Archive for July, 2011

Why is it that children always get stuck in the middle?  Children are innocent of the breaking down of the relationship.  They are innocent of your inability to act as a mature adult and allow them to have a healthy, whole relationship with BOTH parents.  They are innocent of the animosity and deceit that usually enters their home when parents separate.  It doesn’t matter what happened, or who’s “fault” you think it is.  As a parent, it is your responsibility to protect them, to teach them, to keep them safe.

Once again, I understand both positions.  I have two biological children.  They mean the world to me.  When they were under age, I never took their biological Father back to court for increases in child support.  He visited our children three times prior to our first divorce.  After that, they never saw him.  He never sent birthday cards, presents, etc.  He had absolutely no positive contribution to make to the physical, mental or spiritual well-being of my children, so I wasn’t about to kick the hornet’s nest.  Any contact in the past few years was due to my daughter being an adult, and/or my husband and I inviting him to my son’s birthday parties.

My daughter had many questions growing up about why her Daddy never came to see them.  I told her he had things he was working on, that he loved them very much and that his being away had nothing to do with them.  Never once, and I mean NEVER once, did I utter a bad word about him to my children.  I am very proud of this because it was incredibly difficult.  It was my own personal, on-going exercise in self-discipline.

On the flip side, I have four step-children.  I met the children after dating my husband for a while, when it became obvious we were serious about a long-term relationship with each other.  We all got along great, and although they were all young, that didn’t worry me as I am from a family of six children.  Now, once again being incredibly naïve, I was expecting that I would have an adult relationship with the mother of these children.  I came into the picture two years after the divorce, and from what I had been told by people knowing both my husband and the ex, there was no love lost on either side.  It seemed they cooperated nicely with the responsibilities that come with four young children.  How could I go wrong, right?  LOL  Wrong!

Once it was obvious we were serious, the games began.  Withholding visitation, denying contact via phone, telling the children that they would get back together if it weren’t for me.  We actually got married on a Tuesday, during mid-week visitation, to be able to have the children attend.  Over the years, it has only gotten worse.  There is a thick file folder down at the courthouse  in public records that tells the story.

But it’s the children who have suffered.  The ex has said many things over the years that are simply not true.  She has told the kids that my husband hasn’t paid child support, that he is trying to get them taken away (in fact he did get custody but that’s for another post), that I am the reason she doesn’t have any money.   I could go on and on and on, but you get the idea.  How is it edifying to the children to hear any of this even if it WERE true?  It’s not.  The kids have no place being stuck in the middle.  I don’t care what your ex did to you.  That person is still half of that child.  And YOU are the adult.

Emotional warfare.  That’s what it is.  Just like in King Solomon’s day…the person who loves the child will give in, simply to protect.  That is love.

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I remember the day my daughter told me about a teacher at school who was having sex with students like it was yesterday.  We were in our kitchen.  Standing in front of the dishwasher in fact.  The next thing out of her mouth shocked me, and angered me – at her.  She said “and everybody knows about it.”

“EVERYBODY knows about it?  I don’t believe that”, I challenge.  “Other students maybe… but EVERYBODY…meaning other teachers, school administrators, parents even???”  My mind could not comprehend that and my heart would not accept it.  “Absolutely NOT!” I scolded her.  “I don’t believe that for a minute.  And YOU better be careful what you say.”  That was 10 years ago.  My daughter was correct.  This teacher was indeed having sex with students.  Plural.  It was, and still is, shocking to me.

Over the years I have learned a lot about the teachers who exhibit this behavior.  These people are almost always predators.  You will find the occassional teacher who considers themselves “in love” with their victim.  The male teachers are almost without exception punished much more severely than the women.  There are still so many stereotypes about “boys being boys” that it can be difficult to prosecute the female offenders.  Studies show the long-term psychological effects of young men being victimized in this manner are just as damaging to them, sometimes more so, as to young women.  (Read http://www.sesamenet.org/male_vics.html for more information on male victims.  S.E.S.A.M.E – Stop Educators Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation www.sesamenet.org is in my opinion, one of the best organizations today working to bring attention to educator abuse.)

Let’s jump back to the case of the teacher I reference above.   She has a history of this behavior going back to when she began her student teaching.  She still teaches today.  The school district she now teaches at is well aware of her history.  THAT is what was and still is most shocking, upsetting and disappointing to me.  They not only didn’t fire this woman, in actuality, they protected her.

Sadly again, what I have learned over the years is that schools protecting these teachers is common practice.  This is quite appropriately called “Passing the trash.”  (Check out http://www.lvrj.com/opinion/-passing-the-trash-in-public-schools-117893284.html)  Schools will approach a teacher known or suspected of being inappropriately involved with students and discretely ask them to leave the district.  In exchange, the district gives a good recommendation to the next district about the teacher.  Laws are changing but depending on which state you live in, they vary greatly.

My daughter wasn’t sexually abused at school, but she was harassed, intimidated, threatened.   She didn’t deserve that.  She was telling the truth.  How many more kids are there like my daughter?  Kids who speak up about a serious issue, only to be shot down.  My daughter didn’t give up until she had given me enough proof, enough stories that could be collaborated, enough names, that I believed her.  We fought a good fight, for a long while, to get things changed.  We didn’t win the battle.  We tried hard, but came up short.  But I promise you this, in spite of losing a few battles, in the end, we WILL win the war.

This week, more than usual, the topic of paternity fraud has been on my mind.  Two reasons I suppose.  One, my husbands ex is after his tax returns to take him back to court for more child support; two, I have joined two groups – one focused on the topic of paternity fraud, the other on child support reform.

Now, don’t get me wrong, a father SHOULD pay child support.  I myself am a mother who collects child support.  My son is 20 years old.  He is severely affected by autism.  Most likely, he will not ever have the ability to live on his own.  My ex didn’t pay support for years, nor did he see his son.  He is NOT the kind of father any woman wants for her child, but that is a topic for another post.

On my husband’s 47th birthday he sat on the side of our bed and wept like a child.  We had just received word that one of his children was not biologically his.  We didn’t expect it to be the child in the middle.  We really just wanted to make sure the oldest was his.  This came into question after discovering that the ex-wife was probably having sex with at least three other men at the time of conception.  Talk about a dog in heat.

At the time, we had custody of all four children due to the mother being beaten up by a former student.  Yep.  That’s right.  This woman is a teacher.  Someone who stands in front of our impressionable teenagers every day.  Scary if you ask me.  The student was her “boyfriend” even when he was in school, although she denied that in court there is plenty of evidence supporting the fact that they had a relationship.

Bottom line, one-third of all children born within wedlock do not belong biologically to the husband.  Many of these men pay support for years, even after proving the child is not theirs.  I don’t know about you but I see this as a problem.  No man should have to pay support on a child that isn’t his.  I really don’t care how long he has been in the picture.  If he wants to consider that child his, fantastic.  But to COURT ORDER him to pay, nonsense.

In the case of my husband, not only did this woman deceive him by declaring him father of this child, but she also named this child as his in divorce proceedings.  Did she know the child wasn’t his?  According to former friends, yes.  According to my stepchildren, yes.  They were actually told the day we had their cheeks swabbed.  That is fraud.  Plain and simple.

My husband married a woman he met in Wal-Mart.  (I have always thought that to be SO appropriate.)  She began the relationship by prank-calling him repeatedly.  After a few days they met.  One thing leads to another, and the Wal-Mart special becomes pregnant.  Claiming it is his.  My husband, being the boy scout and raised to do the “right thing” married this woman.  Needless to say, it was a train wreck of epic proportions.  After supporting her through college and the birth of four children, they divorce.

I met my wonderful husband in 2000.  After much pestering from my daughter about her Science Teacher.  She seemed to think we would hit it off.  Me, well, let’s just say I was less than enthusiastic about meeting ANY man.  I had a high-level corporate job, single Mom with two kids – one of whom had autism.  She caught me at a week point.  Next thing I know it’s coffee, then a date, and then we’re inseparable.  Crazy.  It all happened so fast.

To top it off, he came with four kids.  I’m thinking, okay, I like kids.  I did my research too.  Had friends check out him and the ex wife.  Checked into the relationship.  No worries.  There was no love lost.  I was told he had no time for her. The whole relationship from his side it seemed was based on the health and welfare of the children.   She was described to me as a “total ditz.”  This I was told came from another High School teacher.  There were rumors.  I couldn’t believe they could possibly be true.  (Maybe I just had my head in the sand.)

It really didn’t matter because it wasn’t long before I’m head over heals in love.  I married my wonderful husband in November of 2000.  The rest is history.

Why am I telling you this?  Because as we go forward into what has happened in the past 10 years, this will be helpful.  Believe me, truth REALLY is stranger than fiction.

Recent research shows that the number of women being put in prison is increasing at twice the rate of men. One-third of these women to prison on drug charges; two-thirds are mothers to small children. I never really thought about women in prison. Until about 4 years ago.

My daughter, age 25, is currently serving time in a correctional center.  She is not there on drug charges, however her issues stem from prescription drug addiction.  My daughter is an intelligent, loving and creative person – when she is drug free. When pills are involved, she is a completely different person.  I guess this is typical behavior when someone is addicted.

Most of her growing up years, my daughter was a typical kid.  She excelled in school, was involved in extracurricular activities at school and in the community, and active in church. She dreamed of being a doctor.  Her father and I are divorced and she has a younger brother who is severely affected by autism, but for the most part, she handled these things fairly well.  She was always a happy girl, funny too.  I remarried when she was 14 to someone she insisted I meet.  He was, and still is, a good father figure to her and her brother.  So what happened?

When she was 15, I had to remove her from the Public School system due to issues surrounding a teacher on staff who has a history of having
sex with students.  We pushed the issue to get it addressed, but nothing was ever done.  We went to the School Board.  I wrote to people on a State and National level.  Bottom line, we couldn’t prove it, so there was nothing we could do about it.

One day in particular, my daughter left school and we couldn’t locate her.  Because of her depressed state we worried that she would commit suicide.  Turns out she had been to the High School administration office, to the Superintendent’s office, to the School Board President’s office and lastly, to see our attorney at the time.  All of these adults told her the same thing: they could not help her.  There was “nothing they could do.”  Is it any wonder she has so little respect for authority?  The people she counted on to help her – including myself and my husband – were unable to.

She went into a deep depression and in the interest of her well-being, I removed her from public school to be home schooled until she was old enough to get her GED.  Looking back, this was probably the worst thing I could have done, but it seemed there were no other options.  Surrounding schools wouldn’t take students not living in their district, I couldn’t afford to put her back in private school, and leaving her at our public school was not an option.  Having lost her circle of friends and support system, which would be traumatic for any teenager, she began to hang out with older kids who were already out of school.  She was in pain and unfortunately she found unhealthy ways of dealing with it.

We insisted she get her GED and go to work.  She was loved at her jobs, but she was already addicted to the prescription medications.  It wasn’t long until she was in legal trouble, and that just seemed to snowball.  Next thing we know, she is in prison for fraudulent use of a credit card in the amount of around $4500.  No Boot Camp, no court-ordered drug treatment program, she went straight to a maximum security prison.  She was locked up with people you worry about as a parent.  Murderers, female sex offenders, drug manufacturers and dealers.  Her cellmate was a second time offender there for manslaughter and abuse of a corpse.  Shortly after enrolling her (maybe 2 months) in a long term  Therapeutic Community program they sent her home without having finished either the treatment program or her cosmetology certificate.  She had been there for over a year.  Upon release, a condition of her parole was to finish her cosmetology course.  Of course, it was the same for the other young women released so she ended up being surrounded by the people she most needs to avoid – other felons, specifically those she knew on the inside.

Please do not misunderstand; I truly believe my daughter – and anyone else who violates the laws of our society – needs to be held accountable for her actions. But I also believe people make stupid mistakes. And given the correct knowledge and tools, can overcome those mistakes.  My daughter was out in the “free world” as she calls it for almost a year before she was arrested on a parole violation.  They sent her back to prison for six months.  She then came back to await sentencing and was sent back again.  This time she was high on Klonopin.  Is it really in the best interest of our society to keep sending women like my daughter to prison?  And if we must send them to prison, shouldn’t we make a TRUE effort to give them the help they need to come out and have a fighting chance at being successful?  Otherwise, we may as well equip our prisons with revolving doors.

Oh, and that teacher I mention above…she is sitting on a beach right now.  Vacationing before she is back in school next month, standing in front of your child in the classroom, attempting to provide them with an education.  That’s a topic for another time.

I have long thought of writing this blog.  This is probably evident from the March 2010 post date of my very first comment.  What took so long?  Why the resistance?  I don’t have any good answer for that question.  Work.  Kids.  Husband.  Reponsibilities.  I don’t know.  I have long been a contributor to other blogs.  Maybe I lacked the courage to step out on my own.  Well, here I am.  Finally.

Today, as we celebrate our country’s Independence Day, I celebrate my own independence.  I am so very thankful to live in a country where I have the freedom to choose my path, the freedom to voice my opinions.  The freedom, love and support to be me.  My wish for all of you is that you may experience the same.

Happy 4th of July!