Posts Tagged ‘Bronx Family Court’

Illustration Anna Parini (The New Yorker)

I am traveling, and I brought with me an old issue of the New Yorker, the August 7 and 14 one, for I wanted to read Larissa MacFarquhar’s article, “The Separation. Why should a child be removed from his home?” It is a superb piece about the destruction of a family, and a must-read for any parent (father) confronted for whatever reason to the monstrous US family justice system.

MacFarquhar’s article narrates Mercedes’ quest to be reunited with her three children taken away from her by the Bronx family court. Mercedes is not a bad mother. She made mistakes, like all of us, but she was not abusive and deeply cared for her kids. Once they are taken away from her, it seems to her like her life stops.

Everything starts with a phone call of Mercedes’ mother to A.C.S. (the Administration for Children’s Services), out of spite. Mercedes visited her mom, with her two kids (Mercedes would give birth to two other children later on). Leslie, her daughter, had accidentally burnt herself with a hair dryer. Mercedes‘ mother was not especially alarmed for the child, but called ACS nonetheless. Fatal mistake. A.C.S. agents are like the Inquisition. They are the ones who know about good and bad parents; You cannot question their intrusion into your life and your relationship with your children, because they hold the fate of a relation in their hands. From this point onward, Mercedes is snatched into a process that is going to crush her and her relationship with her kids.

A.C.S. is yet just one of the culprits of Mercedes’ ordeal, which has no end in sight still. They are all these actors of the system acting at cross-purposes: A liberal-minded judge, who is used to put impossible demands on the way the single parent is to raise their child, which the mom cannot meet because she is poor; Racist and classist social workers, who presume blacks to have a normal life, let alone to raise kids; A stingy social system, which does not provide for the poor, notably as far as housing is concerned. The justice system had no problem however to provide foster parents caring for Mercedes’ children with generous foster care benefits.

I wish such a detailed analysis of the working of the family court system had been available 17 years ago, when I was deep into my post-divorce saga.


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It has become a reflex. I freeze anytime I happen to hear or read about making us better dads. Check this piece, by Jill Colvin:

Rashomon (Kurosawa)

Midtown Court Helps Ex-Criminals Become Better Dads.  We are not talking of something published by New York State Child Support Collection Unit but by a media outlet,  DNAinfo.com, sadly enough.

In this piece we learn that Bronx Family Court refers ex-criminals to Midtown Community Court, a project of the Center for Court Innovation. Here they attend the Dad United for Parenting  (don’t dream, it ain’t a dads’ grassroots organization) program where they learn skills that will help them find jobs. Why is the Bronx Family Court doing that? The students dads of the program have child support payments problems. Some have accumulated arrears in child support while there were in jail.

That’s where the silence of the piece is deafening: The fact that by law you owe child support while in jail. Let us just talk money here. Depending on your ex-spouse’s financial situation, being in jail has possibly caused hardship to your children. But this hardship, if hardship there was, is past and in civilized countries there are institutions protecting the welfare of those in need. Child support as conceived by New York State laws is accessorily about your children. It is mostly about providing a rent to your ex-spouse no matter what: whether you are employed or not, institutionalized or not.

To reintegrate oneself into society after a jail sentence is not easy, even less so with a debt to pay off. What is the ultimate purpose of this project to better dads? Help ex-criminals to cope with child support laws that provide them with the incentives to do things that will bring them back to jail. It would be a million times more efficient to reform New York State Child Support laws.

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Let's Get Honest! Absolutely Uncommon Analysis of Family & Conciliation Courts' Operations, Practices, & History

'A Different Kind of Attention Develops Sound Judgment' | 'Suppose I'm Right Here?' (See March 23 & 5, 2014). More Than 745 posts and 45 pages of Public-Interest Investigative Blogging On These Matters Since 2009.