July 2009 archive

every Black man’s worst nightmare

The title alone makes me cringe: Childless man freed after serving time for child support violations.

Yeah read that again, this dude has no kids and has gone to jail, no once, but TWICE over child support violations.  Basically what happened was dude was with some chick, she got pregnant and told him it was his.  They break up shortly thereafter.  She goes after child support (or if she was on public assistance, the state went after child support).  Like many low-income men, he couldn’t keep up with the child support payments and the state threw his butt in jail (that law is so dumb, but that’s another post).    Then he got out, got a job and couldn’t pay again and then went to jail again.  13 years later he hears whispers that he might not be the father and decided to take a DNA test.   So eventually Mr. Haltey take 2 paternity tests and it’s concluded that the child is not his.  It’s good in the hood right? No, Mr. Hatley still has to pay his back child support even through the child isn’t his.  Why?  Because he signed a consent agreement to pay child support back when he thought the child was his.  The court is holding him to that, so he has to pay more than $16,000 in back child support.

How could this happen?  It’s actually really easy.  All you really need to do to establish paternity is pay a small fee to get your name on a birth certificate.  I’m not aware that you actually need to have a DNA test to do this.  So if you’re messing around and aren’t sure where your seeds are growing, you too could get caught up.

My biggest problem with the article is that it assumers that if you’re aren’t paying child support you’re a deadbeat dad.  I hang around a lot of fatherhood researchers, and they call it something else: dead broke.  I think most men would gladly pay child support if they were earning a decent salary.  I was watching this documentary and this man said by the time they took child support out of his pay check, he had $0.16 left.  You just can’t live off of that.  And even though it is selfish, to want to put food in your mouth over child’s, I get it.

All in all, I’m glad Mr. Hatley is out of jail but let this be a cautionary tale.  Fellas, be aware of what’s going on.  If you don’t think you can afford 18 years of child support payments, or just don’t want to pay them, wrap it up and call it a day.  Ladies, when telling men that the child is theirs, please be sure you actually know who the father is.  Fellas, if you aren’t sure they child is yours, please get a DNA test.  Yes, I will still call you a dick for putting a pregnant woman through the drama that is men figuring out who the father is, we will all be happy in the  end when we know who the actual father is.  As you can see, if you make a mistake with this, you’re stuck with the consequences.

peace,
e.

But what about resiliency?

jeez i wrote this last week and never posted. lame.

So everyone’s asking if I read the NYT’s article, In Prisoner’s Wake, a Tide of Troubled Kids.  Yeah I read it and I did not like.  As a child of a parent who spent most of my childhood in jail or cracked out, I turned out fine and I am tired of reading all these articles about how kids growing up in single parent households are screwed for life.    This is defeatist.  Yes, fathers are important to a child’s well-being but if a father is not there, that does not mean that child has no chance of  a positive upbringing.

I had many problems with the article.  The article appears to say create difference categories in father absence by protraying a parent is jail as more damaging to a child’s well-being than a child whose father just isn’t around?  In both cases, a child does not have a father.

The chances of seeing a parent go to prison have never been greater, especially for poor black Americans, and new research is documenting the long-term harm to the children they leave behind. Recent studies indicate that having an incarcerated parent doubles the chance that a child will be at least temporarily homeless and measurably increases the likelihood of physically aggressive behavior, social isolation, depression and problems in school — all portending dimmer prospects in adulthood.

Children who grow up with fathers, whether they are in jail or not, are all at risk of low educational attainment, risky sexual behavior and violence.   I don’t understand the need to create levels of father absence as if one reason a father is gone is better than another.  They are all damaging.

We are introduced to the “Incarceration Generation,”   children who grew up with at least one parent in prison and the article.  The two children of the Incarceration Generation interviewed for this article are, in my opinion, extreme examples.  Herbert Scott, who is 20 with a child and was awaiting sentencing for drug possession and robbery.  By the end of the article, he was in jail.   Then there is Terrisa Bryant who also had a child and was a high school dropout.  I get it, the prospects are dim but it is not hopeless.  Why not at least provide an example of a child of an incarecerated parent who was jail bound, a young (single) parent, or a drop out.

The article feels like CNN’s Black in America – providing no new information to the Black community, downplaying the positive – specifically Adam Gaine’s story – to focus on the negative Herbet Scott and providing no solutions.  I would have rather read about how Gaine’s beat his addiction and how he got into (and stayed in) a program to train him to become a fitness teacher.  I am not interested in Scott’s oh to common story of coming out of jail, talking about how he wants to be there for his kids and then winds up back in jail within a year.  I don’t need to read that.  I don’t want to read that.  I would rather read about programming or policies that reach out to these children offer assistance.  I would have rather read about programming that successfully reintroduces Black men into society and assists with training and housing.  I would rather read about policies to loosen licensing restrictions to ex prisoners so that even low skill men can acquire jobs and make a decent living.

The article ultimately ignores a glaring issue – why are these men going to jail in the first place?  It makes little  mention of extremely harsh drug laws, and no mention of  the limited employment of ex-felons, the impact of low educational attainment on potential earnings, lack of support upon reentry to society, I could go on for days.  To place the blame solely on parents who are incarcerated is dangerous.

peace,
e.