Archive for October, 2008

The Twilight Zone of the “protective parent”

I could just as easily substitute “mother” for parent above and make the same point. The truth is that “protective parent” essentially equals “mother.”

Custody decisions are not always easily done, and the system has gone from the tender years doctrine, which placed children with their mothers almost all the time, to a system for the “best interests of the child.” This is of course not easily defined. I would argue that in many situations some sort of shared parenting agreement is best. Sole custody should be reserved for a situation where one parent is clearly unfit. I accept there are errors in the system, but there always will be and it is impossible to be right one hundred percent of the time.

There are those that disagree with me, of course.

When I went for more research on Jesse Griffin-Sebublia’s case, I found this blog. It is in many ways the textbook model for the site devoted to the “protective mother.” Although they claim to be superior to the many “father’s rights” sites out there, they use the same slant to reverse the rhetoric. Mothers are better parents… just because. Or possibly because they can breastfeed. Maybe some combination of things. Just trust us.

“Smith also said domestic abusers who fight for custody in U.S. courts win full custody, joint custody or unsupervised access 70% of the time, regardless of the evidence of the mother.”

This is a quote from this site, and a good evidence of statistic mining. By combining full, joint, and even unsupervised visitation, you will get the vast majority of all divorce cases. Joint custody is divided into legal and physical custody and joint legal is very common, even without the presence of joint physical. Supervised visitation is a rare thing in any divorce case. The fact that the remaining thirty percent, if this is to be believed, either get no access or supervised access is a large amount. And of course one does not know whether this counts actual substantiated cases or merely any case where some allegation is made. But if one just looks at it and doesn’t think about the wording, it does look shocking. This is of course the point.

Thomas Szaz, a controversial writer who believes there is no such thing as mental illness, is cited on this site as essential reading. Yet when it is convenient for their case they cite the American Psychological Association. The reader here will notice an agenda. Of course all people have an agenda, but when one is willing to ignore contradictory information to get the agenda across, it’s time to stop and think.

All allegations of abuse are assumed to be true as well, taking away the “innocent until proven guilty” idea that is the basis of our court system. And the examples they always use come from mothers. I suppose Juan Lozano is not interesting enough, being a man. (And before you ask, no, I don’t think Bianca’s mother was abusive towards her.)

I would argue that the whole site easily goes too far, but one example really sticks out in my mind. In an article the blogmaster has posted about single fathers, a man who has custody of his six year old daughter mentions some of the troubles he encounters in this role. For example, he has to take her into the men’s bathroom when out with her, and gets some flak for this. The blog comments:

All the BS in this country’s family court system needs to be stopped. Does this excerpt sound like the best interest of this little girl is being kept at the top of everyone’s agenda…to see men using urinals at the age of six?

For starters, it is assumed right away that the best interest of his daughter is not being kept because she has to see men using urinals. I would laugh here if I didn’t know the person was being serious. And why is it assumed that she would be better off with her mother? She could have a history of drug abuse, untreated mental illness, or she just didn’t want custody. She could even have a child abuse history. After all, women can and do abuse children, and yet they are labeled when abducting “protective” by many. Because of their gender. A parent should be judged on more than merely possessing two X chromosomes.

Do you see why I chose the title of “twilight zone” yet? These are the types of people who supported April Griffin but went silent when Jesse was found badly neglected at the very least. I will add I do not know if this particular blog owner supported her or not, but some of the more generalized content on her site is identical to sites that supported her, and they typically have the same agenda.

I will say that not all people who speak out against the above are people I support. The Children of the Underground Watch site is somewhat helpful, but I will not link to it on For the Lost because it contains certain statements about the Unitarian church I find offensive. Likewise, although I believe Richard Gardner’s book for children about divorce is useful, and that he was right in that a child can become irrationally alienated from a parent, I agree with almost nothing else he says. (If you want to read good writing about alienation, Richard Warshak’s writing is gender-balanced, clear, and to the point.)

It is of course also easy to paint detractors as being pro-abuse. I suspect merely by posting this I will receive such allegations, and I will have to live with that.

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Jesse Griffin-Sebuliba and the silence of support

After finding the article I showed before on Jesse Griffin-Sebuliba, I decided I had to learn more about the case, and googled his name for some articles. Time magazine ran one very interesting one.

Sad End to Milwaukee Child Custody Case

The story details that he also has failure to thrive, osteopenia, and that the fractures (there were three, not two) look to be both old and not treated. Failure to thrive can occur in well-treated children, of course, but its presence requires a complete medical workup. Osteopenia is normally found in menopausal women. So it is not unreasonable to say Jesse was neglected.

But when I google his mother’s name, I find she has a legion of supporters. They support her accusations that the father is abusive and may take Jesse back to Uganda, his home country. However, when they do print the mother’s accusations about others, it becomes a bit clearer she is not fully sane. Among her charges is that the guards threatened to poison her food, which is why she stopped eating what they gave her and only ate snacks brought to her. Fear of being poisoned is one of the most common forms of psychosis, and the measures she took to avoid this “threat” seem extreme but what a sufferer might easily do in such a situation. Many of these supporters treat this as a reasonable charge, as if guards would want to poison a prisoner in jail for what is not considered by most a serious crime and they would have the means to do so and not get caught. The supporters all now have one thing they say in common.

That is, nothing.

Doctors have determined the fractures are old ones. The presence of his multiple malnourishment conditions indicate that Jesse was not well taken care of. If you claim the mother is the innocent in this case, you either have to rationalize this or accept that you were wrong. Apparently most have chosen to do the latter.

Any woman who abducts her child seems to develop a support network. While they are more visible nowadays due to the internet, many no doubt remember when Faye Yager tried to make herself as visible as possible on this issue not too long ago. I have spoken out about these women, and how I do not condone their actions, before. As a result, I have been accused of being biased against mothers (my being female nonwithstanding) or not doing my homework. The truth is, when a father abducts their child they rarely attract a large support network. I am sure there are a few people who do support them, but for the most part people assume that he’s done it to get back at the mother. (Frustratingly, very few seem to view it as a big deal for anyone, but at the very least they don’t assume he did it for a good reason.)

Jesse Griffin-Sebuliba

This is a picture of Jesse. Take a good look at him. The truth of family abduction can be conveyed in Jesse’s story. Let’s hope we are able to learn from it.

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Riggs children found safe

I posted several weeks back about the case of four children abducted by their mother for the fourth time, the Riggs children. Today I read an article that stated they had been found safe.

Amber Alert ends with mom, children found in Washington

A woman who allegedly took her four non-custodial children, triggering a recent Amber Alert, was located tonight in Olympia, Wash.

Shirley Riggs is in police custody, according to a release from Independence police. Her four children — ages 7, 10, 12 and 15 — are safe and in protective custody.

I hope that this time she is not allowed more unsupervised visits at the very least. Ideally, she would serve jail time but with most parental abduction cases this does not happen. In any event I am glad the case is over. Hopefully I will not have to post that they have gone missing again.

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Jesse Griffin-Sebuliba and yet another example of why parental abduction is child abuse

I have said many times that parental kidnapping is child abuse, there is no excuse for it, and that abductors are motivated out of selfishness and greed rather than the well-being of a child. Cases like this come along and prove it for me.

Woman at center of custody dispute arrested

A woman who spent eight months in jail for refusing to disclose the whereabouts of her infant son has been arrested, and the child — missing for more than a year — was recovered after a confrontation in which police were forced to Taser the woman in order to release the child from her grasp.

The boy, now 2, is in the custody of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare and is expected to be reunited with his father within the next few days, according to Legal Action of Wisconsin attorney DeAngela Ellis, who has represented the father in the custody dispute, which has lasted nearly the boy’s entire life.

I will note part of this story is incorrect – the woman was not tasered until the child was taken away from her. His name is Jesse Griffin-Sebuliba, and the article now says he has rickets and two fractures, but is expected to recover. Since he was listed as an endangered missing child and I had no other knowledge of the case, I did not think to include him on the site. (Another case, with even more tragic circumstances, I did eventually find out and include the child, Jessica Vargas Biatriz, on our site. She is sadly still missing.) Rickets is a condition caused by lack of vitamin D, which can be obtained from sunlight and fortified foods such as milk. Dark-skinned children are more susceptible to it in the winter months, but even so it is not usually a problem in developed countries except in cases of malnutrition, as many foods are fortified with the vitamin. Whether his bones broke because of rickets, physical abuse, or a combination of both, I am not sure. There is no excuse for this type of behavior. The mother was obviously more concerned about spiting the father than about caring for her child. I have seen in a few other abduction cases children abanoned to strange relatives by the parent, in some cases not even in their home country, as well as a case where children were dropped off by themselves by the Mexico-Texas border to cross by themselves! They were thankfully found by Border Agents who said they were trying to dig under the fence with their bare hands.

If you think this is not a serious crime, please read this case, read other cases, google names like Adam Haseeb, Deirdre Crowley, Luis Cisneros, and Ronald Simmons and see if you can still say that. I highly doubt you will.

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