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Archives for Family Policy (page 1 / 2)

Extract Child Support From Poor Men Who Aren't Fathers

Extract Child Support From Poor Men Who Aren't Fathers →

How is it possible in the Land of the Free that men can face huge fines, revocation of professional licenses, forfeiture of the right to international travel, and sometimes (as in Alexander's case until this week) even jail time, from owing child support to kids that aren't theirs? I wrote a feature about that 11 years ago, entitled "Injustice by Default." Short version:

Governments (and sometimes even hospitals) are financially incentivized to attach paternity to the children of single mothers, particularly those seeking welfare benefits. Departments of Child Support Services will sometimes go on information as flimsy as "Dude with this name living in Southern California"; if a records search turns up only one dude, he will likely be mailed a court summons. That court summons will often be very confusingly written, so that the men don't realize that they are just 30 days away from being declared the father via default judgment. Once you have been named the father, you owe all back child support (sometimes with interest), said support will be garnished from your wages, and it is devilishly hard to get your paternity undeclared, even with DNA proof and sworn affidavits from the mother.

So why don't we hear about this outrage more? Because nobody likes to defend "deadbeat dads," and the people hardest hit are typically poor men who have even less political and media clout than they do access to good lawyers.

Sometimes the modern version of women's rights seems more like making someone—anyone—else pay the bills than it does true equality.

Best predictor of divorce? Age when couples cohabit, study says

Best predictor of divorce? Age when couples cohabit, study says →

For years, social scientists have tried to explain why living together before marriage seemed to increase the likelihood of a couple divorcing. Now, new research released by the nonpartisan Council on Contemporary Families gives an answer:

It doesn't. And it probably never has.

"Up until now, we've had this mysterious finding that co-habitation causes divorce," she says. "Nobody's been able to explain it. And now we have—it was that people were measuring it the wrong way."

Couples who begin living together without being married tend to be younger than those who move in after the wedding ceremony – that's why cohabitation seemed to predict divorce, Professor Kuperburg explains. But once researchers control for that age variable, it turns out that premarital cohabitation by itself has little impact on a relationship's longevity. Those who began living together, unmarried or married, before the age of 23 were the most likely to later split.

Interesting. This should change the way that Christians talk about the importance of chastity before marriage. It probably won't but it should.

Marriage: Starting a new business or going IPO?

Marriage: Starting a new business or going IPO? →

Arnold Kling, at his askblog.

What these young people say is top-of-mind is that they really, really, don’t want to go through divorce. Compared to my generation, they seem to regard marriage as belonging to a later stage in life. My line is that for our generation, getting married was like starting a new business–a moment of promise and hope. Today, it’s like going IPO–a moment of affirmation and triumph.

I love this line. I'd classify myself and my wife as belonging to Kling's generation. But I've known friends that I'd classify as belonging to the current generation. This line nails the differences in attitudes that I've seen.

You Should Get Married As Early as Possible, But No Earlier

You Should Get Married As Early as Possible, But No Earlier →

Megan McArdle, at The Daily Beast:

But as a general rule, you should err on the side of marrying early. By which I mean not that you should marry whoever happens to be around when you turn 22, but that you should be willing to recognize, at the age of 22, that you've found someone you want to marry. Right now, most Princeton students don't think that way. They think there's something weird about committing at 22. And if they try to commit, their friends and parents will warn them off.

I got married at age 22 and it changed my life forever, for the better. As a bonus, we'll have all four of our kids by the time I'm 30 and I'll be able to raise them while I'm still young and relatively energetic. I think getting married at a young age is a wonderful idea.

Neighborhoods Confer Health, but Not Wealth

Neighborhoods Confer Health, but Not Wealth →

In the 1990's the Federal government experimented with a program called Moving to Opportunity, that gave vouchers to poor families, allowing them to move from poor neighborhoods to mixed-income neighborhoods.

The program aimed to boost education and income, by giving mothers and their children access to better housing and schools, as well as better job opportunities and social networks. By those measures, it largely failed. Participants moved to better housing and safer neighborhoods, but they showed minimal economic or educational gains.

But the program nonetheless had a pronounced effect on families' lives, researchers found. Participants had significantly lower rates of diabetes, extreme obesity, anxiety and stress than those who stayed behind. They were also much happier with their lives overall—something researchers said was particularly important.

Interesting.

This entry was tagged. Family Policy

The War on Fertility

The War on Fertility →

I like James Taranto, in the Wall Street Journal, on feminism, fertility, and choice.

"Family planning is good for families," she insists, ignoring the sharp rise in divorce and illegitimacy since 1960, when the Food and Drug Administration approved the pill for contraceptive use. In fairness, maybe she means to make a more modest claim--that for the subset of the population who have been able to form and sustain marriages despite the social dislocations of the past half-century, birth control has on balance been beneficial.

But in any case, why does it so bother Miller that the Romneys, Santorums and Pauls (and also the Palins, whom she mentions in another paragraph) made the choice to have large families? If she cared about choice, she would recognize it's none of her business. But contemporary feminism does not actually value choice, except as a means to an ideological end, which is the obliteration of differences between the sexes. The biggest such difference consists in the distinct and disparate demands that reproduction makes on women. Thus in order to equalize the sexes, it is necessary to discourage fertility. Implicit in contemporary feminism is a normative judgment that having children is bad.

He also takes on the argument that "birth control is cheaper than unwanted babies".

Yes, in the short term, contraception is cheaper than fertility. In the long term, however, a war on fertility is an act of cultural and economic suicide. Today's low fertility is tomorrow's shortage of productive citizens--of the taxpayers who would have to pay for the ever-expanding entitlement state.

This entry was tagged. Family Policy Women

Too Poor to Marry?

Too Poor to Marry? →

Heather Mac Donald takes on the ridiculous idea that you can be "too poor to marry". I'm pretty sure that this take also works for the equally ridiculous idea that "we can't get married until older and more established".

The most idiotic reason that single mothers give for not marrying is: “I’m too poor to get married!” Evidently these women believe they’re not too poor to educate, house, feed, clothe, and provide a stable home and an enriching moral and cultural environment for a child on their own. The “I’m too poor” defense, documented by researchers such as Kathryn Edin, refers not simply to the cost of a wedding (which of course is avoidable through a City Hall ceremony), but to the day-to-day institution of marriage itself.

...Well, yes, “well-educated Americans” can offer “more” financial support to their spouses than less affluent Americans. But a married spouse at whatever income level is almost always going to improve the economy of a household over a lifetime, whether that spouse is adding the proceeds of a minimum-wage job or the inestimable value of being a stay-at-home parent while the other one works. But the notion that being a married parent requires more financial resources than being a single one is wrong not just as a matter of economic arithmetic but, more importantly, in terms of what married biological parents bring to their child — not money, but a 24/7 partnership in the extraordinarily difficult task of child-rearing. Household wealth is the least important reason to form a two-parent family; the idea that raising children as a single mother is on average in any sense easier than doing so as a couple, even in the stormiest of marital relationships, is absurd, and ignores the enormous strains of being both the sole bread-winner (or even welfare-collector) and the sole source of authority for your child. A second parent in the home provides back-up support in discipline when the other is at the breaking point, and a doubling of the emotional, intellectual, and moral resources that a child can draw on. You don’t need to be wealthy to offer that complementarity; poor married parents have raised stable, successful children for millennia.

How Should Pediatricians Help?

After reading my last post on parenting and responsibility, two people raised the same objection: what about parents who don’t know about proper safety or about the resources that area available to them?

[T]here are many parents out there who are ignorant of the statistics on bike helmets, car seat, proper gun storage etc. AND many parents may not know that there are organizations to help needy families obtain safety items for free / reduced cost. If a doctor isn't allowed to ask questions, how can the information reach the parents who may need it?

It’s a fair question. How should society balance the desire to help people against the tendency to annoy people who don’t need help?

I think we need to start with respect. A pediatrician who questions parents, on their first visit, about their parenting skills risks appearing condescending and disrespectful. A pediatrician who claims that it’s his job to protect my children, implies that he doesn’t think it’s my job and that he doesn’t trust me to keep them safe.

I think the default assumption should be that parents are concerned about their children’s welfare and want to do what’s best. When a pediatrician starts by asking parents “do you do this?”, it communicates disrespect and distrust. From what I’ve read in recent articles, and from what pediatricians are defending, it seems that the normal approach is to grill parents with an invasive and potentially judgmental checklist:

  • Do you own a pool? Is it kept covered and locked when not in use?
  • Do you own a gun? If so, you shouldn’t. If you insist on doing so, here are the rules that you must follow so that your children don’t suffer from your obstinacy.
  • Do your children ride bikes? Do they wear helmets all of the time or do you actually want them to die?

Now, I’m well aware that doctors aren’t quite that confrontational and insulting when they’re talking to parents. On the other hand, that’s often how parents perceive their questions. Especially when they’re asking those questions without first getting to know them and without first learning what their level of parenting competency is.

What should they do instead? Well, riffing off of a comment from a nurse I know, how about a general presentation of what they can do to help?

Hi, I’m Doctor Smith, your daughter’s pediatrician. I hear that your daughter has an ear infection today. We’ll make sure you get some general antibiotics to clear that up as quickly as possible. Since this is the first time we’ve met, I’d like to tell you a little about what we do here at the office. Obviously, we’re here to help you anytime your children get sick or have an injury.

We’ll also help you to keep your children up to date on vaccinations and immunizations—the immunization schedules can be confusing, so don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. We’re also available to answer any questions you might have about general parenting topics. If you’d like, we can help you with understanding childhood nutrition, recommended diets, learning styles or disabilities, or other topics related to childhood development.

Surprisingly, the biggest risks your children face today aren’t from sickness or disease but from accidents. Nearly 30% of all childhood fatalities result from either motor vehicle accidents or drownings. We’d love to help you learn about the best way to prevent these accidents. We can talk to you about car safety, pool safety, bike safety, firearm safety, etc.

More than just medicine, we want to do everything we can to help keep your children safe. Is there anything you’d like help with today? If not, feel free to call or email the office anytime you have a question, day or night.

Beyond that, the doctor’s office could have posters prominently displayed, advertising proper safety or offering to counsel parents about safety. They could have posters and handouts, advertising local organizations that offer free / low cost car seats or safety devices. They could offer instructional DVDs (or link to online videos) that teach parents about proper safety and available resources.

There are many ways that pediatricians could offer help and resources without taking responsibility away from parents or without defaulting to a confrontational style of questioning. My post about parenting and responsibility wasn’t saying that pediatricians can’t offer advice. Far from it. The responsible parent will seek out advice from many sources. But there’s a large difference between solicited and unsolicited advice.

If you wait to be asked, you’ll communicate that you respect your patients and trust them to be responsible. If you freely give unsolicited advice, you risk communicating that you look down on your patients and don’t trust them to be responsible without your help.

Another Poppy Seed-Based Child Abduction

Another Poppy Seed-Based Child Abduction

For the second time in a year, Lawrence County Children and Youth Services has been accused in a federal lawsuit of removing a child from a mother’s custody after a positive test for opiates allegedly triggered by poppy seeds.

Eileen Ann Bower, a Lawrence County resident whose residence and age were not provided, gave birth to a son, Brandon, on July 13, 2009, according to a complaint filed late Friday. She was stunned, it said, when a blood test at Jameson Hospital came back positive for opiates.

Brandon was taken into foster care three days after his birth, it said, and only returned on Sept. 29. In the interim, Ms. Bower came to the conclusion that the test must have come back positive due to her ingestion, at her last meal before childbirth, of Salad Supreme dressing with poppy seeds . . .

As a repeatedly new parent, I have a hard time imagining a worse thing. This mother has had her right to due process of law violated rather blatantly. There was no evidence that chain of custody was preserved with her blood sample: do we know that the blood that was tested was actually hers? There was no evidence that the sample was collected appropriately: was it tainted somehow during the drawing process? There was no evidence presented that the traces in the blood were actually from opiates: could the traces have actually been from poppy seeds?

None of this evidence was presented, this mother was not convicted after receiving due process of law, and she wasn’t legally sentenced to losing custody of her child. No, the county agency took one look at one lab test and immediately assumed that they knew what was going on.

That’s wrong and it needs to stop. This is the second time that Pennsylvania county has done this. As Glenn Reynolds is apt to say: “Tar. Feathers.” That’s what will make this kind of abuse of power stop.

(Thanks to Radley Balko for the link.)

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy →

Sure, under parenting your children is dangerous. But so is over parenting. It seems that the trick with parenting is to back off, beyond what your first instinct might be. Just don't get so far back that you can't see your kids anymore.

Which might be how people like my patient Lizzie end up in therapy. “You can have the best parenting in the world and you’ll still go through periods where you’re not happy,” Jeff Blume, a family psychologist with a busy practice in Los Angeles, told me when I spoke to him recently. “A kid needs to feel normal anxiety to be resilient. If we want our kids to grow up and be more independent, then we should prepare our kids to leave us every day.”

But that’s a big if. Blume believes that many of us today don’t really want our kids to leave, because we rely on them in various ways to fill the emotional holes in our own lives. Kindlon and Mogel both told me the same thing. Yes, we devote inordinate amounts of time, energy, and resources to our children, but for whose benefit?

Families Are Fragile

Kay S. Hymowitz wrote about the fragile family effect, 3 weeks ago.

One of the study's most surprising initial findings was that the large majority - 80 percent - of poor, unmarried couples were romantically involved at the time of their child's birth. In fact, 50 percent of the couples were living together. Fathers almost always visited the mothers and children in the hospital and usually provided financial support. Even better, most of these new parents said that there was a 50-50 chance that they would eventually marry each other. They spoke highly of their partners' commitment to their children and of their supportiveness.

But within five years, a tiny 15 percent of the unmarried couples had taken wedding vows, while 60 percent had split up. At the five-year mark, only 36 percent of the children lived with their fathers, and half of the other 64 percent hadn't seen their dads in the last month. One-half to two-thirds of the absent fathers provided little or no financial support.

These families -- and society as a whole -- would have been far, far, far better off had these parents stayed together, instead of splitting up.

I don't know the full story of why 85% of the unmarried parents parted ways. But I can speculate as to one cause. Is it possible, is it conceivable, that welfare and broad societal support for "single mothers" is making mom feel comfortable about life without dad? Is it possible that welfare is making Dad feel okay about walking out on Mom?

I can only speculate but it would seem that Dad doesn't have to deal with the guilt of leaving Mom penniless and unsupported if he knows that Mom can register at the welfare office. And Mom doesn't have to worry about the implications of life without Dad if she knows that she can get a monthly support check with or without him.

I think it's a question worth asking. Is our compassion towards single moms leading us into a policy that creates more single moms and more "fragile" (broken) families?

This entry was tagged. Family Policy Subsidy

The Shameful Treatment of Sheldon Creek

I'm very passionate about the rights of fathers in American culture. There's been an increasing tendency to try to sweep men under the rug, denigrate their honor, or even demonize them when it comes to their relationships with their children. I've written about this slanted treatment before.

I recently read about how horrifically Dr. Phil treated fathers on a recent episode of his show. What I read was enough to get me angry all over again. (For those who don't understand, try reading the article but substitute "mother" everytime you see "father" in the story and visa-versa. Now does it make you mad?)

In the Creek case, Sarah Creek has repeatedly accused father Sheldon Creek of sexually abusing their daughter.

In the episode, Dr. Phil came down unequivicably on the side of Sarah Creek. In so doing, he overlooked 13 different problems with her allegations.

Problem #1-Sylvia Creek has been examined for possible child sexual abuse on 5 separate occasions, and not one of the examinations has substantiated any of the charges

Problem #2 Child Protective Services has repeatedly investigated accusations against Sheldon Creek, and has never substantiated any of them.

Problem #3: Custody evaluator Sean Jackson, PhD did not believe that Sheldon Creek had molested his daughter.

Problem #4: Sheldon Creek passed an FBI polygraph examination concerning the molestation allegations.

Problem #5 The assertion that Sylvia Creek is being sexually abused and is experiencing great trauma is contradicted by the report of Sylvia Creek's therapist Linda Falcon.

Problem #6: The assertion that Sylvia Creek is being sexually abused and is experiencing great trauma is contradicted by minor's [Sylvia Creek] counsel Dana A., Esq. and Sylvia's teachers and other professionals involved in the case.

Problem #7: Mediator Don Yarborough doesn't believe the molestation accusations.

Problem #8: Angela R., MD examined Sylvia on 8/27/07 and found no evidence of sexual abuse.

Problem #9: Sylvia was examined at the Sutter Hospital Emergency Room on 8/3/05 and no evidence of sexual abuse was found.

Problem #10: Sylvia was examined by Sutter Hospital on 2/14/07 and no evidence of sexual abuse was found.

Problem #11: Sylvia was examined at UC Davis on 8-22/23/06 and on 12/24/07 and again no evidence of sexual abuse was found.

Problem #12: Presiding judge Thomas A. Smith concluded that the molestation charges were false, and noted that "psychological evaluations concluded Sylvia was coached to report incidents of sexual and physical abuse"

Problem # 13: Presiding judge Thomas A. Smith agrees with Sheldon Creek's contention that "Anytime a hearing/trial is scheduled, it is almost a guarantee that in the weeks or months prior, Sarah will make an accusation of abuse."

Given the evidence in this case, it would be hard to conclude that Sheldon is/was molesting his daughter. The enormous amount of time and care that social services and the family court have devoted to examining the sexual abuse allegations and the evidence in general belie the mothers' advocates' contention that courts are biased against mothers or are turning their backs on children abused by their fathers. Five separate sexual abuse examinations failed to find any support for the accusations-how many more should they have been expected to conduct?

... Dr. Phil alleges that a family court has given custody to a child molester, yet the evidence is strong that this is not a molestation case, and the court certainly did not award custody in the case capriciously or without a thorough investigation.

Now, Dr. Phil has accused a man, a father, of sexually molesting his daughter. From the evidence I've seen, that charge is false and Dr. Phil is joining Sarah Creek in an ugly divorce power play. There is nothing honorable or good about such behavior. Dr. Phil should apologize to Sheldon Creek. It is absolutely despicable that he would choose to air such wild allegations with not a shred of substantiating evidence. Our society would rip Dr. Phil's career to shreds if made these allegations against a woman, a mother. But, because he's making them against, a man he'll be applauded for his courage and his willingness to be a protector.

Shameful.

A Good Husband's Guide

Men and women are always arguing over who has the tougher role to play. Obviously, it's the other gender.

Leanne Bell offers an interesting take, called the Good Husband's Guide. Refreshingly, she takes the men's side of the argument.

In May of 1955, a magazine called Housekeeping Monthly ran a short point-form article called "The Good Wife's Guide." The article is unaccredited, but I am sure that like many other articles written in 1950's women's magazine, it was probably written by a woman. This article was sent around by email to all the workstations in my office, and probably visited many other inboxes around the world as well.

  • Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

  • Prepare yourself. Take fifteen minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

  • Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

  • Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.

  • Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his personal comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

There's more.

Now, most modern men would say that such a guide is sexist and demeaning to women. Asked privately, perhaps after a few beers and promises of confidentiality, most men would also say that such a home sounds darn appealing. And, it is. Mostly because we're not the ones working to make it.

But men aren't the only ones guilty of looking to enjoy the good life. Ms. Bell happily recognizes that and presents the opposite guide. The Good Husband's Guide.

  • Always make getting and keeping a full-time job with regular raises, benefits, bonuses and the potential for prestigious advancement your number one priority in life. Remember always that you have a wife and children who need your financial support, and that it is your responsibility to provide for them to the best of your ability.

  • Always arrive home refreshed and happy - put your bad day or your confrontation with your boss, the traffic, the crowds or the physical exhaustion you might feel aside and try to arrive home as cheery and lighthearted as you possibly can. Your wife has been struggling with the children and the housework all day, she does not need to hear about how bad your day was.

  • Be prepared to help with household chores when you get home - let your wife relax or talk on the phone since she has been dealing with these problems all day. Make supper for her often, and offer to clean up afterwards so that she may rest and feel appreciated.

  • Do not bore your wife with stories of the troubles you faced at work today. Remember that you are lucky to have a job and that many other men would be happy to trade places with you. Remember that it is not masculine to complain or let worries trouble you. Your job is to provide, and whatever you must go through to achieve this is part of your lot in life. A good husband knows that he is lucky to have a wife at all, and that a woman wants a strong, silent man she can depend on.

There's more of that too. Note how normal it all sounds? What husband hasn't heard his wife, or his wife's friends, express similar sentiments?

Let's leave that thought there and turn to Matt Patterson for a moment: Men, the Gender Wars Are Over -- We Won.

Men, our long twilight struggle with the opposite sex is over. Our victory is total.

Can you believe the way things used to be? Remember when our fathers and grandfathers would drag themselves to mind-numbing jobs every day, having the sole responsibility for the feeding, clothing, and housing of their entire family?

And things were no easier before marriage, when men's quest for sexual satisfaction was all too often hampered by the widespread moral code which taught women not to give out the "milk" for "free."

Well, that state of affairs just wouldn't do. So we men came together and did what we do best -- formulate and implement a plan. First step, design the perfect world, the perfect male world. We decided such a world would consist of two things: less responsibility and more -- and no-strings -- sex.

Brothers, have we succeeded.

The amazing thing, really, is how easy it was, how fast the old world of obligation and responsibility dissolved. The first, crucial step, of course, was convincing women that they had it bad, that our jobs were "intellectually stimulating" and not the soul-crushing monotony that they in fact were.

There's more of that too.

What's my point? Well, I was entertained by both Leanne and Matt. And both reinforced my personal opinion: "life is pain" and the grass is the same shade of green on both sides of the fence. We're just capable of deluding ourselves into believing that it's less rote, less monotonous, and more stimulating on the other side.

That's it, really. I'm not sure I have a broader point to make here. Except, you know, thank your spouse for handling whatever crap that they go through each day.

Progressively Regressive Child Care in Dane County

The Capital Times published an article on the shortage of child day care in Dane County. It's not until the 11th paragraph that they finally reveal that the state government is to blame.

The primary reason it's so hard to find care for infants is because of a state mandated caregiver-child ratio that requires one provider for every four babies or toddlers under age 2. Ratios increase according to the age of the child. For example, the ratio is 1 caregiver for every 13 children for 4- and 5-year-olds. So, the staffing costs for infants can be more than triple what they are for older children.

Most child care centers don't offer infant care, in part because of financial reasons. "Not to sound cold, but they don't make money on infants because the ratio is so small," says Jody Bartnick, the executive director of Community Coordinated Child Care, a children's advocacy organization commonly referred to as 4-C. Stricter regulations add costs, she said. Infant rooms require their own sink, their own refrigerator and other equipment.

And when those costs are passed on to consumers, they are significant for most household budgets.

4-C numbers show that the average weekly cost of infant care in Dane County as of March 2008 was $245 in a family child care center and $275 at a group center. For preschool care, the number drops to about $220 at both types of centers. At those rates, child care can cost between $11,000 and $14,000 a year -- compared with about $7,300 for in-state tuition at UW-Madison.

In the name of making day care safer, they've actually made day care nearly impossible to get. And, when you can get it, it's astronomically expensive. For an area that prides itself on its progressivism, this sounds pretty regressive to me.

Of course, they'll redeem themselves by attempting to raise my taxes so they can turn around and subsidize child care for someone else. The obvious solution -- deregulate the market -- would never occur to them.

You're doing a heckuva job, Jimmy Doyle.

Some Men Are Predators, Therefore All Men Are Predators

Last week, Tim Challies posted some reflections entitled An Inflated Predator Panic? He reviewed some of the current anti-male hysteria: some airlines will no longer seat unaccompanied children next to men, child advocates advise parents not to hire male babysitters, sports leagues advise men not to touch children under any circumstances, etc.

Tim then asked whether we're being fair to men and posed some questions to his readers. Ultimately, he concluded that we're being entirely fair to men as he stated that he'd never allow another man to babysit his children under any circumstances. A distressingly large number of Tim's commenters agreed that it was never ever safe to allow a man -- any man -- to babysit or be alone with their children. Many of these same commenters proclaimed that their policy wasn't born out of an unreasonable fear of men and that they wanted their children to have a healthy attitude towards men.

What follows is an edited, reworked version of several comments that I left on Tim's post.I'm a 26 year old male. I got married when I was 23 and I now have two young daughters (2 years old and 8 months old). As a young dad, I'm very sensitive to the "I don't trust any man with my kids!" line.

So, to answer Tim's questions:

1. Would you leave your children with male babysitters?. Yes. 2. Would you allow your teenage boy to babysit other children? Assuming he liked kids more than I do, yes. (I don't understand kids that aren't my own. They have weird language and habits.) 3. Are you immediately hesitant or nervous when a man shows friendly interest in your children?. No, not really. I'm actually more nervous around teens or other kids. They're not fully mature yet. Who knows what they'll think is a good idea. 4. For the men: if you saw a child standing alone and crying in the mall, would you stop to help the child? If so, would you do so with confidence or with some level of fear? I probably wouldn't. I'd be afraid of what other people would think. I'd be petrified that the child's parents would see me with their child and totally freak out. I'd be afraid of getting a bogus conviction as a child molester and having a judge forbid me to even see my own children.

Let's move on to the substance behind the questions though. So far in this conversation, I'm seeing a lot of blanket statements and few actual statistics. Statements like "the fact remains that the vast majority of predators are men" or "After all, the vast majority of children are molested by men whom they know AND trust."

This is, sadly, pretty common. And I wonder how much of those statements are driven by sensational news coverage and not by actual truth. So, I went looking for some statistics. They seem to be hard to find. 30 minutes with Google hasn't turned up much. Here's what I have seen, from the U.S. Justice department:

Currently, it is estimated that adolescents (ages 13 to 17) account for up to one-fifth of all rapes and one-half of all cases of child molestation committed each year (Barbaree, Hudson, and Seto, 1993)

By 1997, however, 6,292 females had been arrested for forcible rape or other sex offenses, constituting approximately 8% of all rape and sexual assault arrests for that year (FBI, 1997). Additionally, studies indicate that females commit approximately 20% of sex offenses against children (ATSA, 1996).

This looks like females and other children commit a significant number of sex crimes. Now, I'll look at the numbers another way. Rounded off, there are 500,000 sex offenders in the state registries. There are 119,566,275 men aged 15 and up in the U.S. I'll round that to 119,500,000. Now, assuming that every single registered sex offender is male (not true), that means male sex offenders are .4% of the total male population. Note that's point 4 percent, not 4 percent.

Put differently, assuming that no women is every guilty of molestation, only 1 out of every 250 men is a risk to your child. How many men does your child even interact with on a regular basis? And the odds are even lower than that. Women can -- and do -- molest children. Why are we so intent on punishing so many men for the sins of so few? With odds this low, why do I have to worry that anyone seeing me carry my daughters around or hold their hands will assume I'm a predator?

Abigail, your comment, in particular, saddens me immensely. You wouldn't let any male babysit your children. You won't let your own son ever babysit anyone's children. You believe that any trusted male is a potential predator. And then you say that you're not telling him that all males are bad. How is he supposed to believe that?

To everyone who feels that way, how am I supposed to believe that? Given that you would never, every allow a man to babysit -- solely because he is a man -- how should I or your children believe that not all men are bad? Eventually your children will notice that mom and dad are okay with them being alone with women but not with men. What kind of a signal will that send to them?

I ask that as a young, Christian male who desperately wants to be a man that children can look up. I want to be a man that young women see as a model of manliness and a model of what to look for in a husband. I want to be a man that young men see as a model of manliness and a model of how to treat women and children.

But I know that you and other mothers like you are in my church. Women that look suspicious every time I go to the nursery to pick up my daughters. Women that give me strange looks when I take my daughter to the park without taking my wife along. Women that stop whatever they're doing to continually watch my interaction with my children.

How am I ever supposed to have any confidence that I can be a role model if half of the adults in the room cringe any time I happen to pass near their child? How can your children ever begin to look up to me and trust me when their mother so clearly fears me?

As a man, I'm very grateful for the parents who have said that they would use a male babysitter. I'm heartbroken over the parents who categorically reject the option. To explicitly say that one person is more trustworthy than another -- solely on the basis of gender -- is extremely discriminatory and discouraging.

I am a parent. I feel a great weight of responsibility for both of my daughters. What really concerns me is the attitude expressed by "E" and several others today: "I must say though, that generally speaking men are perverts and predators and deserve the stigma."

That attitude is entirely offensive, untrue, and demeaning. I will not raise my daughters to believe that every man but me is suspect and dangerous. I am pleading for the opportunity not to be viewed as a potential predator first and a person second. I am pleading for the opportunity to be seen as a Christian, a fellow brother in Christ, a mentor, a friend, a husband, a father, a loving son, and a faithful employee. Instead, I've felt that stigma of being a potential predator. I've walked into the church nursery -- alone -- to pick up my daughter and seen people look at me suspiciously. I've taken my daughter to the park -- alone -- and seen mothers view me with suspicion and a little fear.

Yes, I will protect my daughters. I will raise them to know that men view sex differently than women. That men are more visually oriented. That they should be careful with how they interact with young men: don't be flirtatious or unknowingly seductive. Men view these things differently. I know.

But many, many men are trustworthy and honorable. Many young men are worth of respect in their interactions with young women and children. And we insult and cripple these men if we're collectively telling everyone to be very, very careful with letting their children be alone with men or emotionally close to men.

For me, this goes back to a particular, peculiar, Christian view of sex. Many church youth groups tell their teens to avoid sex until marriage. They explicitly or implicitly tell them that sex is dirty, disgusting, and embarrassing -- so you should save it for the one you love. Are we -- as a society -- giving our children the same view of men? Are we telling our children, our daughters, that men are typically vile, evil, and dangerous; and that it's best not to get too close to them? Are we telling them that all men are predators and therefore you should love, honor, and cherish one as your husband? Are we implying to our sons that men are inherently untrustworthy and then expecting our sons to grow up and suddenly act inherently trustworthy?

People will live up -- or down -- to the expectations that are set for them. If the expectations are negative, well, why try to hard? After all, everyone expects you to fail. We can complain that people should be better than that. We can proclaim that one should always live right no matter what the expectations of others are. But, realistically, most people don't work like that. So, what kind of expectations are we setting for our sons?

Are we telling them that they're sex obsessed predators just waiting for a private moment to commit a crime? Are we telling our sons that they can never be trusted with anyone's children? Are we giving them expectations to live up to or expectations to live down to? Our young men will take their cues from what we say. But they'll also take their cues from how we treat other men and how much we trust other men.

So will our daughters. If we never fully trust any man other than our fathers, if women never fully trust any man but their husband, how can we raise our daughters to trust their husbands? If they grow up believing that most men are predators how can they trust even their husbands? Will they ever be comfortable leaving their children alone with their husbands? How many future marriages are we poisoning today?

Speaking for myself, I will raise my daughters to know what a trustworthy, honorable man looks like. I will raise them to give a trustworthy man the trust he's earned over a lifetime. I'll raise them to know the signs of an untrustworthy man (or boy) and avoid him. But I will not raise my daughters to instinctively distrust men simply for the crime of being male.

I will not discriminate against 50% of the population solely because of their gender. Will. Not. Happen.

CPS: State Sponsored Kidnapping

You want an easy way to make me angry? Threaten my kids. You want an easy way to make me really angry? Assume that every parent is a bad parent and then threaten my kids because you can't be bothered to figure out which type of parent I am. This story from "Great" Britain makes me furious.

A couple forced to give up three children for adoption despite a judge ruling they may have been wrongly accused of abuse yesterday vowed to take their legal fight to Europe.

Mark and Nicky Webster said they will never give up the battle to win back their daughter and two sons after the Appeal Court ruled this week that it was 'too late' for the family to be reunited.

The couple's nightmare started in October 2003 when Mrs Webster took their second son to hospital with a swollen leg. He was found to have a number of small fractures which doctors said could be caused only by physical abuse. The following year they were permanently removed and put up for adoption after a one-day court hearing.

Medical experts later concluded that the injuries were not caused by violent twisting and shaking, but were symptoms of rare case of scurvy. Mr Webster, 35, and his 27-year-old wife fled to Ireland in 2006 to stop their fourth child, Brandon, being taken into care at birth.

The Appeal Court ruled on Wednesday that even though the Websters 'may well' have been victims of a miscarriage of justice the adoption order on their eldest three children could not be revoked because the youngsters are now settled with their adoptive parents.

The couple have not seen the children, now aged nine, seven and five, since they were put up for adoption four years ago.

You want a model of unjust government? It's right there. Right there in one story. Screw up the investigation, take the kids, then refuse to let the parents have their kids.

I'm not honestly not sure how I would react in their situation. Let's just say: "not well". Stories like these are why I hate the very idea of Child Protective Services and other similar government agencies. There is no justification for this behavior.

My heart -- and prayers -- go out to Mr. and Mrs. Webster.

We Put the Girl in the Window

This story just breaks my heart. A 7-year old girl who was so neglected that she became a "feral child" -- completely unable to relate to other people, process emotions, or relate to the world.

"I've been in rooms with bodies rotting there for a week and it never stunk that bad," Holste said later. "There's just no way to describe it. Urine and feces -- dog, cat and human excrement -- smeared on the walls, mashed into the carpet. Everything dank and rotting."

Tattered curtains, yellow with cigarette smoke, dangling from bent metal rods. Cardboard and old comforters stuffed into broken, grimy windows. Trash blanketing the stained couch, the sticky counters.

The floor, walls, even the ceiling seemed to sway beneath legions of scuttling roaches.

First he saw the girl's eyes: dark and wide, unfocused, unblinking. She wasn't looking at him so much as through him.

She lay on a torn, moldy mattress on the floor. She was curled on her side, long legs tucked into her emaciated chest. Her ribs and collarbone jutted out; one skinny arm was slung over her face; her black hair was matted, crawling with lice. Insect bites, rashes and sores pocked her skin. Though she looked old enough to be in school, she was naked -- except for a swollen diaper.

"The pile of dirty diapers in that room must have been 4 feet high," the detective said. "The glass in the window had been broken, and that child was just lying there, surrounded by her own excrement and bugs."

When he bent to lift her, she yelped like a lamb. "It felt like I was picking up a baby," Holste said. "I put her over my shoulder, and that diaper started leaking down my leg."

The authorities had discovered the rarest and most pitiable of creatures: a feral child.

The term is not a diagnosis. It comes from historic accounts -- some fictional, some true -- of children raised by animals and therefore not exposed to human nurturing. Wolf boys and bird girls, Tarzan, Mowgli from The Jungle Book.

"In the first five years of life, 85 percent of the brain is developed," said Armstrong, the psychologist who examined Danielle. "Those early relationships, more than anything else, help wire the brain and provide children with the experience to trust, to develop language, to communicate. They need that system to relate to the world."

The importance of nurturing has been shown again and again. In the 1960s, psychologist Harry Harlow put groups of infant rhesus monkeys in a room with two artificial mothers. One, made of wire, dispensed food. The other, of terrycloth, extended cradled arms. Though they were starving, the baby monkeys all climbed into the warm cloth arms.

"Primates need comfort even more than they need food," Armstrong said.

Thankfully she was found by a great set of adoptive parents who are doing everything they can to love her and help her. As I read the story I wanted so hard to find a villain. Somebody that I could hate for doing this to a child. But it's hard to really blame the mother.

A judge ordered Michelle [Danielle's mother] to have a psychological evaluation. That's among the documents, too.

Danielle's IQ, the report says, is below 50, indicating "severe mental retardation." Michelle's is 77, "borderline range of intellectual ability."

"She tended to blame her difficulties on circumstances while rationalizing her own actions," wrote psychologist Richard Enrico Spana. She "is more concerned with herself than most other adults, and this could lead her to neglect paying adequate attention to people around her."

If there's any villain here, I think it's humanity. We rebelled against God and decided that we wanted to do everything ourselves. We wanted to know both good and evil. We wanted to make our own decisions about right and wrong. We wanted to rule the universe and we wanted God to get out of our way. This is the end result. This is what our sin looks like. Is it fun yet?

Red Sex, Blue Sex

I saw an interesting article about the sociology of sex recently: Red Sex, Blue Sex. Specifically, the difference in attitudes between "red" communities and "blue" communities. One observation in particular really jumped out at me.

Social liberals in the country's "blue states" tend to support sex education and are not particularly troubled by the idea that many teen-agers have sex before marriage, but would regard a teen-age daughter's pregnancy as devastating news. And the social conservatives in "red states" generally advocate abstinence-only education and denounce sex before marriage, but are relatively unruffled if a teen-ager becomes pregnant, as long as she doesn't choose to have an abortion.

But that wasn't all. Apparently, the truly religious (rather than the socially religious) teen-agers do act differently than their peers. But that difference may be more related to the religious support network than to the affects of religion itself.

Religious belief apparently does make a potent difference in behavior for one group of evangelical teen-agers: those who score highest on measures of religiosity--such as how often they go to church, or how often they pray at home. But many Americans who identify themselves as evangelicals, and who hold socially conservative beliefs, aren't deeply observant.

Even more important than religious conviction, Regnerus argues, is how "embedded" a teen-ager is in a network of friends, family, and institutions that reinforce his or her goal of delaying sex, and that offer a plausible alternative to America's sexed-up consumer culture. A church, of course, isn't the only way to provide a cohesive sense of community. Close-knit families make a difference. Teen-agers who live with both biological parents are more likely to be virgins than those who do not. And adolescents who say that their families understand them, pay attention to their concerns, and have fun with them are more likely to delay intercourse, regardless of religiosity.

Finally, the article points out some of the drawbacks of each approach to sex. Pay attention to the warning at the end. If religious conservatives want to make a difference in societal behaviors we'll have to work a lot harder on actually being involved in our communities and helping young Christians.

Each of these models of sexual behavior has drawbacks--in the blue-state scheme, people may postpone child-bearing to the point where infertility becomes an issue. And delaying child-bearing is better suited to the more affluent, for whom it yields economic benefits, in the form of educational opportunities and career advancement. But Carbone and Cahn argue that the red-state model is clearly failing on its own terms--producing high rates of teen pregnancy, divorce, sexually transmitted disease, and other dysfunctional outcomes that social conservatives say they abhor. In "Forbidden Fruit," Regnerus offers an "unscientific postscript," in which he advises social conservatives that if they really want to maintain their commitment to chastity and to marriage, they'll need to do more to help young couples stay married longer. As the Reverend Rick Marks, a Southern Baptist minister, recently pointed out in a Florida newspaper, "Evangelicals are fighting gay marriage, saying it will break down traditional marriage, when divorce has already broken it down." Conservatives may need to start talking as much about saving marriages as they do about, say, saving oneself for marriage.

"Having to wait until age twenty-five or thirty to have sex is unreasonable," Regnerus writes. He argues that religious organizations that advocate chastity should "work more creatively to support younger marriages. This is not the 1950s (for which I am glad), where one could bank on social norms, extended (and larger) families, and clear gender roles to negotiate and sustain early family formation."

Poverty in America

What causes poverty in America? Greedy capitalistic businessmen? Unethical financiers? How about marriage?:

For the most part, long-term poverty today is self-inflicted. To see this, let's examine some numbers from the Census Bureau's 2004 Current Population Survey. There's one segment of the black population that suffers only a 9.9 percent poverty rate, and only 13.7 percent of their under-5-year-olds are poor. There's another segment of the black population that suffers a 39.5 percent poverty rate, and 58.1 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor.

Among whites, one population segment suffers a 6 percent poverty rate, and only 9.9 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor. Another segment of the white population suffers a 26.4 percent poverty rate, and 52 percent of its under-5-year-olds are poor.

What do you think distinguishes the high and low poverty populations? The only statistical distinction between both the black and white populations is marriage. There is far less poverty in married-couple families, where presumably at least one of the spouses is employed. Fully 85 percent of black children living in poverty reside in a female-headed household.

It turns out that the poor in America are actually doing pretty well, by absolute standards.

In 1971, only about 32 percent of all Americans enjoyed air conditioning in their homes. By 2001, 76 percent of poor people had air conditioning. In 1971, only 43 percent of Americans owned a color television; in 2001, 97 percent of poor people owned at least one. In 1971, 1 percent of American homes had a microwave oven; in 2001, 73 percent of poor people had one. Forty-six percent of poor households own their homes. Only about 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. The average poor American has more living space than the average non-poor individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens and other European cities.

Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 30 percent own two or more cars. Seventy-eight percent of the poor have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception; and one-third have an automatic dishwasher.

That's certainly doing better than me. I don't have cable TV or a dish washer (not until my daughter gets a bit older, at any rate).