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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

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

It’s sometimes amusing to watch the mainstream press grapple with family court issues.  Often enough, the MSM simply gets facts wrong.  This article doesn’t do that and it definitely tries to inform about the gravity of the situation in child custody matters (KFOXTV, 4/24/19).  Unfortunately though it reads like it was written by a reporter with too many facts and too little time to sort out what they all mean.

Still, the piece contains some valuable gems.

It’s raison d’etre is that Thursday was Parental Alienation Day.  That in itself is good news since dedicating a day to PA goes at least some way toward undercutting the notion, advanced by some, that PA either doesn’t exist at all or is merely a clever ruse on the part of fathers to deny “protective” mothers sole custody of children.

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

It was one year ago today that the Kentucky Legislature passed, by an overwhelming margin, the nation’s first equal parenting bill.  Governor Matt Bevin wasted no time in signing it into law.  Now Gov. Bevin has taken shared parenting one step further.  He’s named April 26th Shared Parenting Day.  From here on out, we’ll commemorate the importance of equal parenting on April 26th.

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Governor Bevin’s office awards NPO’s Matt Hale with nation’s first Shared Parenting Day Proclamation. Shared Parenting Day will be April 26 in Kentucky!

Shared parenting day

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April 25, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
The 49-year-old helicopter pilot choked up, recalling the tightness in his chest, the shortness of breath, the panic that gripped him Oct. 20, 2016, when his son was abducted from the family home in Langley.
That pilot is Demetri Urella of British Columbia.  Did mysterious, black-clad strangers enter his home and make off with his child?  Did they break down the door, grab the screaming two-year-old and run for a battered but running van parked on the curb?

No, nothing so Hollywood-inspired.  The abductors were the little boy’s mother, aided and abetted by a judge and a system that makes child abduction – the denial to a child of a parent’s love – all too easy (Vancouver Sun, 4/7/19). 

Urella’s (now ex-) wife, Beatriz Dominguez-Herrero, did what anyone can do.  She went to a judge, claimed that Urella was abusive and, without a scintilla of evidence to back up the claim, was handed not only sole custody of Julian, but a restraining order against Urella.  He wasn’t even there in court to defend himself, his presence being considered unnecessary due to the “special nature” of domestic violence allegations that, for some reason, are allowed to circumvent the most basic of due process rights.

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

Just 1% of British parents who were eligible to take parental leave in 2018 did so (Huffington Post, 4/5/19).  That’s according to data from the Trades Union Congress (TUC).
A new study indicated that only 9,200 new parents took up the shared leave in 2018 – just 1% of those eligible to it.
If this were an election, parental leave lost – big.  People “voted with their feet” and either remained at work or weren’t there to begin with and therefore didn’t need leave to care for their newborn.

So, are British parents simply unconcerned with their kids, or is something else at work?

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

Dr. Michael Lamb is possibly the most knowledgeable person about the benefits to children of paternal involvement in their lives.  He is extremely highly respected by his peers.  So it’s always a pleasure and a learning experience to read his work.  Here’s a short article of his that expounds on the effects of father-child relationships and children’s well-being, both at the time and later in life (The Good Men Project, 4/21/19).

Put simply, close, active father-child attachment is associated with a host of benefits for kids.

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April 21, 2019 by Rober Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Two Nebraska courts have gotten it right on shared parenting.  More importantly, the case may be a harbinger of things to come.  The case of Leners v. Leners was probably not easy to decide, particularly for the trial court, but it reached the correct decision which the state Supreme Court upheld.

Sharon and Stacy Leners were married in 1997 and divorced in 2016.  They had two children, one of whom was almost an adult when the case was decided and therefore not part of the custody findings.  The younger child was 15. 

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April 19, 2019 by Robert Franklin, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

As if children’s welfare agencies don’t have enough problems, now comes this (Chronicle of Social Change, 4/9/19).  It’s a piece by Tom Morton, a veteran of some 39 years’ experience in social work.  Although tactful, Morton is none too pleased with the training social workers receive.  Specifically, despite making up a large percentage of caseworkers for CPS agencies, graduates of schools of social work tend strongly to receive little-to-no training in understanding, assessing and addressing child maltreatment by parents.

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

Well!  Being compared to Donald Trump – that is an insult (Washington Times, 4/16/19)!

That’s just what former First Lady Michelle Obama did on Sunday, though.  She compared the country under Trump to a child being cared for by a divorced dad.
“We come from a broken family, we are a little unsettled,” she said, The Independent reported. “Sometimes you spend the weekend with divorced dad. That feels like fun, but then you get sick. That is what America is going through. We are living with divorced dad.”
Yes, heaven forfend that a child should become ill while at his/her father’s house.  Clearly the man is just a dad and wouldn’t have a clue about how to deal with a sick child.  After all, he’s never done that before, has no common sense and wouldn’t dream of having the phone number for the pediatrician.  Chicken soup?  Out of the question.

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

If I’ve said once, I’ve said it a hundred times: fathers’ providing financially for their families is a form of childcare.  How is it not?  Earning the money for food, clothing, a roof over the child’s head, etc. provide obvious and necessary benefits for the child.  Often enough, they also give Mom the opportunity to provide the direct hands-on care the child needs and Mom likely wants to give.  And yet courts rarely consider fathers’ financial contributions when deciding who’s been the parent who deserves primary custody.

This article goes me one better (Quillette, 4/11/19).  Its author, Belinda Brown, channels much of what Dr. Anna Machin said in her book The Life of Dad.  But she goes on to make another salient point that neither I nor Machin have.

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

This brings us to the nut of the matter in the Final Report of the Australian Law Reform Committee, i.e. its scrapping of the requirement that judges “consider” equal parenting time when parents divorce.  If the number of citations to pro-shared parenting documents and commentators is any indication, the committee entirely ignored any input that favors shared parenting.  Put simply, there are no citations to literature and no quotations of those on the side of shared parenting.

That’s true despite the fact that the report bemoans the current system as “too adversarial,” which it certainly is, and the detrimental effects of father absence.  Needless to say, a presumption of shared parenting would address, if not solve, both problems.  The committee is aware of the extreme imbalance in custody between mothers (69.4%) and fathers (under 9%).  Although it nowhere mentions it, the committee, composed as it is of a substantial number of lawyers and judges, must know that the current system, as a matter of precedent, refuses to enforce orders for access via the court’s power of contempt.  Therefore it must have some inkling of the fact that courts play a big role in the very father absence the report inveighs against.

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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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