Posts tagged ‘Father Absence’

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.

 

May 1, 2009 at 7:17 pm 1 comment

New Law Would Help Keep Dads in the Picture

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Representative Gerald Mitchell’s pro-child House Bill 2491 easily passed the House of Representatives in a landslide vote of 77 to 23. This legislation can help many fathers remain an active part in their children’s lives, as it would allow non-custodial spouses (who are generally fathers) the right to object to the other spouse’s removal of the children of more than 100 mils away within the state. Such a bill is important as many child relocations are motivated by hate and parental alienation, thereby leaving child causalities throughout the state.

Bill 2491 tells me that our legislators may realize the psychological benefits to “children of divorce” in having two parents instead of one. Our legal system, which allows parents to divorce the children from the “other” (non-custodial) parent. The future of our society depends on it, as the United States is now the world’s leader in fatherless families.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 18 million U.S. children now live in single-parent homes. Only 3.5 percent of these children live with their fathers. That means we have 17.4 Illinois children growing up without full-time fathers or who are completely fatherless. The bottom line is fathers are vanishing from the social landscape and as demonstrated by the following facts outlined in my new book, “Fathers’ Rights”, the importance of pro-child legislation is necessary to protect our society.

+ Children who live apart from their fathers experience more accidents and higher rate of chronic asthma and speech defects;
+ Seventy-two percent of all teenage murderers grew up without fathers;
+ Eight percent of the adolescents in psychiatric hospitals come from fatherless homes;
+ Three of four teen suicides occur in single-parent homes;
+ The absence of a biological father increases by 900 percent a daughter’s vulnerability to rape and sexual abuse. (Often these assaults are committed by stepfathers or the boyfriends of custodial mothers).

Too many children are effectively cut off from relationships with their fathers due to causes beyond their control and understanding. It is to be hoped that these causes are not beyond the control of our legislature.

Any measure that strengthens the father-child relationship or that enhances a child’s God-given right to two natural parents is a step in the right direction.

I applaud House Bill 2491 and all that it stands for.

Loop-based attorney Jeffery M. Leving, a specialist in asserting the legal rights of fathers, is also the author of “Fathers’ Rights” (Basic Books).

March 4, 2009 at 10:18 pm Leave a comment

Leonard Pitts’ Column Unfair to Black Fathers, Ignores Reasons for Father Absence

By Jeffery M. Leving & Glenn Sacks
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Leonard Pitts Jr.’s recent column “Runaway dads are society’s dregs” excoriates “selfish” African American fathers who “abandon their children [and] harden themselves against their cries of need.” Pitts cites Larry Patterson, Jr., a 19-year-old black father who, after police tried to pull him over, allegedly sped away, smashed his car, and escaped, leaving his infant daughter in the backseat. Patterson is “unique only in degree,” Pitts writes–for black men today, it’s “Every man for himself.”

Pitts’ generalization is unfair. He is correct that some African-American fathers have behaved irresponsibly. However, he fails to see that many black fathers have been driven away by shortsighted, angry mothers and a family law system which does little to protect fathers’ loving bonds with their children.

When citing the reasons for father absence, Pitts mentions “divorce” only in passing. Yet divorce and the breakups of unmarried couples are major causes of African-American fatherlessness.

Despite the stereotype of the feckless and irresponsible male, research shows that the vast majority of divorces are initiated by women, not by men. Even for unmarried couples, it’s doubtful that many dads wake up in the morning and say to themselves, “My child loves me and needs me, my girlfriend loves me and needs me—I’m outta here.” Yes, some mothers have good reasons for these breakups. Yet, as Jonetta Rose Barras, the African-American author of Whatever Happened to Daddy’s Little Girl, explains, many black fathers are simply being “kicked to the curb.”

When a divorced or separated mother does not want her children’s father around anymore, she can usually push him out, particularly if the father does not earn enough money to pay for legal representation. Courts tilt heavily towards mothers in awarding custody, and enforce fathers’ visitation rights indifferently. In most states, mothers are free to move their children hundreds or thousands of miles away from their fathers, often permanently destroying the fathers’ bonds with their children.

The system which allows women to easily obtain domestic violence restraining/protection orders was set up to help battered women. However, many mothers instead employ them to get rid of inconvenient husbands or boyfriends. The Family Law Executive Committee of the California State Bar and family law professionals in various states have recently noted that these orders are often issued with little or no evidence or due process. Once in force, a father can be arrested and jailed for violating the order if he visits or even calls his kids. The orders begin as temporary, but are sometimes extended for years at a time.

With divorce or separation comes child support. The Urban League’s 2006 report on the state of black America concluded that the child support system and its abuses often drive African-American men out of their children’s lives, and either underground or into crime.

Half of uneducated African American men ages 25-34 are non-custodial fathers. Many of them are still a part of their children’s lives. Yet the child support they struggle to pay usually does not go to their children, but instead goes to the state to reimburse the cost of public assistance, including welfare, for the mother and children.

Some fathers even live with their children and their children’s mothers, yet their wages are still garnisheed to pay child support to the state, greatly contributing to the breakdown of these fragile families. Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton recently acknowledged this problem in her Youth Opportunity Agenda.

The benefits that involved black fathers—even divorced or separated ones—can provide their children are substantial. For example, a recent study of low-income African-American and Hispanic families by Boston College found that when nonresident fathers are involved in their adolescent children’s lives, the incidence of substance abuse, violence, crime, and truancy decreases markedly. The study’s lead author, professor Rebekah Levine Coley, says the study found involved nonresident fathers to be “an important protective factor for adolescents.”

There are many reasons why some black fathers aren’t there for their kids. Sadly, there’s nothing we can do to make the Larry Pattersons of the world into good fathers. But there’s a lot we can do to help keep many decent, loving African-American dads in their children’s lives.

Jeffery M. Leving is one of America’s most prominent family law attorneys. He is the author of the new HarperCollins book Divorce Wars: A Field Guide to the Winning Tactics, Preemptive Strikes, and Top Maneuvers When Divorce Gets Ugly. His website is www.dadsrights.com.

March 4, 2009 at 6:27 pm Leave a comment


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