With Friends Like This, We Don’t Need Enemies

Boston, MA–When a single mother abuses or neglects her child, wouldn”t you expect that child protective services would explore whether dad might be a good custodial parent?

It stands to reason, but it doesn”t happen. Instead, children are put into foster care, where many of them suffer. We”ve known this for a long time from our members and from attorneys who deal with the child protective services regularly.

Now we know it from a comprehensive study of four states, including Massachusetts, entitled, “What About the Dads?’. It was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, carried out by the respected Urban Institute, and published in 2006.

It shows that the agencies have a problem of anti-father bias. In 45 percent of abuse and neglect cases, the agency did not even contact the father. Some caseworkers cited difficulty locating the father, yet contact is usually easy through the child support enforcement agency. Yet caseworkers used the child support agency in only 20 percent of those cases in which the father had not been located. In only eight percent of the cases in which fathers had expressed an interest in having their children live with them did the agency adopt the goal of placing the child with the father.

Finally, there is a pervasive pattern in which the agency fails to offer parenting services to fathers that would assist them in taking over the care of their children–programs and assistance that are routinely offered to mothers.

In Massachusetts, the only visible response to this report by the Department of Children and Families (DCF — until recently known as the DSS) has been to create a “Special Project — Fatherhood.’

Sounds good so far.

But it turns out the “Special Project’ consists of only one person. He has no staff, no budget other than his own salary, and his position is three levels down from the Commissioner. Somehow, he is supposed to single-handedly transform the anti-father culture of an agency with 2,500 employees.

It gets worse.

The person selected for the “Special Project,’ Dr. Fernando Mederos, Ed.D. has written, “In reality, there is a widespread and pervasive pattern of male abusiveness towards women in this society.’ In case you didn”t get it the first time, he also wrote, “In fact, there are very high rates of perpetration of violence by men against women in main stream Anglo culture.’

The quotations above are from an unpublished and undated paper by Dr. Mederos. His extreme comments are based on one study whose results far exceed generally accepted estimates. Moreover, his paper shows no awareness of female-on-male domestic violence. He also buys the party line in which he attributes domestic violence to patriarchal cultures, with no mention of other critically important factors, such as substance abuse and family court discrimination against fathers.

Moreover, Dr. Mederos has never reached out to any of the organizations in Massachusetts that speak for fathers. He did attend at least one meeting of Fathers & Families secretly, but apparently believed there was little point in identifying himself and consulting with leaders who actually represent fathers and work with fathers. Can you imagine a “Special Project’ for minorities that did not bother to talk to minority organizations? Finally, he accepted the invitation of the Fatherhood Coalition to speak to its members at a September 4 meeting in Boston, where we learned some of the information above.

Meanwhile, Governor Patrick pushed for and won recent legislation that makes a number of changes to the DSS — including re-naming it the DCF. Dr. Mederos, the advocate for fathers, was not consulted on the legislation, and he did not offer his views to the administration. The new law includes provisions to create a commission to look into the role grandparents might play in abuse and neglect cases — but nothing about fathers.

Can we really expect to see reform of a 2,500 employee agency from a single person, without staff, budget, or high position? And who holds such negative attitudes towards men? Basically, the DCF is wasting $100,000 or so of taxpayers” money so it can pretend it is doing something about fathers.

Fathers could be a valuable resource to an agency struggling with thousands of cases of abuse and neglect by mothers and a shortage of foster parents. Yet the DCF chooses to ignore fathers. By appointing a person with Dr. Mederos” opinions to a mid-level position without budget or staff, the DCF has demonstrated that it has no real commitment to changing this sad pattern. Apparently, it would rather send children to foster care than place them with fit fathers.

The only way we will overcome bureaucratic hostility is by uniting into a potent political force that demands change. Please do two things: 1) recruit your friends and family to join this elist; and 2) send us your charitable gift right now to help us grow into a large army serving you and your children.

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