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Showing posts with label FATHER POWER. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FATHER POWER. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

THE CT JUDICIAL BRANCH FAMILY CIVIL INTAKE FORM: IS IT A PATRIARCHAL TOOL OF OPPRESSION!

*Ms. Doreen Ludwig, author of "Motherless America" provided the original inspiration for this article as well as a considerable amount of the material included in the article.  The Divorce in Connecticut website would like to acknowledge Ms. Ludwig's outstanding contributions on behalf of Protective Mothers and their children.

INTRODUCTION
This website has often spoken about the fatherhood funding provided by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services which has been pouring into the States by the billions and billions of dollars.  We have tracked how much of that money has been spent supporting abusive fathers in their custody battles in CT Family Court.  

In the early days of spending on fathers, the CT Judicial Branch took on the development of the Family Civil Intake Screen, a form which Family Services now uses to screen people when they apply to them for services.  The CT Judicial Branch is incredibly proud of this form.  In fact, this Intake Screen has been shipped around as a model of excellence to other State Family Court systems throughout the country.  

But is the Intake Screen worth the paper it is written on?  Is it merely another tool of the father's rights movement to harry, bully and oppress women in Family Court not only throughout Connecticut but also throughout the country?   For the better part, I would say the answer to that last question is yes. 

THE HISTORY OF THE INTAKE SCREEN
The mid 90s and on into the 2000s was the timeframe within which CT power brokers were involved in the systematic alteration of the Family Court system to accommodate policies which favor fathers, switch custody to fathers even in cases of abuse, expand the Judicial Branch’s access to fatherhood funding, and thereby enrich family court professionals.  

In 1996, the Clinton administration passed the Welfare Reform Act.  In 2001 Governor Rowland established the Governor's Commission on Custody, Divorce, and Children which issued its report in 2002.  The names of the members of that task force are a who's who of names that have come up repeatedly in outrageous divorce cases where protective mothers lost custody of their children in extremely unjust circumstances. 2002, the year in which the Commission report was issued, marks the beginning of the massive increase in Family Court custody battles which took place in the subsequent decade.  

According to a Pace Law Review article on the Screen published in 2007, work on the the Family Civil Intake Screen began in 2002.  It was then tried out in pilot programs in select courtrooms in 2003 and 2004, and then rolled out in the Family Court system statewide in 2005.  There was then a followup study on the effectiveness of the Screen which the Branch conducted in 2009. (Just for context, the multi-agency memorandum of understanding between all CT State agencies to promote the interests of fathers was signed in 2010.) Conclusions in the followup were generally positive, but were they justified?

THE EFFECTIVENESS OF THE INTAKE SCREEN
In its followup, the CT Judicial Branch tried to draw conclusions regarding the Family Civil Intake Screen as to whether it is or is not effective.  For them, effectiveness has meant more fathers gaining access to their children, and more mothers silenced through a new focus on "cooperation" and "agreement" rather than fitness to parent.

According to their results, they were able to reduce caseloads considerably and save the CT Judical Branch a good deal of money, up to $400,000.  I rather suspect that's a drop in the bucket to an Agency as well funded as the CT Judicial Branch.  Be that as it may, along the way, they also attempted to draw conclusions about whether Family Services itself is effective.  

However, doing so is actually quite impossible because there is no consistency regarding who among divorcing couples is and is not referred to Family Services, which, by the way, is free of charge.  

In other words, there doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason as to who receives Family Services and who does not;access to these services doesn’t appear to be income based.  I am aware of some very wealthy people who have used Family Services and many who are not.  Although there are signs that indicate you are not allowed to go in front of a judge before meeting with a Family Services Counselor many do in spite of the rule.  Other people never see a Family Services Counselor at all, ever.

Compounding this problem is the fact that it is impossible to determine exactly how you get referred to Family Services in order to take the intake screen.  If you look at the CT Judicial Branch website under Family Services, Item #19 appears to state that you would first take the Intake Screen and then get a Court Order for services while Item #21 appears to state that you would get the Court Order first and then take the Intake Screen to obtain services.  Bottom line, the guidelines are written in such a confusing way, who knows what is the proper approach to  obtaining services.  This means that all sorts of people, particularly those who are self represented, must be falling through the cracks and not getting the help they need. Many are probably getting help, but not necessarily through the application of the Intake Screen, which makes any conclusions regarding the Screen and its value fundamentally inaccurate.

THE BASIS FOR DEVELOPING THE SCREEN
The CT Judicial Branch decided that it needed to develop a Family Civil Intake Screen because of what it described as a dramatic increase in the number of high conflict custody disputes starting in 1996.  In the early 1990s the numbers of divorce cases was quite low.  However, according to the CT Judicial Branch, since the early 2000s, approximately 30,000 new divorce cases are filed each year. 1/3 of them, or 10,000 or so, end up in custody battles.  This is hardly the minority of individuals that the Branch would like us to believe has difficulties in Family Court.  

The problem of the massive increase in high stakes custody battles started with the Federal Government’s gender biased promotion of father’s rights which really took off as of 1996.  For instance, one reason the Pace Law Review article on the Screen cites for the increase in custody battles is that nowadays society has a much greater recognition of the importance of fathers in bringing up kids.  This is the result of massive father’s rights propaganda paid for with fatherhood funding money.  Another reason is that the increased focus on paternity tests and fathers paying child support has had motivated access and visitation programs to attempt custody switches in favor of fathers. The article also directly mentions father's rights organizations and gender related political interests that have led fathers to sue for custody at record numbers.

The CT Judicial Branch's current emphasis on the forcible removal of mothers from the lives of their children via accusations of PAS and other charges such as the refusal to co-parent effectively has led to a substantial increase in single father led homes.  Meanwhile, these fathers are freely allowed to exclude mothers from the lives of their children, even when those mothers were the primary caretakers of those children for years.  Fathers are not censured for PAS type behavior or the failure to co-parent in the way mothers are, and they are given free rein to do as they please in family court, which includes refusing to obey court orders.

THE SCREEN IS A FATHER’S RIGHTS INSTRUMENT
The triage program was developed by consultants from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, or what is more commonly known as the AFCC in coordination with employees of the CT Judicial Branch.  According to Doreen Ludwig, author of the highly regarded book "Motherless America", "The AFCC has roots in the father's rights movement, promotes an agenda of maximizing custody awards for fathers regardless of their parental caregiving history, fitness or ability." She also states "AFCC members have built a family court industry which ignores the existence and effects of, abuse on children, supplanting protection and autonomy for targets of the abuse with calls for conciliation." 

The names on this project are Peter Salem who is a founder of the AFCC, Dr. Robin Deutsch, Dr. Janet John Johnson, Attorney Andrew Shepherd, and Dr. Marsha Kline, all members of the AFCC. Dr. Pruett herself was the head of the AFCC at the time this project was being coordinated. Additionally, I find it alarming that AFCC member Janet Johnston played a central role in creating this Intake Screen because she is a father's rights person known for criticizing women who defend themselves from domestic violence and redefining domestic violence as common couples violence. You can see her victim blaming influence very clearly in the Intake Screen.  

The authors of the article discussing the Intake Screen insist that it is research based and evidence based. What does that mean? It appears that this means the creators of the Family Civil Intake Screen consulted with their own people in order to acquire the information they felt they needed to create the Screen. This includes AFCC members working at the CT Judicial Branch or their associates.  They did not consult with litigants who were actually receiving the services and would actually be taking the Screens.    

If you then look at the extensive bibliography at the end of the Pace Law article on the screen, it looks as though all the professionals that they consulted, with few exceptions, are members of the father's rights movement as well.  Most notably, they consulted 7 of Janet Johnston’s research papers.

WHAT DOES THE SCREEN MEASURE?
The primary difficulty with the Family Court Intake Screen is that all it does is investigate how effectively they communicate and co-parent and ignores issues related to abuse. In general, the Family Civil Intake Form appears to reflect DHHS policy to increase custody for fathers and to ignore child abuse, alcohol and substance abuse, anger issues or domestic violence.  Thus, the Screen doesn’t measure or evaluate the level of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse present in the relationship.  

A protective mother who refuses to work well with an abuser is likely to get a very poor rating in the Screen.  Furthermore, the Screen investigates whether one or the other parent has the tendency to make unilateral decisions.  There is no consideration as to whether one parent always made unilateral decisions in a particular family because one party did all of the child care and the other was uninvolved. 

Once the screening has taken place, the primary services that Family Services offers is mediation and conflict resolution which experts have generally stated is not advisable in situations where there has been domestic violence.  Most people have found that Family Services doesn’t care whether there has been proven domestic violence, the department will still push mediation services regardless.  Other than that, Family Services will provide custody evaluations and also issue focused evaluations, but both rarely take into account the trauma that survivors of domestic violence experience.  This results in outcomes that are unfavorable to victims of domestic violence and their children.

CONCLUSION

Despite widespread lip service to the damage that domestic violence does to mothers and children in the State of CT, statewide policies that favor men continue to dominate our Family Court system. While there appears to be considerable funding for fatherhood programs and support for fathers in their custody battles, there is little support for mothers.  

When Arianna Oyola attempted to obtain a restraining order for herself and her child, there were no financial resources available to her to provide an attorney or a domestic violence advocate to assist her.  Later, the father who had violated at least two previous restraining orders, threw the baby off a bridge in Middletown. 

The Family Civil Intake form is merely another means that the Fatherhood movement here in CT has used to continue to oppress women and discriminate against them and their children. Now this form is being marketed to other States and used to expand policies which favor fathers over mothers and continue to burden and oppress victims of domestic violence. As advocates, we need to take steps to reverse this trend.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

TESTIMONY OPPOSING SB #1049 FROM THE CT COALITION AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE



Testimony Opposing
SB 1049, AAC Registration Fees for Counsel and Guardians ad Litem for Minor Children and Other Requirements for Certain Family Relations Matters
Finance, Revenue & Bonding Committee April 17, 2017

Text Originally Located at the following link:


Good afternoon Senator Fonfara, Senator Frantz, Representative Rojas and members of the committee. CT Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) is the state’s leading voice for victims of domestic violence and those who serve them. Our members provide essential services to nearly 40,000 victims of domestic violence each year. Services provided include 24-hour crisis response, emergency shelter, safety planning, counseling, agency/staff training, support groups and court advocacy.

We oppose SB 1049

Sunday, March 5, 2017

CT FATHER'S POWER ADVOCATES SKETCH OUT A LEGISLATIVE INITIATIVE TO CRUSH MOTHERS IN CT FAMILY COURT!

The Commander, "The Handmaiden's Tale"
The way Fathers in CT want things to be!
In Margaret Atwood's dystopic novel "The Handmaiden's Tale", a series which airs soon on Hulu, women have been reduced to baby making machines in a society where men have seized full political control  of the entire United States.  Impossible?  Unlikely?  Don't be so sure.

"Handmaidens" whose sole purpose is to give birth
in Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaiden's Tale"
Recently, I was at the Legislative Office Building with some friends when a person showed me current 2017 legislative proposals, which, appallingly enough, sketch out a strategic plan that will essentially crush mothers in Family Court and lead to a situation where men seize control of family court processes and essentially remove mothers from the lives of their children in droves.