Every time I write one of these posts, I think — or, rather, I hope — it will be the last one. Maybe that’s because I harbor two apparently unrealistic hopes: (1) that no more children will be hurt, abused, or killed by the people who are supposed to care for them, and (2) that people will stop putting our parenting in the same category as people who do hurt, abuse, and kill their own children.
Like I said, these are unrealistic hopes. Maybe someday the reality of child abuse will be like a nightmare that fades from memory and into the distant past. But not today. And maybe someday, people will stop calling all that we do as parents — from making dinner to helping with homework, etc. — as abuse, because it’s part of being a parent, and because We’re doing it. Maybe someday. But not today
Certainly not with Pride season upon us, when the AFA finds out there’s a kid kicking off a pride parade.
A 10-year-old boy has been named grand marshalfor a gay pride parade this weekend – prompting a family advocacygroup to call the decision “child abuse” and urge the local mayor to withdrawcity supportfor the event.
The American Family Associationspoke out against Will Phillips’ scheduled participation Saturday in the Northwest Arkansas Prideparade in Fayetteville, Ark.
“It’s shameful that adults would abuse a brain-washed child in this way,” AFA President Tim Wildmon wrote in a press release. “He’s obviously just parroting the nonsense he’s been told by manipulative adults. For gay activists to trot out this child and make him the poster child for promoting unnatural sexual expression is a form of child abuse.”
The AFA called on Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan to cancel his plans to issue a proclamation celebrating “homosexual behavior and gay pride.”
However, despite hundreds of e-mails urging him to cancel, Jordan still plans to extend the city’s support and deliver the proclamation, the Fayetteville Flyer reported.
Fayetteville Communication Director Lindsley Smith told the paper the activities will go on as scheduled.
“The mayor is still excited,” Smith said. “Everything’s still on.”
These folks get so testy when the find out other people aren’t as hateful as they are.
You might remember Will Phillips. He’s the 11 year Arkansas kid who refused to say the pledge of allegiance at school, to protest discrimination against gays and lesbians (something I did, too, following the Bowers v. Hardwick decision). He tried to raise money for awareness in various ways including reviewing his favorite toys online – like this this nerf gun guide. He was later feted at the GLAAD media awards, and ultimately invited to be grand marshall of this year’s Pride Parade.
This is probably the kind of thing that will freak AFA out (who am I kidding? of course it will!), but Parker took part in his fifth Capital Pride parade this year, and Dylan his second. We usually march with the Rainbow Families DC contingent. In previous years, the group held a pre-parade bicycle-tricycle-scooter-wagon-stroller decorating party, with pizza and other refreshments. Then the organizers thoughtfully put our group at the front of of the parade. (With small children, finishing the parade before bedtime — or long-past-bedtime — is critical.)
In fact (hold on to your hats, AFA), the whole experience begins and end’s at church. One “welcoming” church hosts the rainbow families event, another one that happens to be at the end of the parade route treats participants to popcorn, water and lemonade, and opens its doors to those who need a bathroom break. Plus, halfway through the route, there’s another one that passes out lemonade to parade participants.
This year we were invited to march with D.C. city council member David Catania, who introduced the marriage equality legislation that the mayor signed on the very spot where we later said our vows. We marched with Catania and some of the other couples who were the first to get marriage licenses and/or get married in the district.
How do the kids experience it? Last year, by the time the parade was over, Parker didn’t want it to end. This year, we thought Dylan would be tuckered out after the parade, but by the end he was chugging along on his tricycle making “choo-choo” noises, pretending to be a train. Parker was happily munching on the candy that people in the crowd were tossing to those in the parade. Of course, we came prepared with juiceboxes, water, and granola bars for the kids, to keep them happy and fueled-up.
And, by the way, there’s something about seeing a kid on a bicycle or a tricycle that just gets a reaction out of people. They cheered both of the boys at ever turn, and thought Dylan was particularly adorable on his tricycle. On the way home, Parker fell asleep in the car, while Dylan (miraculously) seemed to catch not his second but his third wind. We put Dylan to bed, and let Parker stay up a little later than usual. And then collapsed from exhaustion ourselves.
This is what AFA calls “abuse.”
This is what they put on par with what Sarah Price and her boyfriend David Petty did to her four-year-old son.
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A grand jury has indicted an Edmonson County, Kentucky mother and her boyfriend in connection with the abuse of her 4-year-old son.
State police said the boy was beaten with a stick and forced to stay in a dog cage on a regular basis.
According to police reports, every night for a period of six months, the boy was forced to sleep in a metal dog cage.
Prosecutors said Sarah Price and David Petty face 10 counts of criminal abuse.
Court documents said Price “would have to soak his bottom in cold water to reduce the swelling.”
The horrific details are something that they boy’s father and grandmother said have given them many sleepless nights.
“He’s adorable. He’s so gorgeous,” the boy’s grandmother, Monica Price, said.
Of course, our kids went to sleep in their beds, just like they do every night, and they only sat in water during bathtime. But — unlike Price and Petty — we’re a gay couple. So we only have to put our kids to bed like we do every night, as parents, and it’s abuse. These two, AFA standards, are automatically more suitable as parents then we are, because the possess complementary genetalia and are apparently heterosexual.
Price, in fact, falls into that special category of better-than-us-because-they’re-heterosexual parents who’s capable of allowing their opposite-sex partner to abuse their biological child without putting a stop to it, and sometimes even taking part in the abuse. (You’ll meet a few of them in this post.)
I think of parents like that, and I remember one one of our neighbors — who’s the (heterosexual) adoptive father of two little boys — telling a story of how a co-worker of his said in the middle of a conversation about adoption, “I just don’t understand how you can form an attachment to a child that isn’t your own.” It’s that kind of thinking that gives life to the undercurrent of anti-adoption sentiment in the movement against marriage equality, as if adoption itself is some kind of “unnatural act.”
Yet, adoption has a long history in human civilization, going as far back as Hammurabi’s code (which details the rights and responsibilities of adopters and adoptees). Indeed there are theories that adoption was practiced among early humans, sometimes by close family members. Adoption has been documented among non-human primates. Modern chimpanzees practice adoption. If a mother chimpanzee dies, the surviving infant will be taken care of by other members of the group. And not just by its brothers or sisters, but members of the group will also adopt infants not directly related to them.
More recent research and observation of another, largely unknown species of monkey, in which an infant was adopted and primarily cared for by the male in the group, suggests adoption may have been one of many evolutionary strategies, as Erin Michael Johnson at The Primate Diaries wrote:
This would appear to undermine the notion that only related individuals would be adopted and cared for by others. However, the authors speculate that the two groups might be distantly related, thus suggesting kin altruism as the explanation for this unique occurrence. While this could be, the coefficient of genetic relatedness would likely be much too low for such a large investment to be in the genetic interests of the adoptive parents. Furthermore, any genetic mechanism involved (let alone an epigenetic one) would be unlikely to be so precise as to differentiate a kin member from a stranger. Since any orphan they come across would have a higher chance of being from their own group (and thus closely related), a genetic “rule of thumb” would be to provide assistance to all abandoned infants so long as resources were available.
Much the same has been argued for the origin of human altruism. Since most modern hunter-gatherer populations (and presumably our hominin ancestors) live in small groups of closely related individuals, the chances of helping a kin member by behaving altruistically are very high. Our genes today are descended from such close knit communities and don’t realize that we now live in enormous populations of strangers where being generous doesn’t directly improve our reproductive fitness.
By this simple act of adopting a strange infant, these titi monkeys are teaching us an important lesson about evolutionary strategies. While the net sum of behaviors in the natural world is for the perpetuation of their genes, such mechanisms can’t always differentiate the forest for the trees. Genes that evolved for one set of environmental constraints (in this case helping the infant of a kin member) could promote behaviors for another (helping the infant of a stranger). This should give us some hope as political commentators suggest that our world is spinning out of control as the result of factionalized groups based around instincts for kin networks. If we can extend our notion of kin from our local population to the global community, then perhaps we’ll find a way to help one another. Our genes are already primed to benefit their close relations, we just need to find a way to put them to use for the benefit of the human family.
It’s not hard to figure out. If an infant loses or is abandoned by its parents, if members of the group are inclined to take care of and raise that infant, it promotes the survival of not just that infant, but of that species. Being able to form attachment as an adoptive parent isn’t just natural, it may be one of the things that promoted the survival of our species.
So, the question really isn’t “How can anyone form an attachment with a child that’s “not theirs” (biologically)?” The question is why a “natural parent” like Price would fail to form enough of an attachment to her son to protect him from harm, instead of letting her boyfriend beat him with a wooden spoon and lock him in a cage?
Why, the, would Thomas Boone, fail to form enough of an attachment to his ten-year-old son to put a stop to the horrific abuse he suffered:
A TEN-YEAR-OLD boy was locked in his bedroom for SIX MONTHS and only allowed out to forage for food around his filthy house.
Cops responding to a missing person’s report found the lad hiding from his cruel parents in a cupboard under a sink.
Detectives say that the boy’s father and stepmother made him sleep on a bare mattress soaked in his own urine, fed him only peanut butter sandwiches and forced him to drink water from a toilet bowl.
He was “scared, malnourished and tired”, a report revealed, adding that he was so emaciated he weighed less than 25kgs (55lbs).
Thomas and Kimberly Boone, both 38, have been charged with three counts of aggravated child abuse by police in Port Charlotte, Florida, US, for “knowingly and wilfully abusing, torturing, maliciously punishing and caging the child victim”.
Why wouldn’t Boone refuse to let his son live in the kind of conditions detectives found in the boy’s room?
“It was bare with no rug on the floor, no toys in the room, no clothing or lights. The only thing in the room was a box spring and mattress that smelled of urine,” the report said.
Detectives said there were several areas on the floor where they could see human feces and puddles of urine.
“The door handle to the boys room was reversed, and the lock was facing into the hallway; a latch to secure the door was on the hallway side of the door,” the report said.
The boy told detectives since December 2009 he had been locked in his room most of the time, and was only allowed a small drink of water and peanut butter sandwiches.
“[The boy] was only allowed to come out when he went to school or the family went away,” the report said.
“The child was locked in his bedroom and due to this, urinated and defecated on the floor in his room and bed. The child was made to sleep in the urine soaked bed and as a punishment had his face rubbed in the urine and feces.”
The boy, who weighed only 55 lbs., told police that he was afraid of his step-mother — whom his father married last year. It’s not clear if one parent was the main driver of the abuse, or whether both participated in it. But the one biological parent in the home either participated in the abuse or passively allowed it to happen. (At least one family member, the grandmother who now has custody of the boy, suspected the abuse and reported it, but no action was taken.)
I’ve heard of giving a child a “time-out,” and we’ve even used time-outs in our family. (Really, though, when Parker was younger and now with Dylan, a “time-out” doesn’t last longer than 1 minute for each year of the kids age, and one of us always sat with them rather than leave them alone.) But this? Yet, the AFA would say that — even though our children are cared for, well-fed, un-bruised, and go to sleep in clean rooms and comfortable beds — we can’t possibly be as good as the Boones when it comes to parenting, because we’re gay and they’re heterosexual.
After all, they can stop beating their son, stop starving him, stop locking him in his room, stop making him sleep in his own urine, and stop rubbing his face in his own feces. We don’t do any of those things, but that doesn’t matter. If Price and Boone stop doing the above, they will no longer be “abusive parents.” On the other hand, the only way we can stop being “abusive” parents is to stop being parents, period.
Likewise, Cheryl Ann Stuart. In the case of her boys, ages 2 and 5, it was the landlord who called police to have them check on the kids’ welfare.
Police went to the home Wednesday after receiving a call from Stuart’s landlord and found the boys, ages 2 1/2 and 5, with bruised bodies, swollen limbs and bumps on their heads.
The younger boy had severe bruising to his forehead and cheek, and his lips were so dry they had cracked and bled, said Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.The 5-year-old had swollen arms and was extremely dehydrated, and both boys had bruises and knots on their heads, the Santa Ana police spokesman said.
Bertagna said Stuart admitted hitting her sons but didn’t think she was striking them too hard.
Stuart also told officers the children each received two cups of water a day.
“She tied the kids to their beds using bandages, shoelaces or chains to keep them from taking off while she slept,” Bertagna said. “She didn’t feed the boys, especially the 2-year-old, because she was potty-training him” and was tired of changing his soiled sheets.
Paramedics took the boys to a hospital to be treated for dehydration, malnutrition and injuries. They remained in the hospital Thursday evening. The boys, whose ribs were showing through their skin, are expected to recover, Bertagna said.
Stuart is estranged from the children’s father, who did not live with them, Bertagna said.
Again, Stuart can stop beating her kids, stop tying them to the bed, feed them, and give them a bit more water, if she wants to stop being an abusive parent. We don’t do anything like that to our kids, and never have. But the only way we can stop being “abusive” parents by AFA and is to stop being parents.
Likewise, Shemeeka Davis, who beat and starved her foster-daughter, Jazzmin, to death.
At Davis’ a preliminary hearing in the case against Davis, police officer Blair Benzler recently recounted the testimony of Jazzmin’s twin brother about the day his sister was killed.
Benzler said Jazzmin”s brother told investigators that the day his sister died, Davis was angry because she suspected that Jazzmin had gone into her bedroom the previous night. The boy said Davis whipped Jazzmin with the cord nearly a dozen times before he left to take a bath. When he finished, Davis told him his sister was dead, Benzler said.
The boy said he looked into the bedroom he shared with Jazzmin and saw her body on the floor, naked but partially covered with a towel. He told investigators that Davis was performing CPR on Jazzmin, and putting ice on the girl”s chest, said deputy public defender Betty Barker, reading from a transcript of the boy”s interview. He said Davis was crying in a way he”d never seen her cry before.
“I”m so sorry,” Davis told the Jazzmin”s twin. “I know don”t love me. You guys are my babies and they are going to take you away. … You got to help me. I don”t want her to die. I”ll never do it again. Just don”t die, don”t die.”
…It was Valentine’s Day 2007 when Davis began locking him in the twin’s bedroom and the closet for up to 12 hours at a time. Davis had begun locking up Jazzmin a year earlier, and had removed all light bulbs from the room.
Here’s what I posted about Jazzmin’s death in Dec. 2008 installment in this series.
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.
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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.
As in Jazzimn Davis’ case, a recent case in Oregon comes on the heels of a previous abuse-related death in the same county earlier this year, which underscores problems in the child welfare system. It also underscores the point of this series. The big difference is that the 9-year-old boy in this case survived the kind of abuse that killed Jazzmin Davis and another teenage girl in the same county.
The 9-year-old boy’s injuries included a severe burn and a host of broken bones. But the story he and his siblings told was even more disturbing:
Adopted from state foster care, the boy appears to have been abused in his new home. He talks of being tossed in a creek, fed baby formula and forced to sleep outside. If he was good, he got a blanket.
…Rodger and Alona Hartwig, who took the boy in as a foster child and then adopted him, pleaded not guilty earlier this month to charges that included first-degree assault and first-degree criminal mistreatment.
They did not respond to telephone calls this week from The Oregonian.
Court records include interviews with a doctor, other children in the home and with the boy. The Oregonian is not naming him because of his age.
Among the boy’s other injuries, the doctor found a pelvic fracture consistent with being involved in a “40-mile-per-hour crash” or “falling from a three-story window.”
The boy’s brothers and sisters said he was force-fed infant formula and the cabinets were locked to prevent him from “stealing” food. The children said he was not allowed to participate in “family nights” when the rest of them had pop and popcorn.
He slept on the back porch with a blanket or in the bathtub with a towel, they said.
The boy told investigators “he did not want to talk about what happened at Alona and Rodger’s house.”
The Sherif says that the boy’s injuries did not all occur at the same time, thus suggesting that the abuse happened more than once. I was intrigued by the different pictures of the Hartwigs. Mugshots, of course, are rarely flattering, but the difference in the pictures suggests that while the Hartwigs appeared to be a “normal,” heterosexual married couple who loved children and opened the home to foster children, the story behind closed doors was very different. In the first set of pictures, taken in happier times, they look like they wouldn’t seem out of place at an AFA event. The mugshots, however, are probably close to the what their children — at least one of them (though can you imagine what the effect of witnessing this abuse must have had on them?) — faced.
Again, let the kid in the house, feed him, let him join in “family night,” and stop beating him hard enough to cause a pelvic fracture “consistent with being involved in a ’40-mile-per-hour crash’ or ‘falling from a three-story window’,” and even the Hartwigs — who were once the subject of a flattering news article about foster parents — would no longer be abusive parents. Our children sleep in their beds ever night (after being read a story and/or sung to sleep by one of us), have never had a broken bone, and enjoy various family activities (this weekend alone involved picking raspberries, having dinner with a group of other gay dads and their kids, and going to the neighborhood swimming pool). But, because we’re gay all the above still counts as “abuse” to the AFA. The only way we can stop being “abusive” parents is to stop being parents.
Still, the boy rescued from the Hartwig’s home was lucker than Jeanette Maples, the 16-year-old what died at the hands of her mother and step-father, in the same county.
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Anthony Maples hadn’t seen or heard from his daughter in nearly a decade.
But his heart still sank Thursday night, he said, when a state Department of Human Services worker called to tell him that the 16-year-old girl had been killed in Eugene — allegedly by her mother and the woman’s husband.
“She said, ‘I’m sorry to inform you that your daughter’s been murdered’, ” said Maples, a Sacramento resident.
“She didn’t give me many details, but said that it was really horrific,” he said.
Lane County sheriff’s investigators said that they believe that the girl — Jeanette Marie Maples — died after her mother and stepfather abused her.
Medics who responded to a 911 call at the family’s north Eugene home Wednesday night discovered the teen injured and unconscious in a bathtub, officials said.
She died later that night at a local hospital. Her mother, Angela Darlene McAnulty, 41, and step*father, Richard Anthony McAnulty, 40, subsequently were arrested. They both face charges of aggravated murder.
Court documents supporting the charges allege that the teen’s death was caused by “neglect and maltreatment” and occurred “in the course of, or as a result of, intentional maiming and torture.”
As with the Boone case, Maple’s step-grandmother suspsected Maples was being abused, and called DHS to report. But no help arrived until it was too late for Jeanette Maples.
In October, she was briefly allowed into the family’s home. Jeanette was inside, facing a wall because she was being punished by her mother. McAnulty tried to talk to Jeanette as her daughter-in-law hovered nearby. The girl was emaciated, and she had a split lip, the stepgrandmother said.
Angela McAnulty told her mother-in-law that Jeanette had fallen.
Lynn McAnulty left the house and said she again called the DHS anonymously to report suspected abuse. That was the last time she saw Jeanette.
On the night of Dec. 9, Lynn McAnulty got a frantic call from her son and daughter-in-law that Jeanette was cold and had stopped breathing. Lynn McAnulty said she screamed at them to call 9-1-1, which they did. The couple were arrested later that night after Jeanette was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
No official cause of death has been released. Detectives took away boxes of evidence, and Lynn McAnulty was given the grim task of cleaning out the house.
She found food padlocked in kitchen cupboards and a blood-spattered bedroom. She described the inside of the house as filthy, with junk and toys everywhere. Investigators urged her not to view her stepgranddaughter’s body.
“They all told me that I did not want to see this body because it was the most horrific thing they’d ever seen,” said McAnulty, who took their advice.
In all of these cases — Maples, Davis, Boone, Hartwig, etc. — my mind reels trying to think of what could possibly be going on in the parents’ minds. There’s nothing I can think of that a kid could do that would warrant anything remotely resembling the treatment these kids suffered at the hands of their parents or guardians. As a dad for 7+ years now, I know how frustrating kids and sometimes be.
Back around the time of Alec Baldwin’s voicemail to his daughter, which got all kids of play in the media, I withheld judgement. That’s because I’m pretty sure that almost every parent, or everyone who’s raised children, has had at least one moment of frustration that they wouldn’t want blasted around the world as the sole or primary example of their parenting. I’ve repeated that since to all kinds of other parents, and they always respond with nods of recognition.
We all have bad days. But neither I nor any of the parents I know approaching anything like these stories, even on our worst days.
There are probably may more factors in play behind any of these stories than the news reports could possibly include. The parents and/or the children in any of these stories could have psychological, emotional, or behavioral problems that aggravated already difficult circumstances. It’s clear that in some cases, parents the parents have problems that directly influenced their choices and behaviors.
Patrick Fousek and Somantha Tomasini, for example, were probably driven to sell their baby to strangers outside of WalMart for $25 in order to support their meth habits.
Police spokesman Officer Lalo Villegas said the father tried to sell the child about 7:20 p.m. outside the store on North Davis Road.
Villegas said Salinas resident Patrick Fousek, 38, had approached two women and asked to use their cell phone. * After he finished his phone call, police said, Fousek asked the women, who had been playing with the baby, if they would like to purchasehis daughter for $25.
“They thought he was joking,” Villegas said. “They laughed, but he was very persistent. That’s when they knew this guy was serious.”
Police said Fousek immediately left and went to the carwhere the mother, Samantha Tomasini, 20, was waiting. As the couple drove away, Villegas said, the two women were able to get the pair’s license plate number.
About 1 a.m. Wednesday, Villegas said, police officers tracked down the couple at their residence in the 700 block of East Romie Lane.
Officers said the couple appeared high on methamphetamine and the housewas in disarray. A police report also claimed that Tomasini told Child Protective Services, who took the baby, that she had breast-fed the infant while under the influence, Villegas said.
Amanda Burciaga had to work. The streets, that is. As a prostitute. Out of state. That’s why she left her two-year-old daughter and three-year-old autistic son with the same abusive boyfriend who had already beaten the three-year-old and was ordered to have no contact with the children. The boyfriend — Russel Ros — ultimately killed two-year-old Natalia Burciaga. For her part, in failing to protect her children, leaving with a man who had abused them before, and showing no remorse (except in court) Burciaga got the maximum sentence the judge could give to her.
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Nine years and eight months prison, the maximum allowed by sentencing guidelines, wasn’t enough prison time, according to Marion County Circuit Judge Albin Norblad.
“This is more than criminal mistreatment,” Norblad told Amanda Burciaga, 21. “Her callousness and disregard in my opinion would suggest that she’s an accessory to murder.”
Burciaga’s former boyfriend, Russell Ros, was previously convicted of murder for fatally abusing Natalia Lee, 2. Burciaga repeatedly left her daughter and son, who was 3 at the time, in Ros’ care while working out of state as a prostitute. Burciaga was found guilty of three counts of criminal mistreatment in May.
Her son has been adopted by another family.
…Burciaga had both her children before her 17th birthday when she met Ros. At 18 she began leaving the children with him while she went on trips working as a prostitute. At the time, Ros had a prior conviction of misdemeanor assault for abusing Burciaga’s son.
One month before Natalia’s death, Burciaga returned from a trip to find bruises on her son.
Burciaga was 18 when Ros kicked, stomped and sexually abused Natalia, who died at Salem Hospital of those injuries. Ros stood trial, was convicted in June 2009 and sentenced to nearly 78 years in prison for the murder and sexual abuse of Natalia and abuse of her brother.
I could go on, because there are more of these cases than there could ever be time to write about them all. I don’t expect anyone at the AFA to get it, but I’ll repeat it anyway.
… being heterosexual doesn’t make you a good parent or a bad parent; being married doesn’t necessarily make you a good parent or a bad parent; being single doesn’t make you a good parent or a bad parent; working outside the home doesn’t make you a good parent or a bad parent.
The kind of parent you are depends upon not even the kind of parent you’ve learned to be, but entirely upon the kind of parent you want to be and work to become.
If you’re the kind of parent who puts your kid’s needs ahead of your own, who does all you can to make sure that they’re safe, that they have everything they need, and that they know and experience on a daily basis how much they are loved — if you’re the kind of parent who does your best even on your worst days, makes mistakes, owns up, makes amends and tries to do better — then you are a good parent.
That’s not gay, straight, “intact,” or “ideal.” That’s real, human, parenting. You don’t have to be an “ideal” parent or person to do it. And the only things that need to be “intact” are your heart and your conscience.
But the best evidence I have of this is just what I’ve experienced as a parent. Unlike the parents in some of these stories, my kids have never hidden from me. At least, not out of fear. Hide-and-seek is one of Dylan’s favorite games, even though he hide always hides in the same corner of the same room, and then squeals with laughter when I inevitably “find” him. The hubby and I are the first ones he comes to when he has a “boo-boo” that needs attention, and he’s regularly grabs us by the hand and takes us into the family room to see his favorite show or something else he’s excited about. We’re his parents, and he knows that he will get comfort and whatever else he needs from us. And when he’s happy or excited about something, we’re the first ones he want to share it with.
In fact, I had a similar experience with Parker this morning. During the summer, I make sure Parker gets to summer day-camp in the mornings. That means I take him with me on the bus/Metro in the morning, and drop him off at the school where the day-camp is located. I walk him to the classroom where his group is — or the gym, if we get there early, where the children play until it’s time to get started on whatever they’re doing that day.
As we got into the Metro station, our train was just pulling up. Experience told me that we probably wouldn’t make it down the escalator to the platform before the train took off. Parker’s instincts told him to run and try to catch the train. Realizing this, I feared that he might get on the train thinking that I was right behind him, and the doors would close before I made it. (Or worse. I’ve read of children getting separated from their parents on the subway, and getting hurt. So, I called to him to slow down, and when he turned around to look at me, I took hold of his hand and told him we’d catch the next train. The train closed its doors just as I reached him.
While riding the next train, I explained to Parker why I’d told him to wait. I told him what to do if that ever happened, but stressed that I never want us to get separated on the metro and that we should always get on the train together. He asked why, and I explained that some kids have gotten hurt or had accidents when they got separated from their parents on the subway. “Besides,” I told him, “I’m your Dad, and it’s my job to keep you safe. I never want anything bad to happen to you.”
We walked to the school as usual. I saw Parker to his room and made a quick stop at the restroom before heading back to the metro, on my way to work. Usually, I drop Parker at the door and say goodbye even as he’s running to meet his friends or join in whatever game everyone’s playing. Sometimes he says goodbye, and sometimes he waves me off as he hurries to meet up with “the guys,” and doesn’t want Dad cramping his style with a sappy goodbye. So, I assumed that’s what he did once I dropped him off at his room.
I walked down the hallway and headed out the door. But I stopped in my tracks when I heard a familiar voice call out “Dad!” I looked around, and there was Parker sticking his head out the door. I headed back, worried that something was wrong or that I’d forgotten something. But when I asked him, Parker said, “I didn’t get to say goodbye to you. So, I was running after you trying to say goodbye, and I thought you didn’t here me.”
Something about the image of Parker running down the hall to give me a hug goodbye moved me, and I think I choked up a little.
I gave him a hug, told him I love him, that I hoped he had a good day, and that I’d see him this evening.
Then, Parker ran back to his camp group, and I walked to the Metro, feeling like the hubby and I must be doing something right as parents, no matter what the AFA thinks.