the meantime, it’s important to note that Judge Whitwell’s shocking failure to prevent this abduction meant (and means) the abuse of two young girls.  He is complicit in that.

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February 28, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors

Child support laws and practices are well-known for their many shortcomings.  Child support often bears little or no relationship to what’s required to support a child and has come to look more like Mom support.  Non-custodial parents complain that they don’t know what their support is being used for.  The Office of Child Support Enforcement has complained for years that states set support levels beyond what parents can pay.  Enforcement mechanisms often make the non-custodial parent’s ability to pay harder rather than easier.  Despite knowing that non-interference with visitation is one of the best ways of ensuring payment of child support, neither the federal nor state governments provide any realistic assistance to non-custodial parents to enforce their visitation rights.

Those and many more problems are all at the forefront of the ever-louder debate about child support law.  But there’s another that’s less commented upon – the rape of boys by adult women who become pregnant as a result.  Those boys, sometimes as young as 12, are in every state required to pay to support the child.  That’s true despite the fact that the entire concept of statutory rape holds that underage boys and girls are by law too immature to consent to sex.  Therefore, at every trial for statutory rape, the state need produce no evidence on the issue of consent.  That issue has already been decided by the laws governing the jurisdiction.  There can be no defense of consent.

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February 27, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, has trotted out her proposal for kids and their care in the unlikely event she becomes president.  Her proposal is a bad one (National Review, 2/20/19). 

Under it, every parent earning up to twice the poverty level would receive free daycare, i.e. the taxpayers would foot the bill.  Parents earning over that amount would see their daycare payments capped at 7% of their income.  So, in all likelihood, taxpayers would pay some for them too.

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February 25, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Yesterday I posted a piece about an article by Maurice Fisher who calls himself a “mental health professional,” whatever that may mean.  His article is so bad I had to spend two posts on debunking it (Roanoke Times, 2/21/19).  From the looks of that article, Fisher could be one of those off-the-shelf know-nothings who’ve absorbed the all-too-common narrative of male corruption and female – what? – perfection, perhaps.

And yet previous pieces by Fisher are nothing of the kind.  Indeed, in one, he rightly bemoans the marginalization (as through the use of medication) of what was once understood to be normal, rambunctious boy behavior.  Reading it, no one would get a hint of the ignorance and antipathy for fathers Fisher displays in the piece about which I posted yesterday and post today.

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February 24, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

We at the National Parents Organization try hard every day to bring sanity to family courts and laws.  Countless other organizations and individuals do too.  It’s a long, hard slog.  The healthy fight to keep fathers in children’s lives is a necessary one.  Too many forces in this society militate against fathers and the result is widespread social dysfunction.  Kids raised by two parents are, on average, far better off than are any other kids, a fact that’s been firmly established and well known now for decades.

And yet there are those who – deliberately it seems – turn a blind eye to the realities fathers face.  Such a person is Maurice Fisher who’s a “mental health professional” working fairly frequently in custody cases (Roanoke Times, 2/21/19).  With an attitude like his, he should find a different job.

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