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56 Who’s-The-Daddy Cases Heard In 3 Hours

by Laurel Leff | Aug 2, 2011 12:09 pm

(21) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Laurel Leff Photo Under glaring lights, Marquise Parker was handed the results of a paternity test he had taken weeks before. An audience of about 40 people looked on expectantly. Davette Fowlin, the child’s mother, eyed Parker as he glanced at the verdict that would determine his future.

The results were positive. He is indeed the daddy.

Parker didn’t howl in despair. Fowlin didn’t whoop in victory. He shrugged; she shifted uncomfortably.

For this wasn’t the set of the Maury Show. This was the latest episode of “Paternity Thursday,” a real-life drama played out in rapid-fire segments in the fluorescent-lit Courtroom 3A at 235 Church St.

It’s a weekly mini-series in which Family Support Magistrate David Dee hears the so-called “paternity docket,” anywhere from 30 to 60 cases that try to establish who the father is and how much he should pay in child support.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. this past Thursday, Dee plowed through 56 cases, of which Parker’s case was No. 19. As Dee moved briskly through the cases, the atmosphere was subdued. The courtroom decorum was broken only by the chatter of children squirming on uncomfortable benches and the babble of toddlers perched on their mothers’ hips as their fate was decided. Unlike in popular culture scenes filled with outbursts and hysteria, these mothers and putative fathers glided past one another in stony silence with barely a nod of recognition.

“Ladies On The Left”

Last Thursday at 10 a.m. the hallway outside Courtroom 3A was buzzing as men and women, and some boys and girls, gathered in separate clusters accompanied by parents, siblings, friends and more than a few children. 

Inside the courtroom, most of the seats were taken as the session began with instructions for “guys” to stand to the right when their case was called; “ladies on the left.” If a guy or a lady didn’t show, which happened often, the lone participant was instructed to stand in the middle. 

Magistrate Dee, who was just reappointed by Gov. Malloy after four years in the position, started with a clear statement of the putative fathers’ rights. He repeated some version of the statement dozens of times during the proceeding. The father, he explained, has the right to be represented by an attorney, who will be appointed for him if he’s indigent. He has the right to genetic testing at a cost of $30, which the state will pay for someone found to be indigent. And the father has the right to a trial to prove, or disprove, his fatherhood.

Dee also made clear the responsibilities that accompany a legal declaration of fatherhood: A support order can be entered based on ability to pay, and wages can be garnished to pay it; failure to pay support could lead to contempt proceedings and possible incarceration.

As he moved through the docket, Dee repeatedly let the fathers know their rights and, if they chose to waive their rights, to do so on the record. 

“We do our very best to make sure everyone’s rights are considered,” Assistant Attorney General Amy Guido said during a break between representing the state’s and the mothers’ interests in all 56 cases heard Thursday. 

Patricia Buck Wolf (pictured in top photo), a New Haven lawyer who was in court Thursday as guardian ad litem for one child and who often represents putative fathers, agreed. “They’re much more protective of rights, particularly in the past five years,” Wolf said after court adjourned Thursday.

The vast majority of cases heard Thursday were petitions for paternity at various stages in the process. At an initial hearing, the man can either make “an admission” that he is the father or ask for genetic testing to determine his relationship to the child. Or, at a subsequent hearing, he can receive the results of a paternity test he had already taken— as Marquise Parker had—and then, depending on the results, the court can issue a finding of non-paternity or order child support. 

Among the paternity petitions and a few misplaced child support cases on Thursday, there were two petitions to open paternity. Petitions to open arise when a man has acknowledged paternity, either by signing a birth certificate in the hospital, at an earlier court hearing, or through a default judgment entered when he didn’t appear for a previous court proceeding. Months or even years later, the man may decide he’s not the biological father after all, often as a result of private genetic testing.

Genetic testing, both court-ordered and private, has become much more popular as the procedure has moved from a blood test to a mouth swab, and the cost has dropped. (Read a story about a walk-in DNA clinic in Dixwell.) Private testing is still much more expensive than the court-ordered variety, typically begininng at $400.

The putative father then must file a petition seeking to open the paternity judgment. These petitions are rare. The state Judicial Department said just 14 such petitions were filed in New Haven from 2007 to 2010; all the lawyers interviewed for this story said that number can’t possibly be right based on their experience. Harris Lifshitz, a recently retired magistrate who previously sat in New Haven, said his “ballpark guess” is that 10 such petitions are filed in New Haven a month. The department’s statistician, Greg Pac, couldn’t explain the possible discrepancy.

To open a paternity judgment, the man has to hire a lawyer himself (the court won’t pay at this stage), go to court and meet the tough legal standard of proving “fraud, duress or a material mistake.” 

“The threshold is very high,” Assistant Attorney General Guido said. A paternity test proving that the man is not the biological father is often not enough. “It really is case by case” she said, and often depends on whether “the child already knows this person as the father.”

On this Thursday, one petition to open was dismissed when neither the mother nor putative father showed up. “Mr. Tate didn’t show up and he hasn’t in the past,” Assistant AG Guido explained. “It was dismissed out of hand.”

Wolf, the guardian ad litem for the child in that case, had planned to ask for more time to interview the mother, who had a new address. She was now out of the case.

Happy Endings

The other motions to open had a happy ending—at least for now.

One case was titled Sarah Pena v, Orlando Colon. Pena came to court with a man other than Colon, who never appeared. When her case was called, Pena quickly accepted the results of an independent May 10 paternity test that established someone other than Colon as the father. Assistant AG Guido did not oppose the motion to open the paternity judgment or the finding that Colon was not the father. Pena left the court holding hands with her male companion. Asked outside the courtroom for her reaction to the day’s proceeding, Pena said, with a smile, “it’s all good,”  and declined to say anymore.

Another three cases were “exclusions,” where findings of non-paternity were entered. Eve Hunter cradled an infant wearing a pink hat as she stood before the magistrate. Maurice Gomes, whose name appeared on the court file, wasn’t there. But no matter. Hunter had named someone else as the father. Magistrate Dee entered an order of non-paternity for the non-appearing Gomes.

In three other cases heard Thursday, the fathers acknowledged paternity without the benefit of DNA testing. Those are the cases that worry lawyers involved in family support system the most.

“Everybody should really get DNA testing,” said Barbara Morelli, a Plantsville lawyer who has a state contract to represent putative fathers in these proceedings. On Thursday, she split the duty with Laureen Vitale. “All of the people who come in don’t really know now how difficult it is to reopen cases later. They’re young and don’t realize the long-term effect. They’re going to be responsible for support for a very long time. Today is the day to find out.”

But some don’t —which worried Magistrate Dee.

In a conversation in his chambers after the docket was heard, Dee said he can’t order genetic testing from the bench. Yet, like most magistrates, he thinks genetic testing should be done in every case, he said.

Earlier in the day, Dee had pushed Kewon Strickland on his waiver of a paternity test. The question before the court was the paternity of 1 1/2-year-old Kaliegha. Kaliegha wore extra-big pink sunglasses; she clutched a doll as her mother, Mariam Ortiz, held her while the case was heard.

When Strickland waived both his right to an attorney and his right to genetic testing, Magistrate Dee repeated his mantra: “It is difficult, if not impossible, to open that judgment if you change your mind.”

Knowing all that, you’d still like to go forward,” he said in what sounded like half-question, half-plea.

Yes, Strickland said, he did want to go forward, The admission of paternity was made as a result of his “own free will.”

Dee might have had good reason to worry. Asked about his admission outside the courtroom, Strickland, 25, said he and Ortiz have been together for eight years and have a 4-year-old son. “I don’t see any reason for testing right now,” he said. “I can save up for an attorney and reopen the case.”

In the meantime, Strickland had asked the judge for structured visitation and maybe even joint custody, which led Dee to send the case to another court division. In the hallway, Strickland said that his relationship with Ortiz is “on and off” and that he wants regular visitation. “She’ll give it to me and then take it back. I don’t want it to depend on mad today, happy tomorrow.”

Josue Alvarez also declined to get genetic testing to determine the paternity of three children, all supposedly with mother Nitzayri Almodovar. “Do you request genetic testing?” he was asked.

“I am the father” was his reply to a question about a 2 1/2-year-old boy. The couple supposedly have an older child and a two-month-old together as well. Dee entered a judgment of paternity and support for all three children.

“I know he’s my son,” Alvarez, a 28-year-old unemployed mechanic said after the magistrate entered the order. “He’s my son.”

Robert Cirino was just as emphatic in rejecting genetic testing for his 4-year-old child. At both the beginning and ending of the case, Dee scolded Cirino, who had turned 18 a month earlier, and the child’s 19-year-old mother, Norma Tixi, for wandering off during the proceedings.Their case had to be called three times.

Dee stressed the financial and legal responsibilities that come along with Cirino’s admission. “I’m a man. I want to take of my responsibility,” Cirino said outside the courtroom. “That’s all I got to say about that.”

He seemed more interested in the multiple surgeries, beginning Monday, he needs to repair a shattered elbow. Probing to assess the injury’s effect on Cirino’s ability to work, Dee asked whether he had been hurt in “an accident or work related or something outside of that.”

“Something outside of that,” Cirino replied.

Asked in the hallway about the injury, a friend who accompanied Cirino to court made a gesture: pulling the trigger on a gun.

Emergence Of “Paternity Thursday”

The paternity docket arose from a series of Congressional mandates beginning in the 1970s. Before that, custodial parents who wanted financial help caring for their children had to hire a lawyer and file a complaint in court to establish paternity and demand support.

For public policy and budgetary reasons, the U.S. Congress sought to shift the care of children born out of wedlock from the state to their fathers. It enacted Title IV-D of the Social Security Act to encourage states to get fathers to pony up by reimbursing the administrative costs of running support enforcement programs. Welfare recipients also had to assign their right to child support to the government in exchange for state benefits and assume the risk of losing those benefits if they didn’t cooperate with collection efforts.

Over the next 30 years, the Congress adopted other measures to induce states to create procedures for establishing paternity and enforcing child support. The federal government has largely succeeded: only 20 percent of children born out of wedlock are now supported by state assistance, compared to 80 percent two decades ago.

In Connecticut, a 1986 law created the family support magistrate division of the superior court to establish paternity for children born out of wedlock, and to issue and enforce financial and medical support orders. Families seeking either cash benefits or health care coverage through the Husky program must have their cases adjudicated in the magistrate division. The state Department of Social Services administers the program; the state Attorney General’s Office represents both the DSS and the custodial parent in court. Nine magistrates hear the cases, with another four or five retired magistrates pitching in as referees.

After reaching a high of almost 5,000 new petitions for paternity statewide in the mid-1990s, as the relatively new program got off the ground, the number of new petitions has leveled off to about 1,500 a year, according to Judicial Department records. New Haven still has enough new paternity petitions, about 400 a year for the last four years, to devote an entire day to the docket. Although courts around the state hear these cases, Hartford is the only other courthouse to devote an entire day to one type of case.

In New Haven that means there’s Interstate Monday for interstate and telephonic cases, as well as those requiring more time; Child Support Tuesday to determine the father’s financial contribution; Contempt Wednesday to deal with fathers who aren’t making their payments; and Modification Friday to hear arguments for changing established support arrangements.

It all starts with Paternity Thursday. Fathers can be held financially responsible only if they are found to be the legal father.

The Shackled Appear

Although Dee didn’t make much headway getting three young men he encountered Thursday to take a paternity test, he pointed to one area where the division has made a difference—with the prisoners who are transported from around the state for hearings here. Dee said that since September, when he began his New Haven rotation, the state-contracted lawyers have been meeting with the prisoners in lockup before the session to explain the right to counsel and the importance of genetic testing.

“I think over 90 percent of the prisoners who become aware of it early request genetic testing,” Dee said.

Dee’s impressions were born out during Thursday’s docket. The ten prisoners who appeared, all in handcuffs and some shackled, had counsel and requested testing if they hadn’t received it already.

Parker, who was handed the results during the hearing, was among them. In fact, lawyer Morelli, who represented Parker, persuaded the court to continue the case based on problems with the lab’s recording of the the date of the test.

“Mr. Parker wants a redo on the test,” she told the magistrate.

“It’s virtually impossible to get a false positive,” Dee reminded her and Parker. Still, Parker wanted a new test. He got a new test.

Most of the prisoners either accepted the results of their paternity tests, or asked for them for the first time.

Asti Butler requested counsel and genetic testing when his case was heard. Some family members apparently showed up just for the relatively fleeting view of Butler.

“See ya Saturday,” Butler said to his mother as he was escorted back to lock up.

“Love ya,” she replied. 

There were some last-minute decisions to get genetic testing. James Jones’ case was presented as an admission, meaning he had agreed ahead of time to acknowledge the child. Asked whether he would like to admit, James Jones at first said yes. But when asked specifically whether he wanted to request genetic testing, Jones also said yes.

The mother, Vinyetta Phelmetta, looked startled and started to object. Dee interjected, “It’s his right, ma’am.”

The magistrate then added, “I guess that was a surprise.”

Lamont Gates also decided at the last minute to request genetic testing for the 10-month-old girl he held protectively in his arms outside the courtroom after his case was heard. Gates, 18, said he hadn’t signed her birth certificate at the hospital when the girl was born. “Because he didn’t have his ID with him,” the mother, Twinajha Perry, 19, said quickly.

Gates said he had come to court intending to acknowledge paternity, but decided to take the test when he heard it was free. “I just wanted to take the test to be sure,” he said. “I know she’s mine.”

No-Shows & No Jobs

If the putative father doesn’t show, the court can enter a default judgment, which makes him the legal father. That happened to Jamar Sims, who didn’t appear for the hearing on a 4 1/2-year-old boy. Magistrate Dee set custody at $120 a week, plus back support of over $6,000.

If the mother doesn’t appear, especially if it happens repeatedly, the magistrate can dismiss the paternity petition. Montez Walton showed up, but the mother, Lakeisha James, didn’t. Assistant AG Guido noted that Walton had never made a payment for the child as far as she knew, but that the mother hadn’t ever appeared either, so “you can go either way,” she told the magistrate. He dismissed the case.

Once paternity is established, the question then switches to the amount of child support and how the father can possibly pay it. None of the prisoners who appeared on Thursday were earning money or had any assets, so Dee focused on when they were to get out and how they could get a job.

As he had with the importance of genetic testing, Dee tried to impress upon the fathers the serious consequences of failing to try to get a job and pay support. “You have a duty to support and maintain your child,” he told Adrian Nelson, the only father to hold a child as he stood at the podium. The boy in his arms, however, wasn’t the subject of the paternity petition.

“If you’re working for pay and you don’t pay support, it can be considered willful noncompliance and you could go to jail,” Dee told Nelson.

Nicholas Maturo, who was in prison, accepted the results of a paternity test for a 7-month old. Asked if he had a job to go back to, Maturo said, “I haven’t got anything set up but I will find one.”

Fathers with records, such as Nelson and Maturo, have an added difficulty. But none of the men who appeared Thursday were likely to have an easy time of it. Only two of the men said they were employed; only one reported having full-time work. How the others would find a job and make support payments were issues for another legal proceeding—and another day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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posted by: browser on August 2, 2011  1:22pm

As “Atwater” said about a previous story (about the opening of the dna testing clinic on Sherman and Goffe), I find this story most incredibly sad.  Leff’s fine writing—objective, comprehensive—makes the whole topic hit home even harder.  But what about the children, at least some of whom certainly are left with the insecurity of having an unwilling father/provider.  Kudos to the men who own up or, in spite of nonpaternity choose to raise a child as their own.

posted by: john on August 2, 2011  1:29pm

This article shows the total lack of moralality in this society. It sounds like they reproduce like hamsters and then take no responsibility for the behavior. They are all trash. It is actually funny how people wonder how their children end up selling drugs, getting involved in gangs, violence etc.. the cycle just continues and no one says or does anything to correct it.

posted by: Atwater on August 2, 2011  2:54pm

So our taxes are going up this week and this is what they help pay for?. This might sound ignorant but I think that if a woman tells the Court she cannot be ceratin who the father of her child is, because of her promiscuity, then she should have to pay for the paternity test. I am tired of paying for social services that do nothing but enable and excuse the bad behaviour of a few of our fellow citizens. And I am tired of the tragedy of children being born to people who haven’t the ability, desire and/or aptitude to raise them. We wonder why parts of New Haven are in such bad shape, it’s because certain communities seem to have forgotten common decency and personal responsibility.

posted by: Parenting on August 2, 2011  3:03pm

This article gives an insight into the polar-different perceptions of parenting.

Some people, such as those who are described in the article, think it’s not a problem to father/mother numerous children without any means to support them and without any positive, productive home environment to raise them in. These people believe that society should take care of their children when they cannot take care of them themselves, as they don’t have a job or adequate accommodations - and these people then blame society for when their spawn grow up to commit violent crime. These people perpetuate the cycle of being undereducated, which leads to being underemployed and thus being poor, by having children when they’re too young; or when they haven’t completed their education; or when they don’t have a job; or when they haven’t enough money to afford decent accommodation in a safe neighborhood, etc.

Unlike these people, there are those who consider parenting and prepare for it years before they have any children. They complete their education, get a job, save up enough money to buy get a house/apartment in a good school district that’s safe, set up a home environment that’s positive and productive. These parents then go onto support the child’s education by taking them to enriching places (libraries, museums, theaters, etc.,) and help the child learn at home before and after school.

Which type of parent do you want to be? If you haven’t done everything you can to ensure that you are the second (better) type of parent, use birth-control. You may have to wait 5 or 10 years until you’ve got the best situation possible for being a parent, but your kids will thank you (and so will society).

posted by: CT Liberal on August 2, 2011  3:33pm

Look at all the self-appointed psychologists posting speculative comments about people they know nothing about.

You people have no idea what the circumstances were in most of these cases, yet you type in your “moral” judgement of them and slap the “Submit” button with your “righteous” condemnation of them anyway.  As if you have any real insight into this issue!

Its a stone-cold fact that sex education, specifically safe sex education about the use of contraceptives and options, would prevent most unintended pregnancy, yet the so-called “moral authority” types who have posted here fight such education for our children tooth and nail.  High school kids are MORE than old enough to be taught everything they need to know about safe sex, without such education acting as *promotion* of the act.  If it wasn’t for such limitations on education, we would not be faced with this problem in the first place.

If you’re looking for people to blame, look in the mirror.

posted by: Atwater on August 2, 2011  4:31pm

@valley resident: Any person of average, even below average, intelligence understands that sex can lead to procreation. They also know about available contraception, yet for some reason they decide to risk it. It is irresponsible. There is no excuse for it, not in the age we live in. The issue becomes a moral one when a person has multiple children that he/she cannot afford to support. It also becomes a moral issue when you have people engaging in random causal sex without any forethought as to the consequences of their actions. It also becomes a moral issue when the taxpayers are expected to pay for services that only exist because of other people’s irresponsibility. Moral judgement is sometimes necessary unless we want our society to continue its decline.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on August 2, 2011  5:12pm

“We wonder why parts of New Haven are in such bad shape, it’s because certain communities seem to have forgotten common decency and personal responsibility.”

Atwater,
I agree with what you said up until here. There is a sizable segment of our population - let’s call them the underclass - that lack common decency and personal responsibility, but its not because they “forgot”. The corrosion of these basic values from the customs of an entire group of people - this underclass - is the result of decades of increasingly bleak economic opportunity for each subsequent generation. That is to say, each new generation faces a more difficult job market than the previous generation, in this segment of the population.
For families that were able to establish solid economic foundations by the end of WW2 (by being monied, working extremely hard, and/or taking advantage of provisions in the GI Bill and the Federal Housing Act of 1954 such as low interest, government-backed mortgage loans, and subsidized college tuition), the dramatic changes of our domestic economy from a manufacturing to a services base has been benefitial. However, for families that were unable to economically stabilize themselves or take advantage of governmeny programs by the 1960s (like southern black migrants, Puerto Rican migrants, some eastern and southern European immigrants, and southern rural whites), the changes in the foundations of our economy that occurred after WW2 made economic stabilization thereafter much more difficult because it became next to impossible for an unskilled worker to provide for a family, which was something completely new to our society.
Most of these “at-risk” populations were able to pull themselves up by their boot straps in the face of extreme adversity, which is why only a small overall percentage of the population is impoverished, involved in criminal lifestyles, caught in a cycle of drug addiction and abuse, and having multiple children that they cannot raise. Unfortunately, there was a sizable portion of these “at-risk” groups that did not overcome the immense obstacles that resulted in the wake of a new services-based domestic economy. This is the underclass. This is the portion of the population that live in small, narrow worlds where petty arguments are settled with guns, where kids are having kids, and where moralality erodes further and further with each new generation.
Communities don’t just randomly decline into immoral, violence prone subcultures overnight and to their own accord, they are gradually pushed to that point thanks to decades of economic marginalization and failed social experiments.

posted by: Mr. Hopkins on August 2, 2011  6:47pm

Communities don’t just randomly decline into immoral, violence prone subcultures overnight and to their own accord, they are gradually pushed to that point thanks to decades of economic marginalization and failed social experiments.

Thanks you just explained what happened to New Haven in the past 18 years of JD

posted by: ABVP on August 2, 2011  8:07pm

The men have to pay the $30 fee if they are the father.  The women don’t have to pay the fee if they falsely accuse a man of being the father.  The women never have to pay the fee.  That’s paid by men’s tax money.

posted by: V on August 2, 2011  8:24pm

I enjoyed reading that “the state” will pay for your attorney if you don’t have the money.  Just like “the state” will pay for your housing and food and children. 

“The state” is the rest of us.  Taxpayers are tired of paying for the mistakes of others.\

posted by: Ray on August 2, 2011  10:53pm

I understand that this article is about dads facing paternity test, and mentions that they are almost all unemployed.
Why is it so taboo to also mention that for every unemployed man taking a paternity test, there is a mom that might have made a choice to have a baby by a guy who has no future for a family with her. As long as states put the emphasis on men and paying 2 decades of untracked money to women, there will always be a line in court. Moms get a child to enjoy and a check for 18 or more years, increased at the whim of the state and unmanaged or tracked. Child birth has replaced high school diplomas for career choices. It is easy to get pregnant when young guys are visual and girls want it to be. A daycare provider of my young girls told them that she did not have to marry the 4 fathers of her 4 children to get their money. What a lesson the states teach our young.

posted by: Ray on August 2, 2011  11:08pm

Hey folks, a certain population can become poor, but having sex is not poor or rich. Folks have been enjoying sex for hundreds of thousands of years. Our young have been taught that the old customs are not important and that the hundreds of thousands of years and countless cultures around the world that have independently discovered that a child needs a family, are old fashioned and old school. It has nothing to do with money. The women’s movement has worked to its logical end. Men are optional except for two decades of after tax checks, or a welfare system of housing, food and medical at the expense of the rest of society. How about giving 50% of these children to the fathers to raise. I’ll bet that would make a few men AND women think about the risk.

posted by: Concerned Citizen on August 3, 2011  12:22am

This article and many of the comments it has generated contribute greatly to an informed dialogue of the critically important issues raised.  I appreciate the efforts made by the NHI to bring us this very informative story. 

There are so many levels on which this story provides important food for thought and action.
At a time of extreme fiscal crisis it behooves all of us (particularly responsible parents, teachers, social agencies, community advocates, religious organizations, etc) to think deeply and analytically about the ills that plague us as a society and how to tackle them in meaningful and comprehensive ways.

It is fool-hardy to continue in the manner we are.  The price is far too great on every level: psycho-social, moral, economic.
It is irresponsible and sheer escapism to blame the proliferation of out-of-wedlock children born to teens and women in their 20’s and 30’s on the lack of sex education in schools. 

NHPS system has numerous programs that teach teens responsible behaviors; yet, many children get pregnant every year. Schools should not be expected to be the only place where children learn. Of the 24 hours in a day, most children spend between 6 and 8 hours in school 5 days weekly.  Of the 168 hours in each week - during the school year- most children spend between 25 and 40 hours in school.  The remaining 128 to 143 hours are spent elsewhere.  There needs to be meaningful learning taking place in these else-wheres.

The ever-shrinking numbers of people who are being asked to pay the bills for the care-free and irresponsible behaviors of so many, have a right to request protection and to protest the burden.  As we saw so clearly these past two years, there is a bottom to the federal financial well in DC and the state well in Hartford.

Valley Resident states: “You people have no idea what the circumstances were in most of these cases, yet you type in your “moral” judgement of them and slap the “Submit” button with your “righteous” condemnation of them anyway.  As if you have any real insight into this issue!”

Really Valley Resident! This hip bit of jargon does not address the salient issues.  Some of us think it is not about knowing individual situations; it is about a missing moral framework and a lack of social and cultural infrastructure. You are simply passing the blame; some of us think it is best to try to address the issues involved. It is not the “moral authority” types who are causing the problems. It is the parents who don’t parent well; aunts and other relatives—the village—who are no longer connected or helping to raise children. It is a society that roles over and gives in to the fanatical claims of all the extremists (left and right) who want their views to be the only ones heard. It is the breakdown of a coherent value system in our society; it is the stone throwing we all engage in so easily.

You say: “High school kids are MORE than old enough to be taught everything they need to know about safe sex, without such education acting as *promotion* of the act.  If it wasn’t for such limitations on education, we would not be faced with this problem in the first place.”  Do you really believe that a lack of sex education in some schools is responsible for the cavalcade of unplanned for and often unwanted births? What then accounts for the fact that (according to the CDC’s stats) Bible-belt Mississippi had the highest rate of teen pregnancy in 2009?  Texas was a close second?

If you are looking for people to blame for the crisis in our communities, look in the mirror.
We all have a part to play; how many hours have you volunteered in a community or teen center recently? How many young girls and boys have you mentored recently?  Have you contacted any of the community agencies in your area and ask if there are ways in which you can help to provide support to a teen?

posted by: Atwater on August 3, 2011  8:27am

@john hopkins: One can be poor and still maintain a basic sense of decency and morality. To say that the “system” is to blame for the choices of certain individuals is a cop out. Many people from the same community seem more than capable of leading decent and moral lives of sound judgement, modesty and hard work. And, given our government’s proclivity to help fund social services, such as birth control, abortions, etc., there really is no excuse for having children that one cannot afford to raise and support. In our society the “unwanted pregnancy” should be non-existent. The only reason it is not, is because of moral deficiencies and irresponsibility. In certain communities in New Haven (and in the entire nation) there seems to be a laissez fair attitude in regards to having children. It is this attitude that burdens society, it burdens our schools with children who live in dysfunctional homes, it burdens our social services, it burdens the health care system, and leads to massive spikes in crime. “poverty” is not the cause, its hubris, apathy and selfishness that are to blame.

posted by: Morris Cove Mom on August 3, 2011  9:05am

This must be one of the saddest things to witness; people who don’t know if these children are THEIR children, and who don’t seem to really care.  I cannot understand how this continues to happen.  I guess the mindset of being bored and lonely translates into something else in certain families.  I feel sorriest for the children in these scenarios, especially the little girls.  How does a mother explain what she did, and with whom?  And how can we end what seems like an epidemic?

posted by: state investigator on August 5, 2011  1:42pm

I agree that we cannot continue the way things
currently are.  We simply can’t afford it.  Yes, mothers and dad’s hands should be held to
the fire.  Mothers are also being irresponsible.
There is a logical inexpensive solution. No one
wants to go there, however.

posted by: Ray on August 5, 2011  5:36pm

@State Investigator: I would love to hear your expansion of
“There is a logical inexpensive solution. No one wants to go there, however.place we don’t want to go.”
A new idea on the table to help this situation might not be 100% useful, but if it can help 10% or 20% of these cases, it is worth hearing as part of a cure. As a father who did all of the night feedings and baby changing, and preschool education for three girls who were turned over to the mom in a divorce because she wanted a larger support check, I still believe that most of the young men can be the primary or sole custody parents. The states overbearing interest in keeping support payments high to get large federal government matching funds on the support awards affect the states ability to make good decisions to correct this mess. If the babies stopped coming, the states would loose hundreds of millions of dollars a month in these matching funds and, by the way, they would not need the money for the social systems that they have created to support these children. Groups like Fathers and Families and Fathers 4 Justice could stop fighting to see their children, and N.O.W. could spend their money lobbying for family rights rather than mom’s rights. Oh what a better world it would be!

posted by: Dan on August 6, 2011  3:10pm

DNA testing should be mandatory in support cases. The added cost can easily be offset by fewer state-payed attorneys.

A father cannot “admit” he’s the father when he has no way of knowing. If he gets the results and still wants to be a father great. But there’s still an actual biological father out there. How come his rights to the child can be terminated just because some other guy raised his hand? If a man were to take his child from it’s mother, find another woman to agree to be it’s mother, would that terminate the actual mother’s rights?

posted by: Kratch on August 6, 2011  3:23pm

Two things bother me about this article. The first, despite this article being about challenging paternity through DNA testing, not a single mention was made of any putative father found not to be the biological one. Of all those who had DNA testing done, how many were found not to be the father?

The second is found in the comments, with such comments as “think of the children”. There is never a shortage of people telling men to “think of the children”, whether they are the real fathers or not. But when it comes to women choosing to have a child against a man’s wish’s, we never hear the mother told to “think of the children”... No, they turn to the accused father and lay the blame squarely on him, despite him not having a choice at that point. It is made clear that, despite all the work to break down gender roles for women, to allow women more choice and more freedom, men are still to be shackled to the gender roles they were assigned millenia ago, whether they like it or not.

posted by: Kratch on August 6, 2011  3:28pm

I also need to point out how many 19year old girls and their 18 year old babydaddies were mentioned in this article. What’s up with that? And why didn’t those women get charged with sex crimes like a boy would have if the ages were reversed? And is it becoming a trend for high school girls to seduce younger boys (who may not yet know better) in order to get themselves pregnant?

posted by: Patrick Grady on August 9, 2011  2:09pm

The real question is why isn’t DNA testing a routine test done at every birth ?  Every baby born should have paternal dna testing done to not only insure paternity….but to ensure that men are aware of the birth of a baby that is theirs….given there is no legal requirement of notification today.  Paternal rights should be based on biology….just like it is for women.

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