Sunday, February 25, 2018

"Actually....That's Me" - Paternity Fraud

Lecturing on Fatherhood is an emotional process for the audience. The facts of a fatherless nation often get challenged by members in the audience that want to believe they are false. The statistics are staggering. It is easier to say a dad is a bum than to acknowledge the system is stacked against fathers from the start. Some truths are very difficult for people to acknowledge and this is why we need to get the facts out about the fatherhood problem in our country.

Each presentation has the answers in the audience. When challenged, someone usually raises their hand and says, "that's me!" It can bring a room to silence depending on the subject. Recently, a topic that struck a nerve with the audience was Paternity Fraud. This happens when a mom knowingly puts another father on the birth certificate instead of the biological father. It can have severe consequences for children as they become adults.

Studies have shown that Paternity Fraud can range anywhere between 1 -30 percent. You might be surprised that the United States has a serious problem with Paternity Fraud. The Huffington Post recently reported that 30% of dads that pay child support are not the actual father. Birthing is entirely documented through the mother in the United States. Determining paternity is strictly through the courts. Fraud on a birth certificate is difficult to prove and the consequences often are assigned to the children that learn as adults they were lied to by their mother.

I was challenged at my last lecture by a mom that my research was hogwash. No matter what I provided for facts, she thought I was full of SH#$. And then a hand raised in the front row. A young lady said, 'Actually he is right, that person is me." She went on to tell a chilling story about growing up knowing "something" was wrong. She knew her dad was not her dad. She would learn utilizing social media that her assumptions were correct. At the age of 23, she met her biological father.

Paternity Fraud is a form of child abuse. Developmentally, a child is damaged by the deceit and it has long-term consequences. Our country has not responded to the seriousness of the crime. It will take advocacy and legislation to change the current status of paternity fraud. Until then, children will always be vulnerable.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Is It Time To Rethink "A Mother's Love?"

This might be one of those articles that can be divisive. Take a deep breathe if you are a mom, and think about this from an entirely different viewpoint if you struggle with the title or concept.

I scanned Facebook this weekend and read the Mother's Day posts from single parent families without a father figure or some women that are very controlling with their children. They posted the most interesting quotes that begin to fit into a pattern. That pastern is, "their love is the only love that is unconditional." The quotes tend to imply, "my love is better than anyone else's including dad."

Taking that deep breathe yet? It might seem like a concept that is way over the top, however we live in a world whereas words matter. For example, we as a society struggle with the phrase, "Marriage Equality" v. "Marriage Is Between A Man And A Woman." Another example is, "Black Lives Matter" v. "All Lives Matter." How we say things is equally important as how it is being heard.

How does a child hear the pronoun "my" which is in many quotes about unconditional love. "My unconditional love is like no other." If I was a child, would I hear it as mom loves me more than dad? Another common quote has to do with birth as in, hey I gave birth to you therefore I love you unconditionally. How do children without a mom it their life feel when they hear such a statement or read it on Facebook? Is the purpose of such a statement to imply, "Hey I gave birth to you, that outweighs any contribution by dad."

For children, they see both parents as equal partners in parenting. They truly do not think one replaces the other especially when it comes to being loved. A mother's love is important, special and truly an amazing gift for any child. The point is that it should not be weighted as something no one else can replace or provide for a child. Hopefully one day, we can move towards a parent's love. Neutral yet conveying the same point. Love is universal, especially in the eyes of a child.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Set The Example - Celebrate Mother's Day

Your most important role as a parent is role model. As a parent, you have to provide the positive example for your child regarding positive interactions with their mother. Childhood development is impacted by moral and social development based on positive-parent child interactions. Children that come from toxic environments have a higher probability of social emotional struggles throughout their life time. And the reverse is true, children that come from positive parenting usually have positive social outcomes. Which one do you want for your child?

As commonly stated, the marriage is over but the relationship with your child lasts a lifetime. Dads have to lead by example. This Mother's Day, be the positive example for your child by demonstrating the importance of mom in their life. Especially if you do not get along with the mother of your child.

Children will see your positive parenting as an alternative to power struggles that exist. This is so important for them to understand regarding future relationships in their own life. Not everything as to be a power struggle. You are the guide to future relationships.

Things to avoid? Don't worry what mom gets you for Father's Day. Just focus on the positive. Comparisons only make a child feel caught in the middle.

Need a starting point? Start with the birth of your child. How lucky they are to have 2 parents that love them. Keep it simple. Your comments will also help improve your relationship with the other parent. Even if it does not, when your children are adults, they will remember your examples of positive parenting.


Friday, April 28, 2017

"You Will Need Permission To Pick Up Your Son"

I recently went to pickup my boys at their school. They are in 6th grade and "it" happened. I went to the attendance office and I hear, "oh no, it seems like you do not have permission to pick up your child. The green arrow is missing, that's odd." And we go through the process of calling mom to ensure I can pick up my children. This has happened to me on previous occasions. I was denied my children as early as age 3. This is commonly known as Contact Denial.

What many may find interesting is I am and Early Childhood Director and UPK director. I have advanced degrees in Education and am a Certified School Administrator. Can you imagine what happens to dads that are regular Joes? How many times have they been denied their child or vetted to prove they are their real father?

In my opinion, one of the most painful experiences of single parenting for a dad is being asked, 'are you the father?" Even worse, a school or human service agency denying you your children until they get a hold of their mother. It is demeaning and discouraging. It is also against the law. Moms and Dads have to provide any public agency legal documentation regarding custody whenever there is a divorce or separate homes. It usually falls on the father to provide such documentation.

What makes this experience more painful is the parental alienation that can happen by allowing one gender to be the gatekeeper by uninformed agencies and school settings. By not following the law, resentful moms can list the boyfriend or new stepdad on paperwork that asks for parent/guardian information. They can deny access to the biological father the first time he pick's up his child. This can be a very painful experience and one he will never forget.

Throughout history, exclusion has hurt many men and women around the world. Minorities understand exclusion. People who have gone through religious persecution understand exclusion. What makes dads unique is that they can be representatives of many groups that have been excluded from mainstream culture. There are many factors that can increase the chances of going through this experience.

What can a dad do? Stay calm and insist on changes for any organization that disenfranchise a fatherhood figure. You can speak to the Executive Director, Superintendent, or an advocate for fatherhood rights. Try to educate the community as a whole to fatherhood rights. Hopefully we can help society make away from asking, "Are you the dad?"

Friday, April 14, 2017

Call Me.....

Incarcerated fathers, fathers restricted from a relationship due to distance or systemic barriers and court restricted fathers have many obstacles that stop them from beginning the process of connecting with their children.
The problem is the system is setup to alienate the parent-child bond. There is hope. We have each other to overcome those obstacles. When we meet a dad that is not involved with their children we have to encourage them to reengage the process with their children.
For some, it starts with a phone call. Carefully planned with estranged relationships, dads can successfully start the process of reengaging with their children, even children they have not seen for years.  I have personally witnessed men turn to jelly when they pick up the phone and talk to their children for the first time.

The first time is the hardest. While hardened on the outside, the inside is scared to take that first step. This is why we as dads need to help each other reach that next step. We have to be there to encourage a father by saying, "Pick up the phone, you won't regret it." That one phone call leads to more phone calls and finally visitation. There is a child without their dad wanting that reconnection. We have to work together with fathers and encourage them to take that first step. Pick up that phone. You won't regret it.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Seven Things To Reflect Upon This Thanksgiving

Every year, single dads can find the holidays to be stressful. This time of year is tough, especially when splitting your time for the holidays. Tough on you, and tough on the kids. Yet, within the darkness of frustrations, you can find many reasons to be thankful. Here are seven this year to share at the dinner table.

1. Great To Be Dad - Every year, I tell me children how thankful I am to be a dad. It is the most important part of my life.

2. Traditions - I break out the traditions over the holidays. This is the best time of the year to establish them as part of your parental routine. Cooking, decorating, Game Night, Old movies, Pictures, and Story telling. You can also start new traditions. This is the time of year to embrace what is uniquely identifiable for your family.

3. Emotional Vulnerability - Every year I make a toast, and every year I cry. That's right, this big 6'4 guy shows his vulnerability. My kids are watching. In order for them to understand the importance of emotional intelligence, I demonstrate it through my actions. (Unintentionally of course) I enjoy sharing how I feel this time of year, as I want my children to understand it is okay to be vulnerable.

4. Expanding Upon Values - Children learn best around the special dinners and events around the Holidays. This is a great time to share with your children about the world we live in. Conversations open up pathways of learning for your kids. This time of year helps to shape empathy and compassion. Invite those that are lonely this year to the table, and your kids will learn that we have a responsibility greater than ourselves to the world.

5. Laughter - Trains, Plains and Automobiles. My yearly Thanksgiving tradition. Why? Because we laugh.....and laugh....and laugh. Laughter is a part of my life that I want my kids to remember. When I was going through a very painful divorce, my kids never felt the impact, due to my emphasis that my personal pain is just that. We had much less back then, yet we had so much more in some ways. Laughter is free, and plentiful if you allow it into your life. We continue to use the holidays as a time to be mischievous and fun. Break out a game like pie in the face, and everyone laughs. It's a big part of being a dad. You are the big goof in their life.

6.Christmas Music In November - Absolutely. Do not join the naysayers that claim Christmas comes to early. For your children, Christmas starts the day after the last Christmas. Embrace their excitement. I start listening to Sirius XM's holiday channel Nov 1st. My kids love it. You should too.
7. All Eyes Are On You - Your children see you as the example. You model what is, and can be for your kids. Try to remember, even when anxious about the holidays, that your kids are watching your reactions to this time of the year. Be the change, and have the greatest holiday celebrations you can. Your kids will remember this for the rest of their life.

Monday, August 22, 2016

I Forgot To Give My Ex My Kid's Belongings.....What Do I Do Next?

Fatherhood is never easy. The burden of hard work should never be an excuse for not fulfilling an obligation for your children. Even if your ex seems like they are always being difficult, you have to take the high road. It will cost you financially and emotionally. It may even cause your relationship with a new partner anxiety, or ultimately end the relationship. Many times people will ask, what should I do when it comes to bringing things back to my child. The answer is simple, bring it.

I recent gave the following advice to a dad regarding a medically needed device that he forgot to give his ex on his last visit with his child. He lives an hour away from his daughter, and was begrudging a forgotten inhaler. He took some steps to avoid bringing back the inhaler, including involving the police to check on his daughter. Here is how I responded:

That's a slippery slope. I live some distance from my ex, and constantly forget things. I always drive them back. I am the adult, and when you take a step back, the adult forgot to pack them. Not bringing the inhaler back puts you at risk for medical neglect. Sounds harsh, but it does. To a neutral party or judge, you simply did not want to bring back a prescribed inhaler due to inconvenience. Calling the police is never a good idea before you know the facts. That call could have gone differently. They had every right to notifiy CPS that you are refusing to provide a medically needed device for your child. Here are some other thoughts. Your kids are watching. They remember down the road all the extra trips. But they also remember when they came second. You have to go. That's the bottom line. One last thing, calling the police can bite you in the butt also. You should have called your ex and worked it out. Calling the police can traumatize the child if it results in a home visit. Again, a catch 22. If I were a family court judge, I would be upset that you involved the police instead of drive the inhaler back. People will give you all sorts of advice and sarcasm. But the best advice is bring back the inhaler because it's your responsibility to pack things correctly and return them. Especially anything medical.

Nothing is more frustrating than forgetting to pack everything during transition times. I have looked for cooperation on meeting half way when it comes to bringing things back to my children. As frustrating as this can feel, in the end, I take the items. I don't care if my relatives, friends, and in some cases a person I am seeing see it as a sign of weakness. It is none of their concern. The bottom line is that I have to bring back what I as an adult forgot to pack. Your kids are counting on me to do what is right. Even if their are times my ex forgets something, I try to be the bigger person and pick it up. This is not the time to compare and contrast. (At least out loud)  Have I reacted in frustration at times? Of course, but in the end, the kids come first.