Op/Ed By Wallace Mabry –
Family intervention strategies to quell the ever increasing crisis in families are often not as rewarding in their implementation as they are designed and intended. The thinking, generally, that goes into the process of working out strategies through counseling and services is often clear with well-designed approaches but met with barriers during their applications with families, occasioning short-term results.
Family crisis associated with the work of Child Protective Services (CPS) extensively involve children and the question of their safety within the family structure. Understanding that children learn manipulative behavior from their surroundings, adults, and others with whom they associate, it is no simple task, sometimes, to ferret out the truth of what actually goes on in families to affect a crisis.
All families are not created equal. Aside from the fact there are cultural, social, educational, and economic differences that attach themselves to the lives of families, there are also other as important factors, many of which are not exclusive to any particular group of people. Where we find similarities we often find ourselves in familiar territory where certain strategies can be effective in resolving a crisis without court intervention. We will incorporate those similarities into our discussion as we meander through the trials and tribulations of a family in crisis.
We are often confronted with questions relating to where parents’ responsibilities for their children begin and when do those responsibilities end? For CPS and the mandates of Family Law, it is a simple matter of age. From a child’s birth to the child’s ripe old age of 18 CPS investigates allegations of maltreatment and abuse against them by parent, legal guardian, and person legally responsible (PLR) for their care.
It would appear, at times, based solely on the feedback from a number of parents, that because the law says a parent cannot beat (sic) a child, and “that is what a child needs sometimes, a good a** whipping,” those who made the law should take care of them when their behavior becomes unmanageable.
Custodial responsibility is a big concern for families when a child’s behavior is consistently out of control in the home. Many parents and guardians are quick to say they can no longer tolerate their children’s behavior. They beseech CPS to take them because their children are no longer welcome in their homes. They are willing to sign any paperwork, on the spot, necessary to dispose of their responsibilities. They are willing and prepared to face a neglect petition filed in Family Court or whatever other consequence that may arise. They simply want the children removed, and CPS, the County of Monroe, and the State of New York can do what they deem necessary to legally relieve them of further responsibility.
What is it that has or has not occurred in the familial relationship that has resulted in that feeling of intolerance of one’s children? The blame for that developed intolerance lies somewhere within the family matrix.
In retrospect, a great many pregnancies occur accidentally, in that, sexual contact is a happenstance, spur of the moment contact based on opportunity and some planned means of satisfying a feeling associated with establishing a relationship with a boy or man.
Additionally, the ever presence and availability of drugs and alcohol place consumers, women more often than not, at a disadvantage, when in their intoxicated states, moods, and concomitant brazenness create socio-sexual opportunities, and they find themselves at the advantage of an unscrupulous male.
Quite the contrary, too, other scenarios entice young girls and women, and infrequently more mature women into relationships that produce children. The sirens song of flattery, the promises of love, and a woman’s perception of a male so fine that she just has to have his child have resulted in any number of births where fathers have moved on to other relationships, even before the child is delivered, leaving women to fend for themselves with a child. And, once bitten by that kind of resolve, the story goes, it happens again and again and the woman wakes one morning, a single mother, with several children and faced with the care and responsibility for them all.
But where does love for a child change to dislike for a child based primarily on the child’s behavior, much of which the child learns in the very household that wants to throw the child out?
What, we ask ourselves, has occurred and may be still occurring in a home when a child’s behavior is out of control, mixed with streams of profanity, verbal and physical confrontations, threats of harm toward a parent, and incidents of property damage?
A lot of homes are managed by parents, guardians, and PLRs who utilize profanity as daily ritual in communicating with their children, friends, and other family members. Children become accustomed to it and recognize it for what it is: communicative language. Children practice it amongst themselves, and become quite expert at its use.
Other factors in the home like open disputes where children are witness to verbal and physical outbursts between parents and parent substitutes offer children opportunities to learn more about human behavior and its possible outcomes. Who wins in a given scenario doubtless has some significance in a child’s learning process and, as well, how far one can go to change disadvantage to advantage.
Mental health concerns are prevalent in some homes and those disabilities are shared with children. A mixture of drug and alcohol addiction and mental health concerns further complicates households where children are caught up in the mix and act out pejoratively.
Children are also victimized by other adults, family members, and PLRs in homes where, at first glance, one would judge the home environment as appropriately managed and highlighted by caring and astute adults.
In spite of the availability of a plethora of books on the market reporting parenting styles, do’s and don’ts, as well as parenting classes designed to impart various and sundry tried and tested methods and techniques to prepare parents and guardians with hands on skills to assist them in winning the battles so much a part of parenting, the latter occurs, unfortunately but gratefully, after the situation at home has become too intolerable and generally CPS and Family Court are involved.
The foregone is not an attempt to excuse or to exonerate men from their parental responsibilities. Men, most assuredly, have an equal if not primary role in the creation of home environments where children’s behavior deteriorates and they begin to emulate and demonstrate at risk behavior in and outside the home. Men cannot simply abdicate their parental responsibilities simply because they are resolved to discontinue a family relationship with the mother of their children. And, perhaps more importantly, men must be resolved to the understanding and commitment that a father’s role is more involved in the development of a child’s character and learning than a few telephone calls, a pair of sneakers, or a telephone call to the Child Abuse Hotline. If a father feels his child needs a safe, nurturing environment in which to live, he should take his concerns to Family Court in a well-written, concisely stated custody petition and provide that environment for his child. Fathers have rights and they should have the doggedness to fight for those rights even when faced with preliminary judicial findings against them.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)