Archive for July, 2013

Veronica and Father Dustin Brown

Veronica and Father Dusten Brown

I am currently trying to make sense of the recent developments in the Baby Veronica’s case. Since I blogged about Veronica’s case a while ago, the US Supreme court ruled in favor of the Capobiancos, the couple that adopted Veronica and took care of her until 2011, when she was returned to Dusten Brown, her biological father;  then the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered that Veronica’s adoption should be finalized by family court.

Two things: first,  I have no empathy for the Capobiancos and their reckless claim of their parental rights on Veronica. They had Veronica’s custody for 27 months, all right. Why does this let them feel entitled to deny Brown- Veronica’s biological father- the right to raise his child? That they can do it better?

Second thing: there is a real need in this country to protect children and their biological parents – undocumented immigrants, and minorities- from predatory adoptions and the adoption business. I have been blogging about instances of children of undocumented immigrants given for adoption by the family court system, because their parents had been put in jail. Native American at least have the Children and Welfare Act of 1978 the goals of which is to protect their communities from would-be parents, who feel their desire justified by the social origins of the child they put a claim on. Unfortunately, that’s a view that was shared by only four Justices, led by Sonia Sotomayor. 

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There is not much exhilarating going on in France these days, on the political and social fronts, to talk about.

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (Photo Nouvel Observateur)

Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (Photo Nouvel Observateur)

There is however more than what Maureen Dowd wrote about yesterday in the New York Times, as to whether or not “Valérie (President François Hollande’s girlfriend) can seduce the French:” a bill on equality between men and women, proposed by the French Minister of Women’s Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem.

Inequalities, among others in the work place, are real: a 33% difference in pensions, a 19% wage gap in the private sector in favor of men. The law has the ambition to approach the problem of gender inequalities in a comprehensive way: in the political sphere, in the work place, and at home. For instance, the law will mandate a quota of 20% -to be brought to 40% in the board of corporations of more than 250 employees, to help break the glass ceiling. The allowance for parental leave – 572.81 Euros per month- has been extended to six months for families with one child, to the third birthday of the youngest child for a family with two or more children. Vallaud-Belkacem kind of agrees, in an interview she gave to Sylvain Courage and Elsa Vigoureux from the Nouvel Observateur, that this allowance is a pittance by European standards. She counts on the increase in the number of employees in day nurseries “to change mentalities,” and to give men incentives to take parental leaves.

That’s in  gauging the change in mentalities that Vallaud-Belkacem and the French government flatly fail. There have been divorced fathers on cranes in France, asking for the rights to live with their children as much as their ex do. Evidently, Vallaud-Belkacem has not noticed them.  The law does not  touch on gender inequality in parental rights after divorce. That’s, sadly, a missed opportunity.

Hat Tip: Véronique Rouquier

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Jason Hatch (NYT magazine, May 8 2005)

Jason Hatch (cover of NYT magazine, May 8 2005)

I started struggling with New York City family court justice in June 2002, as I was put on trial for physical abuse. In these early and sombre years when the fathers’ rights movement was in its infancy in the US, there was not much a sole custodial father on trial could hang on to, except for what was going on in the UK. Which I found out in the May 8 2005 issue of the New York Times Magazine, featuring Jason Hatch in its cover page. Headline:  ” Sure, Happy Mother’s Day. But…I Want to See My Kids. The rise of the fathers custody movement.  I kept it until this day.

That’s why I got nervous reading Ally Fog’s piece in the Guardian, “Fathers4 Justice: The Solution lies in our family, not in family courts.” Thesis: the F4J folks are entrenched in a pointless “all or nothing position.” The children and family bill is entering a second reading (thanks, by the way, to F4J for it) and it includes the statutory assumption of shared but not necessarily equal parenting. But according to Fog, F4J wants nothing to do with it. Then we are told that “family courts can solve all of our problems,”  shared parenting has to start from the moment of birth. Sweden’s example is pointed at, where fathers benefit from paid paternity leaves, and actually take them. These blessed Swedish fathers have harmonious relationship with their partners early on, and less litigious separations later.

Sure. That’s real sensitive strategy for divorced fathers. Let’s just wait for à- la Swede institutional changes to come and exert their pacifying influence on family relations, and problems will be solved. The political momentum in the UK is just ripe for that. Who is going to be take the lead in implement these changes? David Cameron?

I like the Scandinavian social model as much as the other guy, but it won’t spare us from asking the family court system for equal rights with women.

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