US: Shared parenting: The Government’s View

On shared parenting, last night I received an e-mail message containing the executive summary of a large government study report, “What About the Dads” by The Urban Institute, USA, 2006.pdf (PDF, 820KB, 186 pages); prepared for, and I will quote verbatim:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
Office of Human Services Policy
Jerry Regier, Deputy Assistant Secretary

With funding from the Administration for Children and Families
Administration on Children, Youth, and Families
Children’s Bureau

Those are hefty credentials for a report that will be the basis for government policies for some time, policies regarding the US government’s efforts to develop strategies and implement tactics for getting dads to count in their children’s lives.

Shared parenting advocates will quite likely be a bit enthused about that report. Weighty and influential government departments that take an interest in having dads become involved in strengthening the bond between children and their fathers? That is the new government policy? How remarkable, after decades of government policies that implemented nothing but the feminist-driven agenda for the planned destruction of the family!

I haven’t been quite fair with citing the report. Its subtitle reads: “Child Welfare Agencies’ Efforts to Identify, Locate, and Involve Nonresident Fathers”. That is still water for the mill for shared-parenting advocates, right? Not so fast.

Being a divorced father, and having seen the long-term consequences of our divorce affect the outcomes in our children, even though I did not see my children for a full eight years and didn’t know where they were for five of those eight years, I am all for divorced dads being involved in their children’s lives to the fullest extent.

However, equally- or (better) equitably-shared parenting still will give children only half of all the parenting they have right to have. Only being raised by married biological parents who live with their children under one roof will give children a chance of getting all of the parenting they need and have a right to get.

The first statistics are trickling in (“What About the Dads” mentions them), and shared parenting appears to have on average only a marginal effect in bringing about better outcomes in children, while the outcomes in children raised by two married biological parents are without a doubt on average much better than those of children of divorce, raised through shared parenting or not.

Shared parenting advocates have a tendency of denying that. Many of them come across as having accepted divorce, not marriage for life, as a right. It seems that they have nothing against the divorce epidemic, that they resigned themselves to the divorce culture, that some of them embrace it and even insist that it is their right to be divorced, but that it is also their right to be involved in the upbringing of their children. Of course they have that right, but all of the rationalizing they do cannot erase the fact that they may have the legal but not the moral right to be divorced. For them to insist that they have that right is playing into the hands of the radical feminists and social engineers who wish to destroy the family, so that they can build the new world order out of the resulting ruins and rubble of civilization.

By insisting on the right to be divorced while demanding the right to shared parenting, shared-parenting advocates in essence resign themselves to being the losers in the war against the family. Their demands for shared parenting are nothing more than the negotiating, from the position of the conquered, of the terms of their surrender after the war against the family is almost over.

I downloaded the full report of “What About the Dads”, but the reading of it is not very high on my priority list. What I read in the executive summary does not entice me to look at the full report, although I will use it to verify quotes from it that anyone may choose to make as time will go by. I wonder whether shared-parenting advocates will be fooled into anything by what the report states or recommends.

Here are a few things from the executive summary:

  • Engaging fathers of foster children can be important not only for the potential benefit of a child-father relationship (when such a relationship does not pose a risk to the child’s safety or well-being), but also for making placement decisions and gaining access to resources for the child. [My emphasis – WHS]
  • While research is lacking on whether engaging fathers enhances the well-being or case outcomes of foster children, lack of father involvement means that caseworkers may never know whether a father can help his child. Few studies have examined nonresident [sic] fathers as placement resources for their children and there is no research about child-father visitation or research on the effects of involving nonresident [sic] fathers in the lives of children being served by child welfare agencies (Sonenstein, Malm, and Billing 2002).

Lack of research my foot! Surely, the authors of the report must know about another report that was also an outcome of a government-sponsored, very large study:

Braver, Sanford Ph.D. — “Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths : The Surprising Truth About Fathers, Children, and Divorce” (Hardcover – 288 pages (October 1998) J P Tarcher; ISBN: 087477862X ) Review

Sanford Braver says it all: children of divorce and separation do much better in many different ways when their dads are involved in their upbringing. Not only that, but he also proves that the very sort of dads that “What About the Dads” concerns itself with does better as well. Clearly, when those dads have someone to care for, and if they are allowed to be in their children’s lives, those dads, too, do better.

  • Methodology: The study was conducted in four states, Arizona, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Tennessee, using three methods of data collection – interviews with child welfare administrators, case-level data collection through interviews with caseworkers, and data linkage between child welfare and child support systems. We interviewed local agency caseworkers about particular cases between October 2004 and February 2005 to examine front-line practices related to nonresident [sic] fathers. Cases were selected from among children who had been in foster care for at least 3 months but no more than 36 months. Children in the sample were all in foster care for the first time (first placement episode), and the child welfare agency’s records indicated that each of the children’s biological fathers were alive but not living in the home from which the child was removed. Additionally, only one child per mother was eligible for the study.
  • Description of Nonresident Fathers of Foster Children: Data on 1,958 eligible cases (83% response rate) were collected through telephone interviews with 1,222 caseworkers. The nonresident fathers of the children sampled represent a varied group. While most caseworkers, at the time of the interview, knew the identity of the fathers of children in the study’s sample (88%), paternity had not yet been established for over one-third of the total sample’s children (37%). A comparison with mothers found that demographic characteristics of identified nonresident [sic] fathers are similar to those of the resident mothers though fathers are slightly older (36 vs. 32 years old, on average) and more likely to have been married at some point. As expected, caseworkers appear to know less about nonresident fathers. The percent of “don’t know” responses is much higher for nonresident [sic] fathers than for similar questions about resident mothers.

Aside from the fact that paternity will quite likely not ever be established for at least 30 percent of those “fathers” because those children they are alleged to have fathered are not their biological offspring, all of that sounds very much like the report is the product of advocacy research.

Advocacy research does not stand up to scientific standards, although many people make a living doing it. Advocacy research could more accurately be called science fiction on account of collecting or manufacturing data that support a hypothesis, discards or alters those data that do not support or do contradict the hypothesis the advocacy researchers set out to prove and then present its conclusions disguised in the cloak of science. Feminist “research” is almost entirely composed of advocacy research.

Advocacy research uses selective study samples that are likely to produce the desired results. It does not use randomly selected study samples, as those are far more likely to produce objective answers that are contrary to the point the advocacy researcher wishes to promote.

It seems that the best that can be said about “What About the Dads” is that it is an opinion survey based on selected opinions about selected individuals from a selected level of society, mainly those who cause more or less intensive involvement by social workers, mothers on welfare whose children have fathers that are likely to be substance abusers, criminals, in jail, and so on – all of that involving children whom even their mothers didn’t want or couldn’t handle, for which reason those children had been placed in foster care.

It appears that the authors of “What About the Dads” found exactly what they were looking for. In addition to implying that dads in children’s lives pose risks or are perhaps not much good for anything, the report provides recommendations on how to find those fathers that are hard to find.

Mind you, what man would want to show up voluntarily for a game of Russian roulette with one out of every three chambers loaded?

The final recommendation in “What About the Dads” is:

…other research could include efforts to collect qualitative data to examine the relationship between permanency goals and casework, specifically casework involving fathers. Qualitative research could also examine specific methods of identifying, locating and involving fathers. Further examination of training opportunities for caseworkers and the impact on practice directed at nonresident fathers is also suggested.

Qualitative research is a code name for advocacy research. The outstanding quality of qualitative research is that it has no redeeming qualities worth anything to anyone other than to advocacy researchers and their clients. No valid projections to the general population can be made from the results of qualitative “research”.

My impression of “What About the Dads” is that it will be used as the justification for a renewed, intensified hunt for and crackdown on “deadbeat dads.”

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