Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dr. Boyce Watkins Spotlight: Fathers Have Rights To Their Children Too

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse UniversityScholarship in Action 

One of the most difficult, stunning and defining experiences of my entire life was when I went through the child support system. My daughter was born when I was an 18-year old freshman in college, and although I didn't want her mother to leave me for another man, I still knew that I had a responsibility when it came to taking care of my kids. So, I did what I was supposed to do, signed the papers where necessary and paid tens of thousands of dollars in child support over the next 18 years, even when it emptied out my bank account.

What surprised the heck out of me was that while the courts were always quick to threaten me with jail time if I'd chosen not to pay my child support, they showed almost no concern regarding whether or not I had the right to see my daughter. There was also no accountability regarding where my money was going and if those funds were being used to manage the needs of my child. I found myself increasingly frustrated by both my experience and also the broader perception of all black male non-custodial parents as dead beat dads. The truth is that while there are far too many dead beats, there are also fathers who've been victimized by parental alienation or an overzealous mother who feels that she can dictate every dimension of the father/child relationship. The mere implication that black males love their children any less than other people is a clear and stereotypical insult to our humanity.

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