The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Posionous Parenting: What Makes a Family

This entry is part 13 of 26 in the series poisonous parenting

I tend to repeat myself, and there’s something from that last post that bears repeating. At least I think so, because it’s pretty good lead in to another installment of poisonous parenting.

But I do remember using the word “commitment” — the same one Dr. Height used in talking about our families — when the host asked me what I thought was the most important thing a child needed in a family. I meant more than just commitment to one another between parters or parents, but commitment to making sure a child grows up in a home where he/she knows he/she is loved, wanted, protected, respected, and accepted for who he/she is, in a place where he/she is safe and cared for.

I started writing this post right after I finished the previous one, because it occurred to me the main point made a good jumping off point for another installment in this series.

As I listened to the rest of the show, I was struck that Dr Height and I used the same word — “commitment” — in talking about our families. When the host asked me what I thought was the most important thing a child needed in a family. I meant more than just commitment to one another between parents and/or extended family, but commitment to making sure a child grows up in a home where he/she knows he/she is loved, wanted, protected, respected, and accepted for who he/she is, in a place where he/she is safe and cared for.

“…[C]ommitment to making sure a child grows up in a home where he/she knows he/she is loved, wanted, protected, respected, and accepted for who he/she is, in a place where he/she is safe and cared for.” That’s something that that’s not dependent upon what parts you have, what you do with them, or whether you can reproduce with them. No matter what the Maryland Court of Appeals says.

I’m not sure why my my commitment is worth less and less worthy of protection and support than the family next door or across the street from me. After all, we’re all committed to making sure our kids grow up in homes where they are loved, wanted, protected, respected, accepted, safe, and cared for with love. Nor I sure why some people make the cut for equal protections and equal citizenship just because they can make babies, but can’t manage to bring them up in homes where they’re wanted, loved, respected and — most of all — safe and protected.

Britney Spears — who, you’ll remember, once got married as a joke, and for 55 hours still had more rights and protections in her marriage than I do in mine — had to be court ordered to childproof her home in order to have visitation with her kids. But one almost gets the idea that really making the house safe for children might mean removing Spears from it. Or the kids.

A court commissioner granted Britney Spears three monitored visits a week with her two small sons while ordering the pop star to childproof her house and work out a schedule for the visits with her ex-husband, Kevin Federline, according to a ruling made Tuesday.

… The order also cited some details of an Oct. 19 report submitted by parenting coach Lisa Hacker about her observations of Spears with her children.

… The “environment at the house ranged from chaotic to almost somber with little communication at all,” Hacker reported, according to the ruling.

During all three of her visits, Spears “rarely engaged with the children in either conversation or play,” Hacker said in her report.

Hacker also reported that Spears seemed to have a “lack of general attention at times” but added there was nothing she “would characterize as abusive in a traditional sense.”

But all you have to do, to qualify for the protections of marriage, is to make babies, as Spears did by giving birth to Sean Preston, 1, and Jayden James, 2. Having sense enough to raise them is somewhat less important.

The courts will make every effort to reunite Spears with her offspring, giving her more consideration (not to mention time to clean up her act) than they sometimes will to gay parents or prospective parents like Gregg Valdez and Mike Onberg.

There was a time not too long ago when a typical evening in Mike Oberg and Gregg Valdez’s home involved a quiet family meal in the kitchen of their comfortable Salem, Utah, home. They’d chat about their day and ask Little Mike, Valdez’s 13-year-old son, about school or skateboarding; if Valdez’s 17-year-old daughter wasn’t out with friends, she might join them at the table.

But that quiet evening ritual changed when Valdez’s niece, Antoinette Rudman, 34, had a drug relapse in mid-September and called her uncle to ask if he’d temporarily take care of her own four young children. Valdez, who works as a case manager at a local prison, jumped in his car to pick them up.

In most states and in most cases, the agreement Rudman made with Valdez about the kids would be considered a private matter.

But an assistant attorney general representing Utah’s Division of Child and Family Services has argued that because Rudman was being monitored by the state for drug use, their arrangement violates a state law that bans those cohabitating in a sexual relationship from becoming foster or adoptive parents — a law that some critics say was designed to target gay and lesbian couples.

The children have been allowed to remain in Valdez’s custody only by an emergency court order. A hearing set for Monday will determine whether the children will be returned to their mother, will stay with Valdez or other relatives or will be placed elsewhere.

Apparently, when you’re gay, doing the right thing — like stepping in to take care of family — is precisely the wrong thing to do when you’re gay. Where commitment is encouraged in any other situation, we’re actually penalized for it, whether it’s paying a higher price for the few rights and protections we can even attempt to secure for our families, or paying the price of not having them — a price that comes due in places like hospital emergency rooms, courtrooms, and sometimes in our own homes.

And so are our children, when the economic realities of inequality come home. Autumn Sandeen points to a study that suggests LGBT families are surprisingly diverse and some are economically disadvantaged.

A study released Tuesday by a group of Bay Area organizations serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender families found that same-sex couples raising children in California are more likely to be people of color and that their median household income is 17 percent lower than the income of married couples with children.

“There is an idea of LGBT families, when people think about it at all, there’s this perception that it’s affluent white folks, and the data show that’s based on our own misperceptions,” said Judy Appel, director of the Our Family Coalition in San Francisco. “We’re in every neighborhood, every race, ethnicity and economic group. Our kids are playing in the playgrounds and parks with all other kids.”

Our children play at the playground, and to look at them you wouldn’t think they were that different from their playmates. But when play is over, the return to homes that are more economically disadvantaged than heterosexual families in the same circumstances, because there are there are marriage based benefits we can’t secure for them, because we’re gay and thus cannot legally marry out partners, and are not afforded equal status with other families.

Jadallah, 43, and Karraa, 45, felt those inequities directly after Jadallah gave birth to their twin boys. At the time, they lived in Santa Barbara, where she was a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara. They petitioned for Karraa to adopt the twins but were rejected by a judge because they were same-sex partners. (Five years later, after the passage of Assembly Bill 25, they succeeded in cross-adopting all three children.) As a result, Karraa couldn’t put the children on her health insurance at work, so Jadallah paid extra to add the boys to her student insurance and sought MediCal for well-baby care. The couple also were turned down for university-owned married student housing, so they paid more to rent an apartment in town.

“The financial impact is still with us today, through larger student loans,” Jadallah said. The family lives on Karraa’s earnings as a public health nurse; Jadallah is a stay-at-home mom.

A married heterosexual couple could have accessed those benefits and avoided paying extra for the same services. And even an unmarried couple would’ve had the option to marry in order to access those benefits, and it would have cost them less than $100 for the license, and a few days time before the license is issued or can be used.

In fact, married heterosexual couples can reach the very low bar set by the Maryland Court of Appeals regarding marriage.

“Looking beyond the fact that any inquiry into the ability or willingness of a couple actually to bear a child during marriage would violate the fundamental right to marital privacy recognized in Griswold, 381 U.S. at 484-86, 493, 85 S. Ct. at 1681, 14 L. Ed. 2d 510, the fundamental right to marriage and its ensuing benefits are conferred on opposite-sex couples not because of a distinction between whether various opposite-sex couples actually procreate, but rather because of the possibility of procreation.
-Judge Glenn Harrell, Jr.

Marriage is about making babies or the possibility of making babied. Bottom line. Thus Johni Michelle Heuser, whom we met in a previous installment can get married, because she can make a baby even if she can’t keep her alive alive or allegedly helps her leave the world she brought them into.

Police said that Heuser had made it look like someone had broken in and taken the child. However, they were suspicious. After being questioned by the sherriff’s department, Heuser was arrested. She finally admitted to finding the baby dead in her crib and then hiding it. Harmony’s skeletal remains were found in the attic the next day wrapped in plastic and stuffed in a diaper box. The body will be autopsied to determine the cause of death.

As part of the investigation, the sheriff’s department seized an Xbox game system, cell phone, computer, a disposable camera, baby clothing in a trash bag or box, financial documents, food receipts, baby bottles, a diaper bag, a pipe, and directions to the landfill. There are reports that Heuser was playing Xbox Live while neglecting her kids. (She has three other children by a previous relationship. All been placed in foster care.)

Richard Rose can make a baby too, and — as previously mentioned — leave the child dead and covered with lacerations over 80% of his body.

The 6-year-old boy who was allegedly killed by his father this week suffered lacerations on about 80 percent of his body, wounds that appear to have been caused by a rope or a cord, according to a Prince George’s County police charging document.

The child, Tyrell Anthony Hannibal, was not breathing when he was taken to Prince George’s Hospital Center by his father, Richard Rose Jr., about 2:45 p.m. Wednesday, according to the charging document.

Medical staff tried to save the boy to no avail, and Tyrell was pronounced dead.

…According to the charging document, Rose told medical staff at the hospital that he had just picked up Tyrell from visiting Rose’s uncle in Suitland. Rose said that he had dropped off Tyrell with a friend of the uncle’s on Christmas Eve and called his uncle Tuesday — the day after Christmas — to check on the boy, according to the charging document.

Rose told medical staff that the uncle said he had whipped Tyrell because the boy had touched another child inappropriately, according to the charging document.

Rose said that when he picked up Tyrell on Wednesday from the purported visit with his uncle, the boy walked to his car and fell asleep with foam coming from his mouth. Rose said he drove the boy to the hospital, according to the document.

Rose pleaded guilty, and got 30 years. But even killing his son won’t strip him of the right to marry. (After all, being a murderer didn’t stop Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez, or Tex Watson from getting married). Beating your child to death, apparently, is trumped by the ability to conceive him in the first place.

Of course killing your child (or other people’s kids) ought to be right up there with raising a kid who tries to kill you. (Nature vs. nurture notwithstanding, pyschopaths are at least as much made as born. After all, somebody had to raise Ted Bundy, Richard Ramirez, Tex Watson, and Jeffrey Dahmer. Oh wait, Dahmer was gay, so there’s at least one serial killer who also didn’t have the right to marry.)

Of all the times she worried about how much to discipline her teenage son, depriving him of a PlayStation and taking down posters of cars and rap stars he admired, Shannan Troiano never imagined their relationship had become so strained that he would try to hire a hit man to kill her.

But there in the spacious living room of her Southern Maryland house was a detective, talking about how Cory Ryder, then 16, had told someone he wanted to have his mother killed. “We need to find out if he is serious,” the detective said.

He proposed a sting. The woman Ryder talked to, the mother of one of his friends, would take him to a hotel room, where he would meet with an officer posing as a hit man.

“He’s not going to do this,” Troiano told her husband after the detective left.

“He’s just mad,” Joey Troiano responded.

That night, on June 2, the detective called at 7. Everything was in place, he said. Troiano, not knowing what else to do, began to frantically clean her house. He called again several hours later. Ryder was in custody and would be charged with attempted murder.

But that’s to be expected. After all, teenagers can be hard to raise and difficlt to control, unless of course you hold them down for a genital piercing. That’ll show ‘em who’s boss.

To be fair this whole family seems to be a little bit of a mess. The mother describes her 13-year-old girl (now 16) as being promiscuous. She shaved her daughters head after discovering her daughter having sex with her (the mother’s) boyfriend.

Shaving her head seemed to be a little extreme, but I guess this wasn’t enough.

The mother had a friend, “Tattoo Tammy”, agree to perform the genital piercing. It sounds like she wanted to have her daughter pierced in an attempt to make sex less pleasurable for her. Though it was my understanding genital piercings did the opposite.

Shortly after, the piercing became infected which resulted in Child Welfare.

Hey, that infected piercing makes it almost certain the kid won’t be having sex. Just goes to show you, mother knows best. And since this mother has a boyfriend and made babies — proving in one fell swoop her heterosexuality and fecundity — the Maryland Supreme Court says she can’t get in line ahead of me at the justice o’ the peace. Far ahead.

Because being committed to your kid growing up loved, wanted, safe, and protected doesn’t make a family as far as the Maryland Court of Appeals is concerned. Making babies does. What you do with them after that, is a lot less important than making ‘em, or possibly being able to make babies. That is, if they allowed conjugal visits on death row, etc.

Even leaving your baby to drown, as Chris Summerfield did when he left his six-month-old daughter in the bathtub while he went to talk on the phone.

On Monday police arrested 21-year-old Christopher Alan Summerfield after he went to the station and was interviewed about Saturday’s incident, Titusville Police Detective Jessica Edens said.

Summerfield had fled the residence after police responded to a 9-1-1 call at the Barna Avenue home. Summerfield left the baby girl unattended in the bathtub, police said, after leaving the bathroom to talk on a phone. The baby slipped and became submerged in the water.

Summerfield’s roommate found the baby girl blue in the face, Edens described. The roommate revived the baby after resuscitation, and the baby was taken to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Women and Children – Orlando. She was released and is now in the care of a foster family.

It doesn’t take a genius to know a baby can drown in a few inches of water, in just a few minutes. But then it doesn’t take a genius to make a baby. The world is full of people who have can achieve ejaculation or ovulation, and thus procreation, but don’t have the sense nature gave to a mother cat when it comes to actually raising their offspring. We don’t even leave Parker unsupervised in the bathtub at five-years-old, but that’s mostly because he’d spend more time playing than actually getting clean. But Summerfield is way ahead of us when it comes to the protections of marriage because at least he came before he went.

Summerfield fled the home because he wasn’t allowed there because of a domestic dispute with his wife, who lives at the home. He has been living there since September despite an order barring him from the property, Edens said. The wife was at home during Saturday’s incident but no charges have been filed against her.

This, by the way, is Summerfield’s second time nearly letting his daughter drown. Last time it was mom who saved her.

Then there’s the 11-year-old Florida boy who needed saving from his mother, but whose father failed to do so.

A Central Florida woman is accused of keeping her 12-year-old son chained in an outside shed and beating him with a hammer, cans, metal poles and other items.

“The mother was abusing this child,” Orange County sheriff’s representative Carlos Padilla said. “She was chasing him with scissors, chains, bottles, belts and anything she could really use as a weapon.”

Investigators said the boy had a multitude of thick, irregular linear- and loop-shaped scars over most of his body.

They said he also had numerous marks on his back, face, abdomen and head.

After several interviews, officials said the boy confessed that his mother beat him with belts, cords, cans and glass bottles and struck him on the head with a knife. He said his mother also chased him with scissors and chained him in a bathroom and beat him with a metal pipe, according to investigators.

During questioning, the child also told investigators that his mother would keep him chained in the shed or in a bathroom.

The boy’s father was arrested for doing nothing to stop the attacks, police said.

Now there are two candidates for Parents of the Year. But I can’t criticize them. They met the bare minimum set by the Maryland Court of Appeals, something I’m biologically incapable of, even if I spend my time kissing my son’s “boo-boos” instead of giving them to him.

These parents, however are, way behind the parents of Nixzmary Brown and Xstacy Garcia, whose deaths I learned about from an article about an uptick in reports of child abuse in New York.

In 2006, the hotline fielded 157,341 abuse complaints – or 443 per day on average.

That’s about a 14% jump over statistics gathered in 2005, before the gaps in the child welfare system were dramatically illustrated by the disturbing death of Nixzmary in January 2006.

The 7-year-old was starved, tortured and fatally beaten in a Brooklyn apartment in an abuse case that sparked outrage.

…Six months after Nixzmary was killed, upstaters were shocked by the case of 4-year-old Xctasy Garcia of Schenectady. She was burned with cigarettes, and bleach was squirted into her eyes by her mother’s boyfriend, who is now in state prison.

The details of Nixzmary’s death are pretty gruesome.

On Tuesday, a Brooklyn grand jury indicted Cesar Rodriguez and Nixzaliz Santiago, Nixzmary’s stepfather and mother, on second-degree murder charges. Prosecutors said she was beaten, starved, tied to a chair, and tortured before she died in her Brooklyn apartment on Jan. 11. Her death has renewed concerns about the Administration for Children’s Services’ ability to protect abused children.

Rodriguez and Santiago also face charges of manslaughter, unlawful imprisonment, and endangering the welfare of a child. Rodriguez has also been charged with first-degree sexual assault against Nixzmary. If convicted, they could face 25 years to life in prison.

In their indictment, prosecutors said Rodriguez abused the girl for months as her mother did nothing. The alleged abuse culminated, prosecutors said, when Rodriguez smashed Nixzmary’s head against a bathtub.

A missing cup of yogurt — and a malfunctioning computer printer — may have led to Nixzmary’s death. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes told reporters Tuesday that Rodriguez flew into a rage when he learned that his computer printer wasn’t working. One of Nixzmary’s siblings blamed her.

“One of the kids said it must have been Nixzmary,” Hynes said. “Rodriguez went into a tirade. And while Santiago looked on, he systematically beat Nixzmary about her body. He then stripped the little girl naked and dragged her into the bathroom and turned on the cold water from the bathtub faucet and thrust her head underneath the freezing water. … When Rodriguez had Nixzmary in the bathroom, loud banging noises and her screams, ‘Mommy,’ could be heard throughout the apartment.”

And Xtasy Garcia fared even worse.

The little girl screamed and screamed, like she was dying. Her cries penetrated the walls of Reggie Belton’s room at the Twins Motor Inn.

It was the last week in May, and Belton just wanted to watch the NBA playoffs on TV. But the cries made it hard to hear. He heard a man in Room 16 yell “Get in the corner!” Belton drifted off to sleep, but more screams woke him at about 2 a.m.

Finally, he couldn’t take it any longer. He pounded on the door of Room 16. He thought he heard someone muzzle the child.

The next day, Belton told the motel’s manager, who called county authorities. They said he should tell Belton to phone New York’s child abuse hot line. Belton never did.

Two weeks later, the couple in Room 16 — Delia Hernandez, 26, and her boyfriend, Jose Munoz, also 26 — were charged with the attempted sale, torture and attempted murder of Hernandez’s 4-year-old daughter, Xctasy Garcia. Xctasy’s eyes were burned with bleach, her arm and shoulder fractured and her delicate body marred by cigarette burns and covered with bruises. Law enforcement officials believe Munoz targeted Xctasy because she was the child of his girlfriend’s former lover.

These parents all managed to do something the hubby and I can’t: biologically reproduce with a partner of their choosing. The hubby and are managing to do something these parents couldn’t: raise a happy, healthy child in a home where he knows he is safe, loved, and wanted.

Why is what they accomplished more important — more worthy of protection — than what the hubby and I, and other gay parents, are accomplishing every day?

The Maryland Court of Appeals hasn’t answered explained that in a way I can understand. Can anyone?

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2 Comments

  1. how can you research about these stories and still go on with your day? just reading your compilation leaves me horrified and saddened.
    feeling empty and helpless

  2. The guy who almost drowned his daughter lives in the same apartment complex I am in. I saw the baby being put in the ambulance. Those people have no right having kids. They have a little boy also. I recently found out that they gave one of their cats to another neighbor to feed to an 8 ft boa constrictor. I have heard yelling and fighting coming from their place often. They are going to be evicted soon.

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