Open Letter to Representative Lindsay Parkhurst

Representative Parkhurst,

I am writing in regards to your introduction of HB751 and your “jumping the ship” so to say on HB4113.

As a retired Pubic Health Nurse serving my community for over 30 years, assisting in all AND assuming leadership in the formation and writing of 3 of the 4 IPLAN’s during my tenure (1984-2015), I’d like to respond to your actions in regards to these two bills. On a side note, during that time I was direct supervisor over a domestic violence program providing education and soliciting health care provider assistance in identifying and addressing domestic violence in their clinical setting. I am not ‘unfamiliar’ with domestic violence or public health assessment of community health problems. You do however need ALL the data and information when doing something as serious as legally ‘making’ domestic violence a legal priority without also supporting the underlying issue parental inequality in family courts. I truly hate that as a representative of the people, you are pitting domestic violence groups against shared parenting advocates when in reality, we should be on the same side – wanting the best outcomes for our children and a decrease in all social ills INCLUDING family violence in the future.

Personally, I don’t see the point of legislation to identify violence a public health priority when through Illinois Department of Public Health’s IPLAN assessment, each community identifies their local priorities and creates a plan to address said problems. Priorities change (or not) each seven year cycle based on local needs, statistics, and data. While introducing legislation identifying ‘domestic violence a public priority’, sounds honorable and tugs on all our heartstrings, the identifying and addressing of public health priorities already in place in Illinois through IDPH and I fear is, in reality, a ploy to assure funding to a special interest group.

We are all in full agreement that FAMILY violence is a social problem. NO ONE should be the victim of violence; let’s take a look at some of the statistics the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence prefers to ignore.

The article in the Daily Journal states “HR751 shines a light on the fact one in three women in the United States experience domestic violence at least once in their lives.” Well you need to expand your beam of light a little wider because statistics also reveal that:

• Domestic violence against women and domestic violence against men happen in almost equal proportions. (Domestic Violence Statistics Organization, 2012)

• Men generally do not report domestic violence in fear of ridicule by both law-enforcement and the public. (Domestic Violence Statistics Organization, 2012)

• 63% of males (as opposed to 15% of females) have had a deadly weapon used against them in a fight with an intimate partner. (Domestic Violence Statistics Organization, 2012)

• There is relatively little research on domestic violence against men because no organization, including the US government, is willing to fund the research. (Domestic Violence Statistics Organization, 2012)

• In domestic violence cases where there was reciprocation, over 71% of the initiators were women, and in those cases, men were more likely to be injured than women. (Rhymes, 2014)

• The 2006 International Dating Violence Study, which investigated IPV amongst 13,601 students across thirty-two-nations found that “about one-quarter of both male and female students had physically attacked a partner during that year”. It reported that 24.4% of males had experienced minor IPV and 7.6% had experienced “severe assault”.

• The majority of research done on males as victims of domestic violence is encompassed in research as to the reason for domestic violence on women, not by “anti-women men’s groups”. (Rhymes, 2014)

IF the Illinois Coalition Against Family Violence addressed and intervened equally in cases of domestic violence, they would be offering services regardless of gender. But this is not the case. By its own account, ILCAFV focuses primarily on “Eliminating domestic abuse in the State of Illinois, with primary focuses on women and their dependents and Exposing the roots of domestic violence, with primary emphasis on the institutionalized subservience of women, and on the societal sanction of violence in the family”. If they were truly looking to exposing the roots of family violence and the PREVENTION of family violence, they would be first to jump on the equal shared parenting bandwagon. But their focus (and yours) appears narrow and bias. The introduction and support of HB751 while opposing HB4113 is blatantly ignoring the prevention aspect of family violence and child wellbeing.

In fact the bias against men is so great and their view so narrow that not one of their public informational pamphlets available for order addressed the issue of male victim violence. Nor did any of their visual memes adorning their website depict male victims. No victim services or shelter is provided for males. That is not equality in addressing domestic violence issues nor is it sound public health practice of 1.) Defining the problem; 2.) Identifying risk and protective factors; 3.) Developing and testing prevention strategies; and 4.)Assure widespread adoption. If these steps were taken as identified by the CDC as The Public Health Approach to Violence Prevention you would see that Family Violence is just that – FAMILY VIOLENCE and needs to be addressed as services to ALL victims regardless of gender and that the underlying causes and prevention are key components in reducing domestic violence as a whole.

In fact ICADV’s Public Policy Platform #4 states “ICADV Furthers Policy for custody and visitation that protects victims & their families. ICADV opposes any legislation that provides for a presumption of joint custody”.

How does this in any way reflect or support services to all victims of domestic violence and especially reflect what is shown by statistics as best for children? Step 1 in the Public Health Approach to Violence Prevention is to define the problem.

Along with the above statistics on domestic/family violence, we’ll look a little further. In looking a statistics on family violence with an emphasis on child abuse, we find that it is clear across the board: perpetrators of child abuse and neglect are most often the child’s own parents. According to NCANDS, a 2005 study showed that 79.4% of child abusers were the parents, and the next largest pool of abusers consisted of unmarried partners of the parents of child victims. A whopping 40% of child victims were abused by their mothers acting alone, and a disturbing 17.3% were abused by both parents. Let’s break that down a little further:

• Women and men commit physical child abuse in almost equal proportions. (Administration for Children and Families, 2014)

• Fathers/Fathers and Partners only perpetrate 21.6% of child abuse; whereas Mothers/Mothers and Partners commit 47.6% of all child abuse. (Administration for Children and Families, 2014)

• Over 76% of medical neglect is committed by women. (Administration for Children and Families, 2013)

• Under 25% of child maltreatment cases are handled by the courts. (Administration for Children and Families, 2013)

• Women commit over 62% of all child neglect. (Administration for Children and Families, 2013)

• Of all fatalities in the United States caused by child abuse, only 16.4% are caused by the Father/Fathers & Partner, whereas 38.9% are caused by the Mother/Mother & Partner. (Administration for Children and Families, 2014)

In looking at statistics on sexual violence, we find that:

• According to the Findings from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey about 1 in 3 women and 1 in 6 men in the US experienced some form of contact sexual violence during their lifetime. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men were victims of contact sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner. An estimated 6.8 million MEN were made to penetrate another person in their lifetime.

• Sexual violence is especially hazardous to our youth. Again the NISVS/CDC reveals that Of all female victims of completed rape 41% reported that it first occurred prior to age 18 and 30% reported that their first such victimization occurred between the ages of 11-17.

• Of all male victims of made to penetrate victimizations, 24% reported it occurred prior to age 18 and 20% reported that victimization occurred between ages 11-17.

THEREFORE, THE PROBLEM, FOLLOWING CDC’S PUBLIC HEALTH APPROACH TO VIOLENCE PREVENTION, IS THAT WOMEN, MEN, AND CHILDREN ARE ALL VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC OR FAMILY VIOLENCE.

The next step in the Public Heath Approach to Violence Prevention is identification of risk and protective factors. Since the Public Policy #4 of ILCADV is to intervene in custody and visitation that PROTECTS victims and families and OPPOSE legislation that provides for a presumption of joint custody, I want to share the following risk factors to highlight the error in their policy as it relates to children of separation or divorce.

Risk Factors

• Lower levels of involvement by a father have been linked to higher aggression levels. (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2015)

• Conflict generally remains higher in sole than in shared custody families – especially if the residential parenting time is not shared. (Neilson, 2013)

• Children in single-parent homes account for 63% of all teen suicides.(Holstein, 2015)

• The incarceration risk of a child living with just his or her mother is greatly increased compared to that of a child living with just his or her father is equal to that of a child living with both parents. It is an even more significant chance of incarceration if there is a step-father or step-father figure living in the home. (Harper & McLanahan, Center for Research on Child Well-being)

• Children in sole custody situations have far more sleep problems, difficulties concentrating, loss of appetite, more frequent headaches, stomachaches, and dizzy spells, and report feelings of depression and general sadness more often than children placed in custody situations where shared-parenting is involved (Bergstrom, 2015)

• 85% of incarcerated individuals were raised in single parent-homes. (Holstein, 2015)

• Up to 75% of all teenagers enrolled in chemical and substance abuse programs come from single-parent homes. (Holstein, 2015)

• Data from three waves of the Fragile Families Study (N= 2,111) was used to examine the prevalence and effects of mothers’ relationship changes between birth and age 3 on their children’s well being. Children born to single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers. Living in a single-mother household is equivalent to experiencing 5.25 partnership transitions. (Source: Osborne, C., & McLanahan, S. (2007). Partnership instability and child well-being. Journal of Marriage and Family, 69, 1065-1083.)

• A study using a sample of 1409 rural southern adolescents (851 females and 558 males) aged 11 – 18 years, investigated the correlation between father absence and self-reported sexual activity. The results revealed that adolescents in father-absence homes were more likely to report being sexually active compared to adolescents living with their fathers. (Source: Hendricks, C.S., Cesario, S.K., Murdaugh, C., Gibbons, M.E., Servonsky, E.J., Bobadilla, R.V., Hendricks, D.L., Spencer-Morgan, B., & Tavakoli, A. (2005).)

• The CDC identifies low parental involvement and low emotional attachment to parents or caregivers as Risk Factors for Youth Violence.

Protective Factors:

• Children in shared residential custody and those who see their fathers frequently are better off on measures of well-being even when their parents have ongoing conflict. (Neilson, 2013)

• Children age 10 to 17 living with two biological or adoptive parents were significantly less likely to experience sexual assault, child maltreatment, other types of major violence, and non-victimization type of adversity, and were less likely to witness violence in their families compared to peers living in single-parent families and stepfamilies. (Source: Heather A. Turner, “The Effect of Lifetime Victimization on the Mental Health of Children and Adolescents,” Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 62, No. 1, (January 2006), pp. 13-27.)

• Children whose fathers had been actively involved from birth managed stress better during their school years. (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2015)

• Adolescents between the ages of 14-19 have higher self-esteem and less depression when they have greater intimacy with their fathers. (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2015)

• African American boys with married parents were found to have higher self-esteem, self-control, and feelings of personal power compared with boys who had only their mothers in the home, even when income, parental education, and the number of people living in the home were controlled. (US Department of Health and Human Services, 2015)

• Research shows that shared parenting would result in fewer cases of truancy, delinquency, gang-related activity, few juvenile crime, and teen pregnancies. (Holstein, 2015)

THEREFORE, RISK AND PROTECTIVE FACTORS IDENTIFY SHARED PARENTING AND EQUAL INVOLVMENT OF BOTH PARENTS AS A HIGHTLY DESIRABLE DETERRENT TO FUTURE FAMILY VIOLENCE. This is a far cry from what the DV community would like you to believe. I can only hope that this is due to their limited view of family separation situations and their inability in recognizing the harm labeling fathers as inconsequential or detrimental to child well-being is having on children, families and society. I suspect their stance is partly based on their need or want for increased funding just as the opposition from ISBA to shared parenting is based on their financial gain from litigation.

The statistical and research supporting the benefits of equal shared parenting in cases of separation or divorce overwhelmingly negates ILCADV’s bias against fathers. They should be one of the largest supporters of shared parenting as effective against future violence in future generations.

I truly do not understand their aversion to equal shared parenting. Shared Parenting advocates do not ‘assume’ that all women/mothers are child abusers based on the statistical data showing women constitute the largest percentage of child abusers. Therefore, it is wrong to assume that all fathers are violent based on the small percentage of men that are perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Additionally, perpetuating the alienation of fathers from their children through archaic family court practices is a causative agent of future domestic violence, not a deterrent Kids need the influence of both both Moms and Dads to grow into healthy emotionally stable adults.

In Step three of The Public Health Approach to Violence Prevention, one is expected to develop and test prevention strategies. This work has already been completed as evidenced by the overwhelming data and research supporting the benefits of equal shared parenting.

The International Conference on Shared Parenting on 9-11 July 2014 in Bonn, Germany under the theme “Bridging the Gap between Empirical Evidence and Socio-Legal Practice” was the first international and interdisciplinary gathering of scholars, practitioners and NGO representatives interested in the emerging paradigm of shared parenting in families in which parents are living apart. This was the first such gathering of scholars, practitioners and NGO representatives interested in the emerging paradigm of shared parenting in families in which parents are living apart. A wide range of topics as well as perspectives on shared parenting were discussed and debated, and at the end of the conference published 6 major areas of consensus:

1. There is a consensus that neither the discretionary best interests of the child standard, nor sole custody or primary residence orders, are serving the needs of children and families of divorce. There is a consensus that shared parenting is a viable post-divorce parenting arrangement that is optimal to child development and well-being, including for children of high conflict parents. The amount of shared parenting time necessary to achieve child well-being and positive outcomes is a minimum of one-third time with each parent, with additional benefits accruing up to and including equal (50-50) parenting time, including both weekday (routine) and weekend (leisure) time.

2. There is consensus that “shared parenting” be defined as encompassing both shared parental authority (decision-making) and shared parental responsibility for the day-to-day upbringing and welfare of children, between fathers and mothers, in keeping with children´s age and stage of development. Thus “shared parenting” is defined as “the assumption of shared responsibilities and presumption of shared rights in regard to the parenting of children by fathers and mothers who are living together or apart.”

3. There is a consensus that national family law should at least include the possibility to give shared parenting orders, even if one parent opposes it. There is a consensus that shared parenting is in line with constitutional rights in many countries and with international human rights, namely the right of children to be raised by both of their parents.

4. There is a consensus that the following principles should guide the legal determination of parenting after divorce: (1) shared parenting as an optimal arrangement for the majority of children of divorce, and in their best interests. (2) parental autonomy and self-determination. (3) limitation of judicial discretion in regard to the best interests of children.

5. There is a consensus that the above apply to the majority of children and families, including high conflict families, but not to situations of substantiated family violence and child abuse. There is a consensus that the priority for further research on shared parenting should focus on the intersection of child custody and family violence, including child maltreatment in all its forms, including parental alienation.

6. There is a consensus that an accessible network of family relationship centres that offer family mediation and other relevant support services are critical in the establishment of a legal presumption of shared parenting, and vital to the success of shared parenting arrangements.

Please note that, even in situations of high conflict between the birth parents, equal shared parenting is preferable for children.

To quote an article in Psychology Today, “More recent research has examined actual parenting time as opposed to frequency of contact (less frequent transitions, but shared or equal parenting time), and has found not only that shared parenting is not harmful in high conflict situations, but shared parenting can ameliorate the harmful effects of high conflict: a warm relationship with both parents is a protective factor for children”.

“In the majority of high conflict divorces, however, violence and abuse are not a factor. The culture of animosity created by litigation and the adversarial sole custody system, however, seems tailor-made to produce the worst possible outcomes when there are two capable parents who wish to continue as primary caregivers, cannot agree on a parenting plan, and are forced to disparage each other in an effort to simply maintain their role as parents. Children’s safety in the majority of divorces is best assured when both parents are actively and responsibly involved in their lives, and when social institutions support them in the fulfillment of their parental responsibilities.” (Dr. Edward Kruk, PhD; WhCo-Parenting and High Conflict; Separating Former Marital Disputes from Ongoing Parenting Responsibilities; Posted May 15, 2012)

I am willing to forward further information, research, data and professional opinions on the benefits of shared parenting upon request. I would encourage you to seek out the research of Dr. Linda Nielson, Richard A Warshak, and Dr. Edward Kruk.

THEREFORE, EQUAL SHARED PARENTING HAS THE STATISTICAL DATA AND RESEARCH IN PLACE TO SATISFY THE PUBLIC HEALTH REQUIREMENT OF BEST PRACTICE IN ADDRESSING THE PREVENTION OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE even in cases of high conflict. Again, Kids NEED both parents.

The last step in the Public Health Approach to Violence Prevention is to Assure Widespread Adoption.

I assure you that Shared Parenting Advocates are not negating or belittling the problem of domestic violence. As parents, grandparents, educators and teachers, social service and health care providers, we are in the fight to end family violence as well. There is nothing a good parent hates more than someone that victimized our children. We are working toward legislation that creates and equal playing field regardless of gender when separating or divorcing parents walk into family court. HB4113 is a good step towards providing the essential time with both parents as deemed necessary by multiple studies as being in the best interest of children. We have yet to hear an exact reason as to why equal shared parenting is not supported as a long-term deterrent to family violence in society. In our estimation, only 5% of all divorces have actual substantiated domestic abuse as a factor and therefore should not have an impact on needed shared parenting legislation HV4113. The 17 protective elements determining fitness to parent remain untouched and all safeguards in place. HB4113 established a fair and equal starting point recognizing it is in the child’s best interest to have both parents equally in their lives, requires clear and convincing evidence for equal parenting rights to be limited, and requests written findings explaining deviation from equality. What’s not to love! It takes the win/lose out of negotiations and the real winners are the children of Illinois.

The domestic violence organizations need to quit beating up on good dads. Equal Shared Parenting Advocates support helping victims, not creating future perpetrators and victims through sexism and promotion of parental alienation. Equal Shared Parenting Advocacy is all about giving our children the best parenting security possible in an imperfect situation, loving and protecting our children, and raising kids to become happy, healthy, and well-adjusted adults. Future benefits to society are promising and quite exciting as we see the effects of parental alienation subside. Family Violence needs to come to an end…but please do not throw good men and their children to the wolves of inequality in parenting. It’s just not in the best interest of our children to assume all fathers are evil based on the actions of a few monsters.

Some DV organizations may be seeing the light. In correspondence with A Safe Place/Lake County Crisis Center, I did receive the following response.” Thank you Patti, we definitely agree with you. Shared parenting should be the goal in any separation or divorce arrangement as long as the children are safe. ICADV is only opposing the bill in regards to shared parenting by parents who have been abusive to their children or around their children. Shared parenting by two loving parents who have the children’s best interests should not be affected.” Well, that would be 95% of cases and the remaining 5% abusive situations are easily identified as HB4113 is currently written. We too, want the best for our children and grandchildren. We stand for the 95%.

THEREFORE, HB4113 AND SUPPORT FOR THE PRESUMPTION OF EQUAL SHARED PARENTING IN SITUATIONS OF SEPARATION OR DIVORCE IS PROVEN TO BE IN THE BEST INTEREST OF CHILDREN AND WILL IMPACT AND DECREASE THE INCIDENCE OF FAMILY VIOLENCE FOR GENERATIONS TO COME.

Thank you for your consideration on this matter.

Patti Skees, RN

Public Health Nurse, Retired

Mom, Grandma, Illinois voter.

“Numbers Don’t Lie”

“Numbers Don’t Lie”

-The 50/50 Custody Schedule Truth-

-Face to Face and Back n’ Forth MYTH.-

It has been brought up on several occasions about detrimental problems with 50/50 custody agreements. Two of the biggest issues I continue to hear are that with a 50/50 custody arrangement, that if there is high conflict between the two parents, then a 50/50 arrangement is setting these two parents up to see each other more and therefore more apt to have arguments, fights, and domestic violence. The second major issue brought up is that children of shared parenting agreements swap back n forth to much and therefore the children never feel like they have a place to call “home”. Both are argued that these are toxic and not in “the best interest” of the children.  So l am here to prove to everyone willing to read on, that , this belief is a fabricated misconception and 100% FALSE STATEMENTS.

Unless you live under a rock you already know what the “standard” visitation schedule is for fathers. For those who don’t know what i’m talking about, It’s every wednesday and every other weekend. So let’s now look at the “standard” Vs. the shared parenting schedules people claim that parents face to face more. Although there are several shared parenting schedules out there, i’m going to just address the top 4 schedules and compare them to the old time “standard”.

For my examples I will just look at 2 week intervals or 14 days. The reason for doing this, is that most schedules make a full rotation after 2 weeks or 14 days.

So let’s break them down and get to the NUMBERS

The “Standard” Visitation Schedule (Every Wed. & Every Other Weekend) there are 6 exchanges.

Shared Parenting 2-2-3 schedule ( 2 days, 2 days, 3 days) there are 6 exchanges.  

Shared Parenting 3-4-4-3 schedule (3 days, 4 days, 4 days, 3 days)  there are 4 exchanges.

Shared Parenting 2-2-5-5 schedule (2 days, 2 days, 5 days, 5 days) there are 4 exchanges.

Shared parenting alternating weeks (self explanatory)  there are 2 exchanges. 

So we now must ask ourselves, what custody arrangement goes back n forth the most ? According to the numbers , the old “standard” and the 2-2-3 schedule have the same amount of exchanges at 6, but the other 3 shared parenting schedules only have 4 exchanges and the alternating weeks is only 2 exchanges. I would consider those numbers significantly less. So therefore these claims of a child going back n’ forth to much, or that parents will see each other more than before and might cause more violence. These claims are absolutely 100% FALSE.

AND this doesn’t even take into account that when children are school age most shared parenting plans use school as the transition of parenting time. Therefore a father might drop off the children in the morning but the mother would pick them up after school to start her time and vise versa.

So if you have heard or been told that shared parenting schedules do not work because of these false claims, or if an attorney brings it up in court trying to keep you from getting a shared parenting schedule you can now bring up this exact article and proof that what they are saying is FALSE CLAIMS.