A fugitive people within a nation is tyranny.

Posts tagged ‘fatherhood’

Father’s Day – Money Is The Measure, Not Freedom

by J. Greene

dad-and-sonMen have been honestly caring for their children from the beginnings of civilization. Some have not, including mothers. It has always been that way. We don’t live in a perfect world. Enter the modern state in all its’ wisdom, where all people are expected to tolerate a state-controlled legalized extortion racket because children are the future – but mostly for benefit of the state. The state even routinely combs through bank records in the eternal vanity of finding a few stray bucks from those that dare to evade child support collection. It’s an old game whose influence has steadily increased since the free love movement, when rancorous feminists began burning their bras and politicians saw the political cache they could achieve through social manipulation. As a result, the real role of fatherhood and the definition of a family has been continually cheapened.

stress single motherIn the corporation known as the United States, the system routinely oppresses fathers, while offering poverty support to single and divorced mothers (and some fathers). They have also been oppressing the taxpayer as well, hoping and pretending to bring in more than they spend, even as they send state corporations double their child support collections. Only the light-headed politicians of the United States would think to do such a thing. Of course, these are the same men and women that fund operations as the “policeman of world” while playing “Uncle Sugar” to the world. They even continue to send China a regular stipend because of its’ poverty, while running a burgeoning deficit that the children of the future are expected to pay. This is obviously unsustainable, despite the fact that they indirectly operate the printing presses that prop up the reserve currency of the world. In fact, this is the only reason that the lawmakers that rule “Uncle Sugar” can continue to operate as they have. The nation as it stands is living on borrowed time.

Since money is the measure in the propaganda that is cast about, you’ll find that fatherhood is measured the same way. This is no surprise in a nation mesmerized by the illusion of wealth. Social scientists at Johns Hopkins have decided that low income fathers purchase a relationship with their children.

baby money“They want their kids to look down at their feet and say, ‘My dad cares about me because he bought me these shoes,’” says a co-author of the study in a press statement. “We need to respect what these guys are doing, linking love and provision in a way that’s meaningful to the child. The child support system weakens the child/father bond by separating the act of love from the act of providing.”

Yet, the child support system plugs along mercilessly despite a nation of earners that has not truly recovered from the economic debacle that eclipsed in 2008. Untold millions have been crushed, merely grist for the mill of poor governance. Republicans claim that we must find a way to be fiscally responsible, while supporting the current child support system that imprisons the nation. This is a lie pressed to ignorant people. They simply support the status quo with the illusion of conservative values. Their buddies are merely more “progressive.” Meanwhile, the men that give their blind consent can choose to pretend they are purchasing the adoration of their children, as these social scientists say, or they can realize the truth.

mom-stressThe family is only a family as long as the family unit is together. Once breached by rejection, separation and divorce, a family is not a family at all – especially outside of a committed relationship. That a single mother and her child is a real family is also debatable. The “wise men” of the nation have simply continued to revise the definition of the family to suit their needs. That is the deeper reality that the state would have you ignore to your continued peril. It benefits them for you to believe as you do.

It has been posited that the “Founding Fathers” would turn over in their graves if they were able to know about the ongoing debt slavery and legalized human trafficking that is the United States. I think not. These men were fully aware of the hypocrisy that “America” was built on. The governance of the nation has profited from the slavery and oppression of others from the very beginning with little apology, or admission of error. The lawgivers have even reconfigured the corporation to enslave for personal advantage. Robber barons everywhere continue the public plunder under the pretense of propriety and a kind face when it suits them. Your consent is your ignorance. Even governance is just another corporation. They seduce “the people” with infrastructure and social trinkets. The propaganda machine has continued to eject that notion that the nation is a democracy, the “land of the free.” Who the “free” truly are is for you to decide.

overthrow

The Brilliant Idea From Europe That Could Revolutionize Child Support

by Bryce Covert

Scott-police-fatal-shootingWalter Scott, a father to four children, was shot dead by a police officer later charged with first-degree murder while running away from him. One of the many questions some asked after the news of the shooting broke in the national press was why he might flee such an encounter. His family said it was because he owed so much in unpaid child support. “I believe he didn’t want to go to jail again. He just ran away,” Walter Scott Sr. told the press.

If this is why Scott ran, his fear wasn’t necessarily unfounded. At least one in eight incarcerated South Carolinians were jailed over the last decade after failing to pay child support, and across the country as many as 50,000 parents may end up behind bars for the same reason. This punishment is perhaps the most extreme end of the aggressive measures states use to go after noncustodial parents who don’t pay up, which also include wage garnishment, revoking driver’s and professional licenses, and taking away passports.

captiveBut this strategy doesn’t necessarily help the parents who need child support, usually single mothers, and does little to help the fathers get jobs that pay enough to allow them to send money to their kids. A jailed father can’t earn any income, but his child support debts often keep accruing. Many states don’t allow people to reduce or suspend their child support obligations while they’re in jail, so they end up leaving with $15,000 to $30,000 in debt. They also face a more difficult time finding employment when they get out.

Yet child support is a vital source of income for custodial parents, and single mothers are particularly likely to be poor, with more than 40 percent of them living in poverty. Among poor parents who actually receive child support, it makes up four-tenths of their income. But just 43.4 percent got the full amount they were owed in 2011; on average, parents are owed an unpaid $2,281.

So what could be done to better ensure single mothers get the money they need to help them raise their children while reforming a system that penalizes poor fathers who can’t pay?

black-dadThe best model is likely to be found in Europe. As of 2010, all European countries except the Netherlands guaranteed child support payments to custodial parents even if the noncustodial parent couldn’t pay or could only pay part. Sweden goes even further and has a guaranteed assistance program in which all custodial parents get a child support payment from the government no matter what, and the government then collects what it can from the noncustodial ones. Such a system seems to work — 95 percent of these parents get child support payments. This system “gets you a guaranteed minimum benefit whatever the nonresident father can pay,” explained Irwin Garfinkel, a professor of social work at Columbia University.

He thinks this model could significantly improve the system if the United States were to take the same tactic. “From the perspective of the children, I would say that’s the single most important thing that could be done,” Garfinkel said.

equal justice fraudAny such reform, however, would also have to be paired with changes to how we calculate what noncustodial parents owe. American fathers have the highest obligations among 14 of the richest countries, even if they are poor or unemployed (in eight countries, an unemployed father doesn’t owe anything). The U.S. is one of four that doesn’t exempt some portion of the noncustodial parent’s income for basic living expenses. Only five countries are so extreme as to jail fathers who don’t pay.

Garfinkel proposes making sure the obligation is always a percentage of the noncustodial parent’s income. “That would protect the fathers,” he said. “If you express the obligations as a percent of income, it would automatically reduce the amount of harassment possible.” If a father has no income coming in, then he wouldn’t be obligated to pay and wouldn’t keep racking up debts as many do now. Mothers would also benefit in the long run, given that even a poor father’s income is likely to eventually increase down the road.

stressed single motherA guaranteed payment program, particularly one that doesn’t always try to recoup the costs from low-income fathers who can’t pay, would not come for free. But Garfinkel thinks the amount would be negligible compared to the benefits reaped. Even if custodial parents were guaranteed a payment as high as $3,000 a year, he estimated it would cost the government about $10 billion. Compared to the overall federal budget, “it’s not a big number and it would make a massive difference,” he argued. Poor mothers would not just have more income to invest in their children, but the stability of steady payments could be even more beneficial for children’s development.

Strangely, part of the American system was meant to act somewhat akin to Sweden’s for the very poorest, but today ends up being counterproductive. When welfare was reformed in the 1990s, one change enacted ensured that if a custodial parent gets benefits from Temporary Assistance for Need Families (TANF), any child support payments from the noncustodial parent are taken by the state, not doled out to the parent. “That was the basic concept of welfare,” explained Joan Entmacher, vice president for family economic security at the National Women’s Law Center, “that the state would pay public assistance and then collect child support and keep the child support to reimburse itself.”

stingy state 2Today, however, TANF payments are nearly all worth less than they were in 1996 and only reach a quarter of eligible families. Meanwhile, the system usually serves to discourage poor fathers from paying their obligations, given that they know their money isn’t going to actually make it to their children and the families aren’t usually getting an adequate amount of help from the state. As Elizabeth Lower-Basch, policy coordinator at CLASP, a policy organization for low-income people, put it, “Why on earth would you pay money to go to the state?”

One state, Wisconsin, experimented with changing its program from one where it withholds all child support payments for welfare recipients to now being the only one that directly gives custodial parents most of the support the noncustodial parent pays. In 2006, it evaluated this change and found that it ended up increasing how much noncustodial parents paid and how many custodial parents got support. More states could consider doing the same, but they aren’t incentivized to: they would have to make up for the money they no longer took from child support payments.

rich guyThere are also some efforts across the country to change the way that noncustodial parents’ support obligations are calculated. Currently, when courts hear from a father that he doesn’t have a job or enough money to pay support, some states still calculate the child support payment on his supposed earning capacity or deem that he voluntarily lowered his earnings by taking a lower paying job or even getting fired. And, of course, there is the fact that if a father ends up going to jail over unpaid support, he can still keep accruing debt while he’s there. The Office of Child Support Enforcement proposed changes at the end of last year that would base child support orders on actual earnings and income, not imputed income, and allow incarcerated people to modify their orders rather than treating it as voluntary unemployment.

Some states have also experimented with incarceration diversion programs that would allow noncustodial parents to enter into employment services rather than go to jail. Texas has one of the longest-standing programs, which has increased child support payments and made them more consistent, even after participants leave the program. The challenge, however, is that there isn’t any dedicated funding available to states to create these programs beyond diverting money from the TANF block grant they receive.

Some advocates are aiming higher, however. Jacquelyn Boggess, co-director of the Center for Family Policy and Practice, wants to get rid of the system for the poorest parents altogether. As a paper Irwin Garfinkel co-authored in 2010 notes, “A serious problem with the public child support system is that at its inception, the federal Office of Child Support Enforcement viewed itself exclusively as a law enforcement agency. As a result, fathers have been viewed as lawbreakers rather than clients.” The paper recommends shifting it to more of a social welfare agency than simply about the law.

Boggess’ group is pushing a recommendation to fundamentally change this dynamic: “Taking the poorest families out of the child support system and making sure their children get taken care of,” she said. She noted that the way the system works for these families now, both the custodial and noncustodial parents are assumed to be shirking. “Women are shirking [because they] need to get a job, and men are shirking so we put them in jail,” she said. Instead, she wants the system to “stop taking that perspective and take the perspective that they’re like the rest of us, they want to take care of their children.” That would mean instead creating programs for these families that would focus more on giving them a leg up: housing, income support, employment services.

overthrow

Make Fatherhood a Man’s Choice!

The burden of pregnancy will never be fair. Child support can be — but men need to have a chance to opt out

by Anna March

pregnancy testMY MOTHER WAS unable to obtain an illegal abortion, though she tried, in 1967 when she learned she was pregnant with me.  Instead, she attempted paternity fraud—passing me off to her boyfriend as his child though I was actually fathered by another man.  Her boyfriend, who became my putative father, married her and then clued in when I was born, totally healthy, three months “prematurely.”  He went along with it, though. They divorced when I was six years old, but he paid child support until I was eighteen, $270 a month.  I’m a product of child support, and it was a necessary part of the financial picture for me and my Mom, who did not have a college education and often worked two jobs during my childhood.  My mother would race home from work, check the mail, and, when the check was there, we would go to the drive-in window, open until 7 pm, at the local branch of the Union Trust bank to deposit the check. Then she would get $20 cash back (this was the days before ATMs) and we would splurge on a pizza at the neighborhood Italian place next door.  On the way home we’d swing by the post office and she’d mail the envelopes with checks she’d been holding in her purse for days to C & P Telephone and to PEPCO for the electric and to Washington Gas. The next day came the grocery store. The connection was very clear: the bills didn’t get paid without the child support. The food didn’t get put on the table without the check from “dad.”

Despite all of this and in complete keeping with my deep-seated feminism, I believe that making fatherhood optional—as motherhood is—and revamping the child support system to stop requiring financial support from noncustodial parents (usually men) who want to opt out early is good for women, men, and the kids in question. In addition, we should further our support of women who choose to opt out of motherhood via abortion or adoption as well.  It’s time to make parenthood a true choice, on every level.

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Over the past fifteen years, some feminists have argued that ending the current child support system is an important social issue. In the October 19, 2000 issue of Salon,Cathy Young argued that women’s freedom to choose parenthood is a reproductive right men do not have but should. Her article, “A Man’s Right to Choose,” identifies abortion rights and adoption as options that allow women greater sexual freedom than men when a sexual encounter results in conception.  While there are alternatives to parental responsibility for women, for men, “in the eyes of the law, it seems that virtually no circumstances, however bizarre or outrageous, can mitigate the biological father’s liability for child support.” Kerrie Thornhill’s article “A Feminist Argument Against Child Support” in the July 18, 2011 issue of Partisans picks up this point, arguing that where birth control and safe abortion are legally available, choosing a sexual encounter should be a different choice than choosing to be a parent. She offers a three-step replacement for the current child support system. First, Thornhill writes that “when informed of a partner’s pregnancy, a man should get a single, time-sensitive opportunity to choose fatherhood.” Second, by accepting, a man would assume all the responsibilities of fatherhood, but by declining he would legally be no different than a sperm donor. Finally, she suggests that for low-income families, state-funded child support should exist. In her article “Is Forced Fatherhood Fair?” for the June 12, 2013 edition of the New York Times, Laurie Shrage echoes Kerrie Thornhill’s sentiment when she opines, “In consenting to sex, neither a man nor a woman gives consent to become a parent.” She argues that if one believes that women shouldn’t be penalized for sexual activity by limiting options such as birth control, abortion, adoption, and safe haven laws (laws that provide a safe space for parents to give up babies), then men’s options shouldn’t be limited either. These writers all point out that motherhood should be a voluntary condition. Shrage and Thornhill agree that the construct that fatherhood after birth is mandatory needs to change.

Feminist response in opposition to the idea of giving men an opt-out of child support has been swift and passionate, including from many writers and publications I deeply respect. Pieces like Mary Elizabeth Williams’ “There Is No ‘Forced Fatherhood’ Crisis,” June 13, 2013, in Salon; Jill Filipovic’s June 17, 2013 blog post at Feministe titled “Is It Unfair to Force Men to Support Their Children?” ; and Meher Ahmad’s“’Forced Fatherhood’?  Yeah, Okay, Whatever” in Jezebel from June 13, 2013  all followed quickly on the heels of Laurie Shrage’s New York Times appearance. I have a deep admiration for all three of these writers and publications, yet take strong issues with each piece. Mary Elizabeth Williams tells a personal and compelling anecdote about how her father abandoned her family before she was born. She points out that this occurred before Roe v. Wade. Her story is a poignant example of why abortion and adoption need to be legal and available options, but it is a straw man as an argument against Laurie Shrage’s position. Shrage, along with Thornhill and Young, explicitly states that legal and available abortion is a necessary component of a woman’s reproductive autonomy and only suggests changing child support laws as a means to bring to men a similar reproductive autonomy to what women enjoy.  Filipovic wonders at what point a man should no longer be able to sever his parental rights. She doesn’t have to wonder, however, since Shrage both indicates that she is talking about obtaining informed consent at the time of assigning paternity but also states that child support makes sense in the case of divorce because a man already accepted the responsibility of fatherhood.  Ahmad goes so far as to acknowledge that the system is unfair to men, but argues that women face so much more unfairness that we shouldn’t care. Her claim that forced motherhood is more difficult than forced fatherhood is certainly true, given the burdens of pregnancy and childbirth. However, that inequity is not a reason to enact policy that forces fatherhood.

No one needs to make me understand how important child support is. I understand firsthand from my own childhood that child support is often a critical part of a child’s economic well-being or lack of same. The thing that keeps kids out of poverty keeps the food on the table. And beyond my own experience, the statistics on the importance of child support are unimpeachable—the money matters. However, I agree with the bulk of the points made in the pieces cited above that suggest we need to allow men an option out of fatherhood.  (To be clear, like these authors, I am not talking about cases in which people have decided to have a child together and then one person wants to opt out. I’m talking about a short window during pregnancy—so that women have enough time to make their own decision about which reproductive choice they are going to make in light of the man’s decision, in case that is a factor for them.) As Thornhill argues, men should have a window of time to decide whether or not they are going to sign up for fatherhood, and after that they will either be treated like a sperm donor or be held financially liable.  It’s close to parity with the choice women have—and fairness is a basic feminist value. Further, this system allows for women’s total reproductive autonomy and by doing so, we inherently advance women’s sexual and economic autonomy as well as strengthen feminism itself.   Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we improve the economic safety and well-being of any resultant children by ensuring adequate state support when necessary.

This system would forward the arguments for women’s reproductive autonomy by making women entirely responsible for the outcome of their choices. Of course, for this to work, we must encourage and enable women to make thoughtful choices about motherhood and reinforce abortion and adoption as available, valid choices. Currently, we tend to treat abortion with a literal whisper and adoption as an outlier. We shouldn’t automatically make the jump that a woman who is unable or unwilling to have an abortion for whatever reason will then have a baby who needs to be supported by her and a father—of course adoption remains a valid choice, even if we tend to dismiss it or ignore it in our rhetoric. We should reinforce our support for and demand for abortion rights—safe, affordable, accessible abortion on demand for all.

However, in the meantime, we should not use problems of access to and affordability of abortion as a reason that men must pay child support (i.e., that women can’t access abortion so they have to have and raise children and men therefore shouldn’t get off the “hook “either). Those women can utilize adoption.  It has always confused me that those who are in favor of holding men financially responsible for a child that results from a pregnancy do not attempt to hold men legally responsible for sharing the cost of abortion with a woman who decides to terminate her pregnancy.  I think men have a right to opt out of both, but if one argues that men are responsible for the outcome of a pregnancy they created, and abortion is the outcome, why don’t we pursue men for abortion costs?  Especially when, according to the National Network of Abortion Funds, more than 200,000 women a year in the U.S seek assistance with paying for their abortions.  The Network also points out that 4,000 women a year in the U.S. are denied abortions because they pass the legal gestational limit while trying to raise the funds. Why do we put men on the “hook” for children but not on the “hook” for abortions?

Additionally, lack of access to abortion doesn’t mean we should be unfair to men.  We need to stand by women’s reproductive freedom, no matter what choice a woman makes. And a woman who wants a child needs to be prepared to support that child even if the biological father is not willing.  I don’t believe that we will ever have true reproductive autonomy until men are offered the option, as women are, to opt out. We will never have full reproductive autonomy if we continue to put an asterisk next to “my body, my choice” and add the footnote “but if I decide to have a baby, pal, you have to pay.”

In the above mentioned Salon piece by Williams, she says, “I would love to live in a world in which no one is ever dragged kicking and screaming into parenthood. But that’s never going to happen.” Why not?  Women can opt out now—men should be able to as well.  Then we would live in a world where no one is dragged into parenthood.  Let us come to focus on that goal and not, as political philosopher Elizabeth Brake says on this issue, “fixate punitively” on getting men to pay.

And, as part of expanding our support of adoption as an option, we should expand our support of women utilizing safe haven laws.  Sometimes people say “outside of infant safe haven laws,” like Feministe did in the piece cited above, but let’s stop that. Let’s consider them a reasonable method of relinquishing parental rights, not merely a measure for the desperate.  As it stands, in most states, if a woman gives a child up for adoption via other methods, she and the father are still responsible for financial support until the child is adopted. (Safe haven laws vary state by state, but can typically be invoked for three to ninety days, with the average being about forty-five days. North Dakota allows up to one year.)

Perhaps consideration of the fact that it is a choice a woman makes to have a child rather than opting for abortion or adoption, not something beyond her control, will help us move our support of adoption past the wink-wink-nudge-nudge stage.  If a woman finds herself in need of economic assistance to raise her child, let us return that obligation fully to the state where it belongs, and was, until the conservative state decided to shift the burden to women’s sexual partners to reduce the welfare burden on government. Children’s economic welfare should not be tied to maternity or paternity.  The state needs to stop shirking its responsibility for its most vulnerable citizens—including kids.  Further, the one group of “fathers” the state is willing to exempt from child support are sperm donors, sending the message that it’s okay to have a kid and not support it if there was no sex, but if you get some pussy, you are going to pay. Let’s not support that model.

Bias Against Fathers in U.S. Custody & Child Support

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