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Thu 1st April 2010

Success for men’s rights

Filed under: General — Julie @ 10:20 am

Lots of different people have different ideas on what success is but I think it comes down to achieving goals you have set.

One group making success in the family court is American Fathers & Families with executive director Glenn Sacks. Their goal is to seek better lives for children through family court reform that establishes equal rights and responsibilities for fathers and mothers and they lobby for it alongside Allies that include Psychologists, man-friendly charity groups, army, navy and air force personnel who are being affected greatly by divorce laws while they’re serving their country overseas as well as lesbians and gays who are finding the family courts are choosing one partner as the custodial parent and the other as the visitor or non-custodial parent just as heterosexual child custody disputes have preference for the mother to be the custodial parent and the father the non-custodial parent or visitor.

Recently they introduced a wide-ranging package of California bills which include child custody reform, child support reform, protection from family court financial abuses, and others.

California legislation is widely recognised to have an enormous impact on other states and the federal government. California ushered in the era of no fault divorce in 1969, and many of the draconian domestic violence laws common throughout the US were first passed in California in the mid-1990s. The military parent/child custody legislation we passed in California in 2005 has led to the passage of similar legislation in over two dozen states. California losses are national losses—our California victories on this legislation will be national victories.

Effective legislative advocacy goes far beyond passing bills—it also is important to defeat or amend bad legislation. For example, last year Fathers & Families’ legislative representative Michael Robinson helped build a professional coalition to scuttle AB 612, a bill that would have banned target parents of Parental Alienation from raising PA as an issue in their cases. In 2004 and 2006, we helped defeat bills that would have allowed custodial parents free rein to move children far away from their noncustodial parents.

F & F is the only family court reform organisation in the country with a fulltime lobbyist (as well as an associate) working within the capitol of a major state. Fathers & Families is currently tracking 77 different pieces of family law-related legislation in the California legislature. So far, in part because of our strong Sacramento presence, none of the new bills introduced are particularly harmful. However, this can change at any time—one of the reasons family law has become so unfair is that our movement wasn’t able to effectively monitor and defeat/amend hostile legislation. We have that capability now.

Father’s and Families lobby the government through the internet much the same way as New Zealand’s Family First lobbies council by laws through the internet. Yet Father’s and Families is a men’s group while Family First is a family group. As it stands, New Zealand doesn’t have an effective lobby group for fathers, men and boys over the age of 13.

Another American successful group is the ‘National Coalition of Men (NCFM)‘. They are a nonprofit educational organisation that raises awareness about the ways sex discrimination affects men and boys. They work within the community and with the community through men’s chapters much the same way New Zealand has Union of Fathers and Father and Child Trust making men’s groups around the country that educate their communities while working within the community. The hardest part of doing this is the lack of funding available for men and volunteers. Maybe there needs to be media attention in local papers which can be requested from the internet?

Then there’s a new addition to National Coalition of Men, an area that works helping women’s groups and other community groups achieve their goals. Many MRAs already do this type of work in New Zealand as they can get funding and paid wages.

Early 2010, a men’s rights activist, Adam Gettinger-Brizuela joined up with NCFM and made his ‘Paternal Opportunities; Programs & Services program’ (POPS) part of their organisation.

POPS was started in 2008 “To facilitate the support and empowerment of men as equal parents in every respect, for the benefit of children and society.”

Adam say, “POPS represents a pro-active effort on the part of fathers’ and men’s rights activists to take their place among those who are serving the community. Just as we believe that men have a rightful, and important, place in the lives of their children, it follows that we believe that supporters of men’s rights have a place in the social services. POPS is based on the philosophy of rightful inclusion, and does not seek to take anything away from services for women or mothers, only to add to and amplify them, for the benefit of all.”

His work is interesting and puts men’s rights advocates networking with other groups and on boards of committees where moves for a way forward are planned.

POPS volunteers provide information and support for single and joint-custody fathers and have served on panels and committees, including the County Service Improvement Project, Source Selection Committees, the Family & Youth Roundtable’s Focus Group on fathers’ programs and the 2009 Safe Start conference. A founder of POPS was the co-keynote speaker at the Co-Occurring Disorders Conference in 2009. POPS volunteers have also made educational presentations on father friendliness to incoming social workers at the San Diego County Department of Child Welfare Services.

I think it’s a matter of deciding what the goals are and then making plans to achieve them. The internet is a good tool for lobbying.

How hard can it be to lobby a TV station by making e-mails?

How hard can it be to enlighten a group that their services need to become man-friendly through e-mails?

How hard can it be to educate a church what men are going through? I was asked once from a family counselling church service to ask men why they bash women as if that’s all they’ve been taught through training and that’s the only part a man plays in a family. They don’t get to hear a male perspective. How hard would it be to lobby them through e-mails?

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