By Jim Hays
In the story, “Warren County District Attorney says violence toward children has worsened recently” (03-01-2015 online edition), District Attorney Kate Hogan states, “Often, the most serious cases occur at the hands of men who have no biological and emotional connection to a child, many times the child’s mother’s boyfriend.”
Unfortunately, this quote is taken out of context, for it fails to identify who abuses and neglects children most, the family makeup and relationship to the child, and how these children end up under the hand of the single mother and mother’s boyfriend. So let’s look at the whole story.
The 2010 Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4) once again shows the greatest incidence of child abuse and neglect is perpetrated by “single” mothers” (not living with the biological father), followed by abuse and neglect caused by live-in boyfriends.
The NIS-4 executive summary states “Children living with their married biological parents universally had the lowest rate, whereas those living with a single parent who had a cohabiting partner in the household had the highest rate in all maltreatment categories.”
While the study speaks of single parents, we have a default mother custody rate of more than 85 percent in our family courts in this nation, including here in New York state. So it is single-mother homes with a live-in boyfriend where we have the highest threat of abuse and neglect for children.
Before we can blame the sex of the parent in these single-parent homes, we need to look at how we got so many single mothers with boyfriend homes in the first place. And here, the fact of the matter is that it is the biases of Family Court judges to award sole custody to the mother in more than 85 percent of cases, which removes the parental rights of the father without cause, limits the fathers access to minimal times, and provides no enforcement for interference with the father’s access to his children by the mother or others.
The No. 1 reason a father doesn’t spend more time with his children is the limitations of a court order. No. 2 two is prevention of access by the mother, 50 percent of whom admit to interfering with the father’s access with impunity. This is combined with a system that ignores and dismisses the complaints of a father about abuse or neglect of his child as vindictive before a proper investigation of the facts.
If we look at the best situation for children, we see that not only do children having married biological parents in the home have the lowest abuse and neglect rates, this is followed by unmarried biological parents and then children with biological parents living apart but involved (caparisoning or shared parenting).
Inversely, single mother with mother’s boyfriends and then single-parent homes have the most abuse and neglect of children.
So it is easy to see that in speaking about healthy outcomes of children, DA Hogan is off the mark.
If she wants to do something to protect children, she and her fellow DAs could enforce violations of custody orders just like protection orders and child support orders, with criminal charges for blatant violators.
Then, I suggest she get the book written by the late David Levy of the Children’s Rights Council which summed up the solution to negative child outcomes in the title: “The Best Parent is BOTH Parents.”
James Hays is the treasurer, past president and co-founder of the Coalition of Fathers and Families NY Inc. (www.FaFNY.org), a 501c3 not-for-profit working to keep fathers and families together.