The Republic of T.

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

Poisonous Parenting: Getting the Job Done Right

This entry is part 24 of 26 in the series poisonous parenting

It’s been while since I’ve posted another installment in this series, but there seems no better time, given the ongoing controversy over same-sex marriage and the verdict on the Florida gay adoption ban. At the time I wrote:

Like I said, make no mistake about it. They’re coming after our families next. If they can’t break apart the families we’ve created, they’ll do their best to keep more of us from building families.

Well, if you ask me, they’re already laying the groundwork to not only keep us from building families, but to break up our families if they can. The point it, they’re not going away and they’re not leaving our families alone.

Yet, despite the good news for gays contained in the ruling, the decision is hardly the last word on the issue. The state has vowed to appeal, and the issue is likely to end up before the Florida Supreme Court, which upheld the ban once before in 1995. On the federal level, the U.S. Supreme Court has already let stand lower court rulings that upheld Florida’s law, the nation’s strictest ban on gay adoption. (See a video on the backlash against gay marriage in Florida.)

Meanwhile, conservative activists across the country are working hard to make sure that no court, at any level, has the final word on gay adoption. Like gay marriage before it, conservatives are looking at the issue of who can raise children as one best decided at the ballot box, not in the courthouse. Those efforts received a boost on election day in Arkansas, where voters easily passed a law that restricts any unmarried couple living together from adopting children. Arkansas joined Florida, Nebraska, Utah and Mississippi as the only states with laws that either directly or indirectly ban adoption by gays.

Similar statehouse fights are pending in South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, says gay adoption expert and advocate Jennifer Chrisler, and more are likely to follow, as conservatives try to duplicate their successful strategy to ban gay marriage state by state. “The other side was very strategic about their efforts to ban gay marriage,” Chrisler, executive director of the Family Equality Center in Boston, told TIME. “They were able to bring that issue to the attention of the American people well before Americans were ready to have that conversation. They are likely to use a similar strategy when it comes to parenting issues.”

Once again, they’re trying to take civil rights out of the realm of the courts and put them to a majority vote. That has implications for some of the very people who will pull the lever in support of these bans, but by the time they figure it out, it will be too late.

They will have been blinded by the right’s main argument, which amounts to “biological is always best.”

JOHN EASTMAN:…I was at a conference a year and half ago at Brigham Young where another staunch advocate of gay marriage began by saying, “What difference does it make to your heterosexual marriage if I enter into a homosexual marriage?” This kind of libertarian focus on individual rights as the norm of marriage, the model that we should support – well, we all understand what difference it makes because marriage has never been understood in this country as simply a matter of fundamental individual right. The reason we have marriage laws as a foundation of society is that as members of the society, we all draw benefits from that institution, in procreation and rearing of children by the two people in the universe who are most adapt at making sure that job gets done right: the natural parents. That can only exist most readily in a heterosexual marriage by the natural parents.

The studies that David and Shannon pointed to earlier that say children do better in heterosexual couples [composed of] their natural parents; that model doesn’t work in any other context. It’s not just stepmother and stepfather, it’s not just adoptive parents, it’s anytime there are anything other than the two natural parents. There’s one exception to that, one very close to that is a single mom – not a single mom who had children out of wedlock and the father was never part of that – but a single mom whose [husband] died after the kids were born. That father remained an inspiring omnipresence in the home. “What would your father think if he were still here?” Those children end up pretty close to the par of the heterosexual norm.

It’s an argument which defines even married heterosexual adoptive parents as subpar — because they can never be their children’s “natural parents,” and thus never the most adapt [sic] as “making sure the job gets done right — and an argument that Ed takes apart pretty effectively.

Do better than what? Better is a relative term and it requires that a comparison be made. Do children do better, on average, with a mother and a father than they do with a single mother or a single father? Of course they do. But surely they do better with a single mother or father, regardless of their sexual orientation, than they do in an orphanage or bouncing from foster home to foster home.

But even if this wasn’t true, it shouldn’t make any difference in our policy choices. It’s also true that children are statistically better off with affluent parents rather than poor parents, with white parents rather than black parents, and with educated parents rather than uneducated parents. But that obviously does not mean that the government can prohibit poor, black or uneducated parents from adopting children.

This decision IS about what is best for the children. The plaintiff in this case has raised these two foster kids for 4 years, since one was 4 years old and the other a newborn. How could any sane person seriously argue that those children should be taken away from the only family they have ever really known? The only possible reason is bigotry. Nothing else makes sense.

The only thing I can add to that —— are examples of children who’s “natural parents” were not terribly adept at “getting the job done right,” unless “the job” was the abuse, neglect, and/or death of their children.

Tammy Smith, a “natural parent,” was pretty adept at “getting the job done right.” That’s if the job was burning the word “wimp” on her daughter’s neck, most likely with a lit cigarette.

A West Virginia mother faces charges after being accused of burning the word “wimp” into her 6-year-old daughter’s neck.

Tammy Smith is charged with five counts of child abuse and of malicious assault, all felonies.

Moundsville Police Chief Jim Kudlak said Saturday that the child told police that her mother used a cigarette to burn her. Smith’s daughter told authorities that her mother burned her because she was angered that the girl tripped and fell.

[Pic via Leoploy @ Flickr.]

Imagine how long it took to get that “job done right.” But at least this six year old little girl was burned by her “natural” parent. Better than not being burned by a couple of queer foster parents or adoptive parents. The only thing we’ve ever put on our kids’ necks is a kiss. But Tammy Smith, a heterosexual and “natural” parent, is automatically more fit to parent than we are, and thus more deserving of the right to marry.

In fact, if she’s not married already, she could marry while her case is still pending. In fact, she could be married and pregnant again before her charges are examined in court. My guess is Rekers, who likely holds a dim view of my family would stand and cheer Ms. (or Mrs.) Smith.

China Arnold proved pretty adept at “getting the job done right,” assuming the “job” was microwaving her month-old daughter.

China Arnold, 28, showed no reaction when the jury’s verdict was announced and then lowered her head, looking down at the defense table.

Relatives in the courtroom cried and covered their faces with their hands.

She was found guilty of aggravated murder and faces the death penalty when sentenced.

…Prosecutors said Arnold intentionally put her baby in the microwave oven and cooked the child to death after a fight with her boyfriend.

Arnolds’ cell mate testified that Arnold confessed to putting the baby in the microwave and turned it on because she was worried her boyfriend would leave her if he found out the child wasn’t his.

The baby’s DNA was found inside the microwave in Arnold’s apartment, prosecutors said.

Despite all of the above, Arnold is verifiably heterosexual, and is was a “natural parent.” So, even though the closest we’ve come to her parenting style is giving our kids a warm bath, Arnold is more fit to be a parent and more deserving of the right to marry. She dodged the death penalty, but even the most heinous murderers still have the right to marry. So, even as a “lifer,” Ms. Arnold could still marry that boyfriend, if he’ll still have her. (Or maybe a jailhouse wedding won’t be necessary, since her cellmate recanted her testimony, and a hearing for a new trial is underway.)

Billi Jo Smallwood proved quite adept at “getting the job done right.” That is, if the job was setting her house on fire and killing her kids.

An Army wife accused of setting her apartment on fire botched an attempt to collect on her husband’s $400,000 insurance policy when he survived and her two children died instead, a federal prosecutor said.

Billi Jo Smallwood, 35, was denied bond at a Friday hearing in northeast Georgia, where she appeared on federal charges of damaging government property by fire.

“She set fire to her own home in hopes of killing her husband and wound up killing her kids,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Gabay-Smith said.

The May 2007 fire at the Fort Campbell Army post on the Tennessee-Kentucky border killed 9-year-old Sam Fagan, and 2-year-old Rebekah Smallwood.

Smallwood’s husband, Army Spc. Wayne Smallwood, crawled out of a second-level window and suffered a leg injury when he jumped. Their toddler daughter, Nevaeh, was not injured.

Of course, Smallwood is already married and already a “natural parent,” so she’s already head and shoulders above us, and we haven’t burned our children to death. In fact, we don’t even let them get near the fireplace, even though it’s an electric-operated, gas fireplace that’s rarely used anyway.

James T. Dickerson Jr. was equally adept at “getting the job done right,” but only if the “job” was beating his 7-year-old son to death with a metal mop handle.

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At his arraignment Saturday morning in Judge Denise Malone’s courtroom in Anderson, James T. Dickerson Jr. said he just wanted to hold his son again.

Dickerson, 40, is charged with one count of homicide by child abuse in connection with the death of his 7-year-old son, Jeremy Dickerson. He also is charged with one count of unlawful neglect of a child, a result of an investigation into the well-being of a 5-year-old boy found at the scene of Jeremy’s death.

Jeremy was found Friday morning when paramedics responded to a call at 215 W. Church Road nearly Easley for a child in cardiac arrest. Upon arrival, emergency responders found Jeremy on the floor of his father’s room, dead.

A 5-year-old boy, Jeremy’s brother, was taken away from the scene in the afternoon and suffered minor injuries, according to Susann Griffin, Anderson County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.

Authorities allege in warrants that Dickerson beat the two boys with a metal mop handle.

Dickerson, who’d been on medication for a back injury stemming from an automobile accident in 1989, was apparently not impeded by it enough to keep him from swinging a mop handle. But perhaps the exertion caused to need to lie down for a while afterwards, thus accounting for the three hours that Jeremy was dead before authorities were called. Divorced from the mother of the two boys (and the daughter who died earlier this year, and whose death it not explored in the article), Dickerson —demonstrably heterosexual and a “natural parent,” having achieved ejaculation with his ex-wife around a time when she achieved ovulation — gets a spot ahead of us in the line for “Father of the Year.” And we’ve never hit our children with anything.

Shemeeka Davis went above and beyond the call of duty in “getting the job done right.” That is, the “job” of beating and starving her teenage niece to death.

Shemeeka Davis, 37, allegedly abused the girl, whose name wasn’t released, as well as the victim’s 15-year-old twin brother and the suspect’s 7-year-old daughter, said Antioch police Lt. Leonard Orman.

Police were called to a home on the 3700 block of Killdeer Drive at about 3:15 p.m. Tuesday about the death of the 15-year-old girl, whose name wasn’t released.

Officers arrived and determined that all three had been the long-term victim of child abuse, Orman said. The 15-year-old boy and the 7-year-old girl were taken into protective custody by Contra Costa County social workers, police said.

All three had been under the care of Davis, who has been booked on suspicion of murder, three counts of felony corporal punishment and enhancements for causing great bodily injury, Orman said.

But the above doesn’t give you a sense of what 15-year-old Jazzmin Davis suffered.

Fifteen-year-old Jazzmin Davis’ badly scarred, emaciated body was found nude, lying on the floor in a bedroom where she had been confined in her aunt’s Antioch home, a coroner’s report on her death said.

…The girl’s body, weighing only 78 pounds, was laced with scars and wounds that stretched from her feet to her fingertips, the report said. She had multiple burns that appeared to be from a clothes iron on her chest and stomach, a tangle of scars on her neck that extended to her cheek and five broken teeth that “were probably struck by some type of hard object,” the report said.

Her aunt and foster caregiver, Shemeeka Davis, 38, is in jail awaiting trial on murder, torture and child abuse charges in Jazzmin’s death, as well as torture and child abuse charges for allegedly abusing Jazzmin’s twin brother. If convicted, Davis could be sentenced to life in prison.

Davis, whose heterosexuality and fecundity are more than proven by the other children she gave birth to, and raised doesn’t quite fit the mold of “Foster Mother of the Year,” but those two qualities put her far ahead of us when it comes to being fit parents and the right to marry.

Sara Rye outperformed multitasking parents everywhere by managing to smoke crack while nursing her two-month old baby.

Sara L. Rye, 22, who is listed as homeless, was charged with one count of child abuse, neglect or endangerment to a child under 6-years-old.

She is being held in the Montgomery County Jail on a $2,500 bond.

According to an arrest warrant signed by Detective Ginger Fitting, between Sept. 11 and Sept. 25 Rye admitted she had been smoking crack cocaine but denies smoking during her pregnancy and stated she only smoked marijuana a few times while pregnant, the warrant said.

Rye told a Department of Children’s Services case worker that she had been smoking crack cocaine while breastfeeding her 2-month-old child.

The case worker gave Rye a drug test on Nov. 23 and Rye tested positive for cocaine, opiates and benzodiazepines, the warrant said.

There are medical records stating the child was not gaining weight a few weeks after her birth.

OK. I don’t know if Rye meant she was simultaneously nursing her baby and smoking crack, or whether she was smoking crack during the same time period.

Nicole M.Canales, “got the job done right,” at least in part. There’s nothing saying that there was an opposite sex partner in the home, so she might not get the “Natural Parent of the Year” award yet, but she can still qualify. “The job” by the way, does not include cleaning, given that her children were found in a filthy house.

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A 26-year-old woman was arrested after police on Thursday found bloody underwear, dirty condoms, rotten food and other items in her home along with two small children, according to an arrest affidavit released Friday and an official.

Nicole M. Canales, of the 2200 block of Avenue K, faces a felony child neglect charge after police and state Department of Children and Families officials went to the home.

Dirty pots and water and rotten food were in the kitchen area and investigators found several pills on the stairs. All rooms were in disarray and feces turned up in a bathroom toilet.

A 5-year-old boy and a 1-year-old boy were inside. DCF removed the children and turned them over to their grandmother.

I don’t want to be too hard on Canales, though. Her boys are about the same ages as ours, and I know keeping a house clean with two small children around is a Sisyphean task. The floor is never quite free of toys, the sink is never quite free of dishes, and the laundry is never quite finished.

Maybe that’s where we’re falling down; the laundry. Because we’ve got more toys on our floor than bloody underwear. That and we’re gay. Oh, and that our kids are adopted. Canales’ mate or mates may have stepped out for a pack of smokes, but at least the got the most important part right: achieving ovulation with an opposite-sex partner who’s achieving ejaculation at the same time.

That’s got to be it. Because if Canales cleans up her house, she can probably get her kids back. And if their father or one of their fathers makes an “honest woman” out of her (because they can), she’ll be more fit parent than us. But we’ll be too busy picking up toys, loading the dishwasher, and folding laundry to notice.

Danton Smith was the right man to “get the job done right,” in terms of bringing his two daughters into the world, even if he left them home alone once they got here.

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Newport News Police have arrested a man and charged him with 2 counts of felony child neglect.  Danton Smith of the 300 block of Tricia Lane was arrested this morning after an altercation with police.

Police were looking for Smith for allegedly leaving his ex-girlfriend’s 2 children, aged 2 and 3, home alone while the ex-girlfriend was at  work.

He was arrested after emergency dispatch received an anonymous tip.

In addition to the 2 counts of felony child neglect, Smith is charged with one count of assaulting a police officer and one count of resisting arrest.

Darlanne Toussaint proved both adept and creative at “getting the job done right,” when it came to burning his girlfriend’s son with hot grease and a hairdryer.

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An Apopka man was sentenced to more than three decades in prison for what prosecutors call one of the most horrific cases of child abuse in state history.

Darlanne Toussaint, 24, was sentenced Wednesday for aggravated child abuse and neglect of his girlfriend’s 17-month-old son.

Toussaint admitted to pouring boiling grease on the boy’s genitals, burning his skin with a hair dryer, and then pouring alcohol on the wounds. The incident occurred in January.

“Anyone who does that, to me, is a person without a soul,” Judge Alicia Latimore said.

He was sentenced to 33 years.

Granted, Toussaint isn’t the “natural parent” of the child, but his heterosexuality is one thing he has over us when it comes to being fit to parent. All he needs is a functioning pair of gonads, he has at least the possibility being a “natural parent.” Oh, and yes, he still has the fight to marry that girlfriend, if she’ll still have him.

I’ve made this point before, indelicately at times, but it bears repeating.

It comes down to a basic question. Which is most important in the long run: reproducing or raising children? The answer is something I understood early on, but have learned in my bones since becoming a parent. I learned it first by seeing some men prove very good at making babies, but less than stellar at being a good husband and father afterwards. Lesson: almost anyone can make a baby. Almost any 12 year old boy who can pee straight can make a baby. Any 12 year old girl who can achieve puberty can make a baby. But there slim chance either will make great parents. So much for making babies being the only thing. Once they get here they need stable homes and good parents.

But why fall back on mere words, when 19-year-old Amar Wilson Sr. has risen to the occasion, and proven his skill “getting the job done right. The job, that is, of allegedly killing his two-year-old son.

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A Winston-Salem man who initially was charged with felony child abuse in connection with the death of a 2-month-old boy was charged yesterday with first-degree murder, authorities said.

Amar Mushar Wilson Sr., 19, of 2315 Bethabara Point Circle, is accused of killing Amar Mushar Wilson Jr., Winston-Salem police said. The parents took the baby to Forsyth Medical Center just after 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The baby was pronounced dead at the hospital.

An autopsy showed that he died of head injuries, and his death was ruled a homicide, police said.

Detectives went to the home where the baby lived. After an investigation there, they initially charged the boy’s father with felony child abuse, police said.

Regardless of the final outcome of the charges filed against him, Wilson and his mate (presumably the late Wilson Jr.’s “natural” mother) have already performed that magical synchronization of bodily functions; they managed to achieve ejaculation and ovulation together, after which fertilization and gestation followed.

That alone, to people like Eastman and the folks in favor of laws like the Florida law puts them qualifies them as fit parents, though probably providing that they marry (which they can, regardless of whether he’s convicted, or even if both of them are) and that they not kill the next one, if they have another one. Meanwhile, we’d be disqualified, even though we kiss plenty of bumped heads, but have never given our kids head injuries.

Jason Strickland may have not “gotten the job done right,” in terms of bringing his  step-daughter into the world, but he managed to get convicted of child abuse that left her comatose and brain damaged.

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Prosecutor Laurel Brandt depicted Holli and Jason Strickland as abusers who inflicted severe harm on Haleigh over a five-year period. The attacks began as soon as Jason moved into the home, Brandt alleged. Brandt argued that even if Holli Strickland was the prime abuser, her husband had to know about it.

The verdict caps a child abuse case that included one of the nation’s most surprising endings to an end-of-life controversy. The Supreme Judicial Court authorized the removal of Haleigh’s life support in January 2006 at the request of the state’s child-protection agency, which said the girl was trapped in an irreversible vegetative state.

Just as the decision came down, Haleigh began to respond to commands and follow objects with her eyes. The girl, now 14, can speak simple sentences. One of the most dramatic pieces of evidence in the trial was a video that showed Haleigh feeding herself and using an alphabet board to communicate. She attends a day school in a pediatric rehabilitation facility, and the state says it is pursuing an adoptive home for her or some kind of other long-term residential placement.

Arthur and Lori Allain teamed up to “get the job done right.” The job, that is, of starving their 10-year-old foster daughter.

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The Allain saga first exploded into the public realm in May 2004 when John Edwards Jr., then 14, ran away from the Allain home and the allegations of abuse and neglect unfolded.

Edwards — found by sheriff’s deputies wandering the streets — said he had been punched in the chest for sneaking food to his half-sister.

Authorities discovered the girl weighed just 29 pounds at age 10, putting her “at risk of imminent death.”

Her foster parents refused to give her food because she seemed to have an eating disorder and would vomit after meals. They kept her locked in a room with only a paint bucket to use as a toilet, authorities said at the time.

On June 18, 2004, the Allains were arrested and charged with child abuse and child neglect.

Now, the Allain’s weren’t the girl’s “natural parents,” but they are heterosexual and married, both of which — to some people — makes them more likely to be considered fix parents than the hubby and I. There were “red flags” in the Allain case.

The arrests shed light on an incredible back story, dating to June 2000, when the children were taken from their biological mother and placed by DCF in the care of the Allains, who knew the mother.

Despite numerous red flags, the state granted the couple full custody in April 2002 after they terminated the parental rights of the children’s mother.

An independent review conducted after the arrests found DCF ignored numerous allegations of abuse and other warning signs, allowing Edwards and his half-sister to endure a pattern of “torture and starvation.”

It took the courts two years to rule on the case, in part because the Allains went on the lam ahead of their trial. In the end, they were convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for the abuse with an additional five years for failing to appear in court.

None of those “red flags” were enough to prevent them from getting full custody of the children they abused. But in Florida, and in the eyes of the people who supported he Florida adoption ban, the being gay is an automatic “red flag.” Indeed, even if gay parents don’t beat or stave or molest or neglect their children, in the eyes of some people gay parenting is itself child abuse.

Worse abuse than the above? They don’t usually say, except to say that of course people like the ones featured in this post are not fit parents. Their actions make them unfit. Not their orientation, though. They can stop beating and starving and molesting and neglecting their children, and be better parents. Gay parents can’t be better parents, because they can’t be gay and be good parents, because they can’t be gay and be good period.

As usual, I’m not saying these parents are representative of all heterosexual parents. They’re not. But when you make the generalization that heterosexuals are more fit parent by virtue of being heterosexual, and likewise “natural parents,” you’re including people like those in this post and this series. And at the same time you’re labeling gay and lesbian parents as unfit, even those most of our children never experience anything like the kids in this post or the kids in this series.

As long as people keep saying differently, though, I’ll keep writing these posts and hoping somebody gets it.

Series NavigationPoisonous Parenting: On Natural FamiliesPoisonous Parenting: Best Protected

2 Comments

  1. Fascinating. And actually, children do not do better on average with two parents. They do best on average with a parent or parents who is/are educated (mother’s education level is still a more important factor than dad’s, although that could change), economically secure, and supported by family and community. It happens that two-parent families have those things on their side more often. It is not intrinsic.

    I’ve noticed these people saying “biological” now with absolutely no shame. Yes, they do mean to target families by adoption too.

  2. I’ve found people believe what they want to believe and are remarkably resistant to facts which contradict their prejudices. However, I’m glad that you and others keep putting those facts out there. The only way to change someone’s mind is to confront them on their bullshit as often as possible.

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