Posts filed under ‘Fatherhood’

Danny Glover Interview with Jeffery Leving – part 1

Part 1 of 2 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lwz6fy5oKA4

JML: Can you tell us about your father, your family and how you grew up?

DG:
If I’m a good father, it’s because I try to be half the father as my father was. I had a father who I thought was a prince. Even though at times we disappointed him in terms of what we did as teenagers, as kids with all that energy. But for the most part, I just thought when I sit down and analyze what he gave me – the sense of comfort, the sense of safety that he gave me.

I knew that he wasn’t a big man, I’m a foot taller than my father but the sense of presence, and the way he took on his responsibilities of caring for the family – all those things I was able to take into fatherhood. And hopefully, even though some things I think I could have done differently, hopefully those had some sort of impact on my daughter.  And our relationship is a testimony that it’s had an impact on her.

DG:
That’s only because my father was there in the household and my mother was there. We had a unit as a family with 5 children and mother and father and we did things as a family. We traveled on vacation as a family. There was the concept that the family took precedence over me the individual. So we all had and took on responsibility whether it was the upkeep of the house or whether it’s the cooking of the meals and all the other kind of things and I think what it did was give me another sensibility.

So since there were 4 boys and 1 girl, there was no gender preference given to the boys in terms of responsibility. The boys washed dishes, the boys ironed clothes, the boys cooked – every one of them knew how to do all of that. I think those were important because in a sense that’s the images I saw in my parents. My father cooked, he washed clothes, he ironed, he did all those things – he took on that. My mother was a Cub Scout Mother. When we lived in the projects when I was a little boy, my father was my youngest brother’s Boy Scout Den Father when we lived in a house. So I applaud them in creating the sense of normalcy and the consistency in which they maintained that.

JML:
You’re fortunate because you grew up in a stable family where your parents were together and they raised you as a teen and you had a great dad. You had an excellent father.

DG:
I had a great mom and a great dad and I think they made each other the best that they could be. I had one of those mothers who had the most glorious smile that you ever want to see and yet she was a woman of magnitude. She was the president of the local chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, she knew Dr. Dorothy Hite well, she was the first in her family in rural Georgia to graduate from college. So she was a woman going somewhere. And she happened to pick one of the most gentle men, one of the most beautiful men I ever met in my life – my dad.

JML:
I mean that’s great, as a divorce lawyer and as a fathers’ rights attorney, I’m a big supporter of children having two parents. And when we were growing up, a lot of children had two parents.

DG:
Absolutely, absolutely.

JML:
Unfortunately it’s changed a lot and a lot of fathers get kicked to the curb and children suffer. And I’ve represented a lot of good dads struggling to be there for their children and the system kicks them out. But fortunately for us we grew up in a different time.

DG:
Yeah!  I’m 62 years old so I grew up in a time when it meant something to get in the car and the family go on a Sunday drive down the coast – I grew up in San Francisco – so we’d go an hour down the coast as a family and stop by a little, local hamburger/French fry place – that’s a cravat right there, there was the real thing about that. We’d have some hamburgers and French fries as a family and I loved that and I remember that so vividly in my mind, you know, with my parents. And it could be a way in which they were saying, “Okay, let’s as a family do something.”

We don’t have a lot of money; we weren’t blessed with a lot of money. My parents went from paycheck to paycheck all their entire time that I lived with them. And after I moved out of the house. But there was this sense of doing something that felt so and remarkably wonderful as a family. And I lost a sister, lost a brother to rheumatory arthritis, colon cancer to my sister. But I tell you – my younger brothers that are much younger that I am and I are very very close.

JML:
Oh, that’s great. I wrote this book, Fathers’ Rights and in it on pages 46 and 47, I listed a lot of statistics on how father absence effects in children and the most reliable predictor of crime in America is father absence. It says right here, 72% of all teenage murderers grew up without fathers. The absence of a biological father increases by 900% a daughter’s vulnerability to rape and sexual abuse. And these assaults are not often committed by the dads, it’s committed by boyfriends of the custodial parents. These are the statistics that are somewhat new to our society.

DG:
I agree with you to some extent, but there are other factors that happen within a family, within the communal structure than just those particular statistics which apply to the individual. What are the social conditions? What is the stress level of the mother? What other kind of support mechanism does she have around? Where are the uncles around there to help raise those children? Where are the aunts around to help raise those girls? A lot of other factors that go into that. To say that the numbers, of course, when we take the fact that 2 million men and women incarcerated in this country. Those numbers who suggest that, but I think that there are a lot of other dynamics around the maintenance of a family. The laws and regulations and communities are family-friendly that create the kind of atmosphere as well in support.
The fact is they say that if you can’t love the one you want, love the one you’re with. We found that in most cases, when those single boys – and I’ve been in those situations – and those boys in those relationships where there’s someone who cares, where there’s someone there. He may be a father figure; he may be a father himself. But there’s someone who cares. And those girls are with people who care about them and care about who they are. Amazing things happening.

And sometimes in the 21st century, given all the kinds of dynamics that happen. In the last part of the 20th century, people were very mobile. They moved from place to place. They went from job to job as opposed to the first part of the 20th century. The last part of the 20th century, people become mobile and that has an impact on whatever the social dynamics among the family and the community itself. And also, the structures that employ us, remember – you take a place like Detroit. Detroit was one of the first places in this country as black people after the invention of the cotton picking machine in 1944 – black people were free from the land. 100% of the cotton was picked by hand in 1944, within 25 years 100% of the cotton was picked my machine. So black people moved, migrated. 5 million black people moved out of the South, to the North. All kinds of family disruptions. So almost a quarter of the black population moved in transit to find work.

They came to places like Detroit, got jobs – good jobs. Low skill jobs, good paying jobs. They built homes, raised families all over the country. Then those cities became de-industrialized. Those jobs went over seas to cheaper labor. Continued, we see it today. They went to some other place, for cheaper labor. Therefore are many losses: tax based. They lost a sense of self. They lost their sense of identity. Upon losing that sense of identity you have what you have now. Those are the kind of ideas that we cannot simply; we must incorporate any analysis of those things that have happened. That’s real history. That’s real history that’s right in front of my eyes.

My dad had a job, he retired from a job after 31 years. My mother when she passed away was still working. They had a job and everything else. They were able to build a family. We moved from the projects, I lived in the projects, the housing projects until I was 11 years old. We moved from there, we bought a home.

Every one of us got into problems; yes we did things as kids. But I remember when my dad came down into that police station and said after I had done something and came in and picked me up and said, “Son, I am disappointed in you.”

I’m towering over him now, I’m 6’2”, I am towering over him. “Son, I am so disappointed in you.”

That has meaning to me. That had meaning to me because of their life. That had meaning to me because of all the things that have happened. And that was the last time I had been involved in anything like that. I’ve been arrested for doing other things like for protesting something or sitting in or something like that. But it’s the last thing. Those are the kind of things I think of enforcedly. I know that now. I got a 5 year old grandson whose father is not there. I know that I have to tell him everyday that he is the most important person in my life. I have to tell him every day that I love him. I have to tell him that everyday, the best job that I have, the best job in the world for me is to being your grandfather – and everything else. Your dad may not be here, but you know what, I’m here. That kind of infrastructure, that kind of support will give him a shot! Give him a chance, you know. Somebody loves me. And maybe it’s nice that I love myself as well.

JML:
I see.

 

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May 1, 2009 at 7:17 pm 1 comment

Interview with President Barack Obama – on Responsible Fatherhood

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Interview with President Barack Obama

Then Senator Barack Obama appeared as a guest on the Jeffery Leving Fathers’ Rights Legal Show on SOUL 106.3 FM – Chicago/Indiana.  Here is a transcript of the interview where they discuss the importance of responsible fatherhood:

Jeffery M. Leving
:
Senator Barack Obama

President Obama: Yes, sir!

JML: How are you doing? It’s an honor to talk to you. I actually met you at an NAACP event Vera Davis put on in Chicago years ago.

President Obama: Well it’s wonderful to talk to you again.

JML: This is Jeffery Leving with the Jeffery Leving Fathers’ Rights Legal Show today. And today we are honored to have as our guest Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama.

Senator, I was reading your website, BarackObama.com/family and I was reading about Strengthening Fatherhood and Families and in your website, you talk about fatherless children and how they are more likely to end up in poverty and drop out of school and I also read your Responsible Fatherhood & Healthy Families Act.

And I think that’s tremendous and it can help a lot of children and families. What motivated you to re-introduce the Responsible Fatherhood & Healthy Families Act?

President Obama: Well, Jeffery as you know my father left me when I was 2. I remember watching my mom struggle as a single parent, trying to go to school and work and raise 2 kids at the same time – and fortunately she has support from my grandparents but a lot of single moms don’t have that.

And unfortunately although many of them do heroic jobs – it is true that statistically; children without fathers involved their lives are more likely to experience poverty, more likely their girls to get pregnant as teenagers, they’re more likely to have problems at school and so I really believe that it’s important for us in all communities but especially the African American Community – which has seen such as problem with lack of men and male involvement in family life that we really put an emphasize on this.

And this is something that the government can help to make sure that we don’t have a dis-incentive for fathers to be involved; make sure that our welfare programs for example are designed in such a way that they don’t penalize fathers participating.

I think we got to do a real good job trying to reintroduce males who’ve been involved in the criminal justice system as ex-offenders – giving them the opportunity so that they are able to support their families, find work, get on the right path – but ultimately there’s a lot of personal responsibility that’s involved in this. And one of the things I want to do as president is to use the bully pulpit to say to men, “You’ve to get involved in your child’s life. It will make a difference not only in their lives but in yours.”

JML: I agree with you 100%. We need to support and involve fatherhood. I also believe, to do this, we have to change the way the world views dads – and fathers are an untapped resource and I believe by involving fathers in positive relationships with their children, that will reduce youth violence which is affecting our country terribly, especially in Chicago where we’re from.

So we need to do this and justice shouldn’t be a luxury and many fathers don’t have the resources to seek legal counsel, to involve themselves in their children’s lives and they don’t have even basic knowledge – so your bill is excellent.

I’m a big supporter of it because I think the bill will help many many children throughout our country – because millions of children are father-absent in the United States and because of that, they are living in poverty and they can escape poverty by this bill coming law.

How do we keep crime down in the United States? We know that involving fathers and positive relationships with their children is one solution. But what are other solutions to keeping crime down and fighting youth violence?

We also have to have after school and summer school to give positive alternatives to our youth. And if we invest in early childhood education, studies show that every dollar we invest there we see improvements in reading scores reduced dropout rates, and reduced delinquencies. So giving young people positive things to do and investing in more police on the street the better off we are going to be.

Alright Jeffery, thank you so much for having me.

JML: Thank you for being on my show, I appreciate your time.

President Obama: Thank you so much – take care.

To listen to the archived interview, please visit: www.DadsRights.com

March 12, 2009 at 5:23 pm 1 comment

Dad’s Talk with Jeffery Leving

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American Society has declared war on crime. All wars generate collateral damage and, in this case, the damage consists of families of those who bear the burden of the public’s wrath with crime. This is particularly true of the most vulnerable and defenseless members of society – the children of imprisoned men. These children, through not fault of their own, are often denied spiritual and emotional nurture by their fathers. Never forget: incarcerated fathers are parents, too. Fathers are not “social accidents” as many people have been incorrectly taught due to negative male-stereotyping.

As an advocate for fathers’ rights for over two decades, I’ve long understood that positive father involvement is vital to the stability of our society because fatherless children pose a high risk for addiction and crime, as documented in my book “Fathers’ Rights.” Children are the future of our society, and this is no less true of the children of incarcerated men. Children of incarcerated parents should not be abondoned. Their positive parental relationships require support to break the cycle of criminality caused by father absence. The most reliable predictor of crime is neither poverty nor race, but growing up fatherless.

Several years ago I represented an incarcerated father I will call Bob. Bob became embroiled in a divorce and visitation dispute that was as bitter as it was high-profile. Yet I was able to reunite him with his children and keep him connected to them while incarcerated. This required aggressive and strategic litigation on my part, but it was worth it. I pursued visitation for Bob and did not give up until he had it. The court even ordered specific dates and times for phone visitation. Upon release, he was reunited with his family.

Obviously, visitation is more difficult for incarcerated fathers. However, it is possible. Often a letter from a law office motivates reluctant caregivers to let fathers back into their children’s lives so bitter legal battles can be avoided. But, sometimes they are necessary. My goal is never to use the law to make mothers’ lives miserable, but to maximize positive father contact for the child. In Bob’s case, I had to fight hard. Successful litigation kept this father connected with his kids and he lives with them now.

A critical reason for maintaining visitation, even if only by phone, is to attempt to prevent the possible termination of parental rights. One possible problem for incarcerated fathers is the threat of court-ordered termination of parental rights in an adoption. Failure to write, telephone or otherwise communicate or take an interest in his children can constitute a basis to attempt to terminate those rights. This sets the stage for adoption of his children.

If you feel your parental rights may be threatened, familiarize yourself with the laws of your state and, if it becomes necessary, find a family law attorney in your state to protect those rights. More importantly, make sure you educate yourself in the art and craft of parenthood. The law can be hard on incarcerated dads; it’s harder on those who give up.

I believe many incarcerated men are ready, willing and able to contribute to their children’s lives. There is a significant social cost to a narrowly punitive policy, which may not take account of the needs of the children of incarcerated fathers. If we recognize and change this policy, we may achieve a reduction of crime without requiring new taxes by simply promoting positive father-child involvement.

And in a similar vein, incarcerated fathers need to understand and protect their parental legal rights. Incarcerated fathers are parents, too.

Jeffery M. Leving is one of this country’s leading family law attorneys and the co-author of the Illinois Joint Custody Law. His book, “Father’s Rights” on which these columns are based, is regarded as a definitive work on this important subject.

March 3, 2009 at 10:08 pm Leave a comment

Not the Era of the Deadbeat Dad but the Era of the Hero Father

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By: Jeffery M. Leving & Glenn Sacks
Fatherhood has changed dramatically in the era of divorce and out of wedlock births, and much attention has been paid to two unfortunate products of this era—the absent father and the deadbeat dad. However, there is another type of father this era has produced, one which has received very little attention—the hero father.

According to the Children’s Rights Council, a Washington-based advocacy group, more than five million American children each year have their access to their noncustodial parents interfered with or blocked by custodial parents. Behind that statistic are legions of heroic divorced or separated fathers who fight a long, hard but generally unrecognized battle to remain a meaningful part of the lives of the children who love them and need them.

Some hero fathers move repeatedly to be near their children. In the controversial case of DeBrenes v. Traub, Eric Traub had already moved to new cities twice in order to be near his daughter when he was forced to conduct a lengthy and expensive legal struggle to prevent her from being moved to Costa Rica. As is typical, the court allowed the move. Traub’s determination paid off, however, as the now teenaged girl became so set against the move that her mother, to her credit, dropped the request.

Most fathers are not so fortunate. In a recent California Supreme Court case, Gary LaMusga, who operates a business in Northern California, fought for eight years to prevent his two young sons from being moved to Ohio, 2,000 miles away. He eventually won, but his victory was a pyrrhic one because his children had already been moved out of state in violation of court orders. In the strange world of modern family law, even with the new decision his children will not be moved back.

While divorced dads are unfairly stigmatized as stingy, some noncustodial fathers raise their children in their homes but still pay child support to the children’s mothers. Many others never ask for child support. In the face of a family court system which usually grants mothers a monopoly of power over children, these fathers must buy or rent their children back. When mothers allow their children to live with their fathers—or send them there because they’ve become unruly or inconvenient—fathers often won’t challenge custodial and financial arrangements because they fear doing so will mean they’ll be pushed out of their children’s lives.

Other fathers endure physical abuse at the hands of their wives but remain in the relationships because they know that divorce will leave their children alone in the custody—usually sole custody—of an abuser. Decades of research show that women are as likely to abuse their male partners as vice versa, and that heterosexual men make up a significant minority of those suffering injuries in domestic assaults. However, gender politics has kept this research from influencing government and law enforcement policies. Many men know that revealing their wives’ violence usually means the wife will claim that she was abused, and the system will side with her. Fathers are commonly arrested, punished or slapped with custody sanctions for their wives’ violence.

In one highly publicized case, Dr. Xavier Caro, a Northridge, California rheumatologist, endured years of physical abuse at the hands of his wife Socorro, who once assaulted him so badly he had to have surgery to regain his sight in one eye. Xavier stayed in the relationship for the sake of his kids but his efforts failed, as Socorro later shot and killed three of their four children.

Some fathers face false charges of domestic violence or sexual abuse, which are commonly used as custody maneuvers in divorce. Those most vulnerable to these charges are dads who are their children’s primary caregivers. Such charges are often made to separate these dads from their children so a new custody precedent can be set with mothers as the primary caregivers.

Falsely accused men often bankrupt themselves fighting to regain access to their children. Meanwhile, many can only see their children in nightmarish visitation centers where fathers are treated like criminals.

Over the past several decades the love and devotion of millions of fathers has been tested in ways few in previous generations experienced.

This column was first published in the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (6/19/05).

Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys. He is the author of the book Fathers’ Rights: Hard-hitting and Fair Advice for Every Father Involved in a Custody Dispute.  His website is www.dadsrights.com.

Glenn Sacks is a men’s and fathers’ issues columnist. His columns have appeared in dozens of America’s largest newspapers.

March 2, 2009 at 9:17 pm 1 comment


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