Two Updates: Benjamin Wyrembek and Amber Portwood

Finally!  This article reports that Benjamin Wyrembek has at last been united with his son (Toledo Blade, 11/2/10).  I’ve written extensively on this, so I won’t reprise all the details.

Wyrembek is the Ohio man who fathered a child with a married woman.  She placed the child for adoption and her husband disclaimed paternity.  But Wyrembek followed all the legal requirements to claim his son and assert his parental rights. 

Despite knowing early on that Wyrembek (a) was the dad and (b) intended to take custody of his son, the adoptive parents and their attorney decided to use litigation to wear him down.  Over three years, they used every tactic available to draw the process out.  They lost in every single court from the trial level all the way to at least two tries in the Ohio Supreme Court.

As I’ve pointed out before, at any time in that process, the adoptive parents could have done the right thing – turn the boy over to his father.  But they chose not to.  Now, they and their supporters complain that giving custody to Wyrembek would deprive the boy of the only home and parents he’s ever known.

That’s true of course, but who’s responsible for the upset the three-year-old is going to experience?  The adoptive parents, that’s who.  Again, they knew about Wyrembek from the very beginning, but apparently figured that a few years in court would give them rights they otherwise didn’t have.

That turned out to be a bad bet for them and for the child.  Let’s be clear; what they are arguing for is legalized kidnapping.  Their theory is that, irrespective of everything else, if a person can just get possession of a child and hold it long enough, then in some way the child becomes theirs. 

It’s like the old common law concept of adverse possession in which a person who takes possession of and uses land owned by someone else can gain title to that land.  We do that with property in rare cases; we shouldn’t with children. 

The Ohio Supreme Court acted wisely and now Benjamin Wyrembek has his son.  Finally!  But guess what.  That’s right, the parents who attempted to adopt Wyrembek’s son aren’t finished.

“For us, the fight isn’t over,” Mr. Vaughn said in a telephone interview from his home in Indiana.

Mr. Vaughn said he has filed a new adoption case for Grayson in Franklin County. A hearing is set Dec. 1, he said.

Mr. Vaughn, there are millions of children in the world without parents; adopt one of them.  That’s what you should have done the instant you learned three years ago that Benjamin Wyrembek’s son had a father and therefore didn’t need adopting.  If you had, you’d have done a great kindness to a child somewhere and Benjamin Wyrembek’s son would have spent all his life with his father.  Think about that.

The second update is in the Amber Portwood case.  It supports the not-so-old saying that “men go to jail; women go to therapy.”

Portwood is the woman on the TV reality series “Teen Mom” who, on camera for all to see, attacked her boyfriend and the father of her little daughter.  She hit, slapped and kicked Gary Shirley at least seven times while their daughter Leah, age two, looked on.

Astonished viewers alerted local police who apparently have seen the video, but six months after the fact have done nothing toward issuing a restraining order, filing criminal charges or separating Portwood from her daughter.  All of those occur commonly when a father is even alleged to have struck his wife or girlfriend, but not so in this case in which the police have indisputable evidence of her wrongdoing.

Here we learn that Amber Portwood is

voluntarily entering a program called, ‘ Informal Adjustment’, in which Indiana”s Child Protective Services will  provide support and therapy to Amber, as well as closely monitering her mothering (Hollywood Life, 11/3/10).

I feel like the Church Lady of old Saturday Night Live episodes; the words “isn’t that special” just come to my lips unbidden.

Of course what Indiana CPS is offering Portwood is a lot more like what should be done for most people who’ve engaged in domestic violence.  Most of them need help, not jail.  And the vast majority of cases, like the one between Portwood and Shirley, result in little or no injury, so the idea that jail and lengthy separation from one’s children is the logical thing to do in most DV situations is nonsense.

But why the kid-glove treatment for Portwood?  If counselling is the right thing to do, and in most cases it is, why isn’t it right for men accused of DV?

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