Wilmington Journal & others, 4/6/07
Today African-American men are often excoriated--most recently by presidential candidate Barack Obama--for being irresponsible towards their children. Yet we don’t hear nearly enough about men like Monty. These dads cherish their kids and, like Monty, often find that the family law system prevents them from playing a meaningful role in their lives.
In the movie, Monty is raising his three girls when his ex-wife, who has drug and personality problems, decides to demand full custody. As is typical, she goes to family court and wins, and Monty is given only occasional visitation with his girls. He decides to fight this and, with the help of a lady lawyer friend working pro bono, gets his daughters away from their abusive mother and back with him. Of the movie’s entire storyline, the only unusual part is the last one—most fathers cannot get shared custody of their children, and are relegated to being mere visitors in their children’s lives.
New research on minority inner city fathers demonstrates the harm these family court norms are doing to African-American children. A just-released Boston College study found that when nonresident fathers are involved in their adolescent children’s lives, the incidence of substance abuse, violence, crime, and truancy decreases markedly. Most of the families in the study, which was published in the journal Child Development, are low-income African-American and Hispanic families. The study's lead author, professor Rebekah Levine Coley, says the study found involved nonresident fathers to be “an important protective factor for adolescents."The study also found that when teens begin to slide towards delinquency, nonresident fathers increase their involvement in response. The researchers found such involvement to be effective--the impact of father involvement was the greatest on the kids who had previously been the most troubled. click for full article