Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Happy Father’s Day

Father’s Day is a bittersweet day for me.  I miss my Dad who passed away from lung cancer four years ago.  But it is also one of the most special days for me, because of my two daughters that I am blessed to have in my life.  I appreciate every moment I get to spend with them, learn from them, laugh with them, and watch them grow.

I wish every Dad able to celebrate Father’s Day a wonderful and memorable day.  For those unable to be with their children for such tragic reasons as death, or parental alienation, my heart goes out to each and every one of you.

If you are celebrating Father’s Day with your Dad, make it a good one.  And if you are spending the day remembering your father, do so with the warmest memories possible.

Happy Father’s Day everyone.


School’s Out – It Is Time To Do Something Now

Schools are ending their 2017-2018 calendar years.

There is less than two months to address and deal with the increase of violence in our schools at all grade levels, elementary, middle, and high schools.

Our government is doing nothing on a federal level.  Some states are responding on state levels.  Ultimately, it is going to fall on local governments such as school districts to take the steps necessary to keep the children safe, with as much effort as we do at airports, courthouses, and rock concerts.

My generation was probably the last to be able to attend school without police officers and metal detectors.  My generation was probably the last to not have to worry about being killed at school.  Sadly, children today, that is all they know.  In spite of intruder drills, children still cannot feel safe that they can survive any kind of assault by someone bent on mass murder.

According to the CDC, homicides are the second leading cause of death for kids between the ages of 5 to 18.  Weapons brought to school are typically brought from home.  There are all kinds of statistics from weapons, to times of day, and other factors.  But all these statistics do, is just continue dialogue.  No one is coming up with solutions.

More guns in the hands of citizens will not solve this.

Video games are not the cause of school violence.

Fatherlessness is not causing the violence.

Armed teachers will not solve this.

Students with clear back packs will not solve this.

“See something, say something” has not solved this.

Kevlar plates inside of backpacks will not solve this.

Intruder drills do not solve this.

It is not this hard.  How often do you hear of weapons in an airport compared to school violence?  How often do you hear of weapons in a courthouse compared to school violence?  How often do you hear of weapons at a concert compared to school violence?  But while we all argue over rights and weapons of choice, we are not coming up with any solutions.  More children and teachers continue to die.

Can we all just agree, that until we come up with a solution, we need to at least prevent weapons from being carried into the schools?  Can we have a controlled number of entrances into schools?  Can we have not only an armed officer at each entrance, but also the technology or tools necessary to detect weapons like screening machines used at airports and courthouses and concerts?

Sure, there will be plenty of complaints about the costs to implement these prevention measures, but compare those costs of nearly $20 billion dollars in medical costs each year as a result of violence in our schools.  Instead of arguing about the weapon used, admitting there were warning signs but ignored them anyway, we need to at least stop the weapons from getting into the schools.

No one wants to see the schools be secured this way.  But the routine of get shot, offer thoughts and prayers, blame guns, forget, and then repeat at the next event, leaves us no other choice.  The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.  Of course, security at airports, courthouses, and concerts is not perfect, but the occurrences are much less than those at schools.

But of course, I am sure everyone is open to any suggestions that will prevent the next school shooting, and for now, we know there will be another one.  It is just a question of when and where.

We owe our children the right to a free and safe education.  Time is running out to prevent the next violent mass murder once the new school year begins.  Please do something before the start of the 2018-2019 school year.  We already know students and their families are depending on it.

A Fatherless Father’s Day For One Family

Before I begin, for the sake of certain trolls following me…




So we are clear?  Yes?  Good.

A story was sent to me a recently.  Now by the title alone, “Erie County Prison Inmate Dies After An Asthma Attack At Work Site” from the news site “Erie News Now”, in spite of how we feel that prisoners have great health care, clearly it may not be so good.

Felix Manus was on work-release, when he suffered an asthma attack.  Needing assistance, his guards, instead of calling for an ambulance, drove Manus back to the county prison which was approximately a half an hour away.  Manus ended up on life support, and died.  Clearly, this should never have happened.  As if it were bad enough that the guards did not call for an ambulance, their drive back to the prison, it is reported that they passed two hospitals on the way.  The prisoner died because of the negligence, or ignorance of the guards in charge.

Friends and family members, rightfully so, want justice.  They are calling it murder.  People want answers and for now, the information that the county is supplying, the guards have been reprimanded already with pending further investigations.  But that is not good enough.

The reason that this story was sent to me however, is the underlying, and not discussed story about why Manus was on “work release” in the first place.

According to public records, Manus was sentenced to three months of prison, the penalty for failing to pay the purge amount (total needed to avoid prison) of $750 in child support payments.  As an advocate for parent’s rights, as I looked at the details of why he was in prison, all I could do is shake my head in disbelief, that this man paid the ultimate price, because he was unable to make a purge payment.

To understand how Manus ended up in prison, you need to understand the laws that made this situation possible.  The fact is, these laws have been around for decades.

TitleIV-Part D is a financial incentive program created decades ago, that states are able to receive funds from the federal government based on its performance on child support payments, current and arrears, enforcement, efficiency, etc.  Simply, the more a state collects child support and arrears, the more money the state gets from the federal government.

When this concept was originally created decades ago, it was because there were so many mothers who were not working.  Therefore, when parents divorced, mothers often found themselves needing to go on welfare without child support payments, and in many cases, even with.  To keep non-custodial parents current on child support, usually fathers, individual states established laws and procedures to assist or coerce them to make sure payments are made, and arrears dealt with.  Basically, TitleIV-Part D is meant to deal with “deadbeat” situations, in other words, those who intentionally refuse to pay their court ordered support.

States use any number of methods to enforce support payments including all the way up to imprisonment.  Common sense would say, “how can a person in prison make a payment?”  In fact, according to the US Constitution, article 14, a person who is too poor to pay their fine, thrown in jail, violates their constitutional right to equal protection of the 14th amendment.  And just like the term “deadbeat” is often misused and mislabeled, the description of “too poor to pay their fine” is clearly vague.  I would make the argument, that I know of no one who would be willing to go to prison, if able to pay their fine, and simply did not want to.  Which is just one thing that makes the Manus situation so difficult to understand.  Manus did not need to die as punishment, which ultimately is the price he paid for his inability to pay $750 in child support.

What is expected to happen, when a non-custodial parent is faced with a judge, and is dealing with arrears, a judge will set a “purge” amount, and it is expected that someone who has the money, will pay the purge amount to avoid prison, will do so.  In many cases, this works.  But for those who clearly do not have the money, the process fails.  Manus did not have the money, nor was he able to get the money.  So, he was sentenced to three months in prison.

Manus was not a typical inmate either.  He had asthma, a medical condition requiring treatments.  It was his inability to get the proper treatment, that cost him his life.  And the county is responsible for this.

The truth is, stories like Manus occur often.  Parents who are unable to pay, and have complicated health issues, sent to prison, unable to get proper medical help, die in prison, over child support.

States get money from the government for collecting support, that is the incentive.  The states do what they must.  But it is wrong when those actions cost a father his life, and a child their father.

Child support is very important that it gets paid.  And it is important that non-custodial parents be given opportunities to make arrangements.  But between TitleIV-Part D and aggressive vengeful custodial parents, those opportunities are often not given.  There are legitimate parents that are unable to pay, sent to prison for their debt that cannot be paid at the current time in direct violation of the 14th amendment of our US Consititution, and succumb to a medical issue that cannot be dealt with properly.

It is time for this incentive to be dealt with before anyone else dies for something less than a violent offender gets sentenced for.  But there also needs to be a way to deal with those who willfully and intentionally withhold their child support obligations and play the purge game to delay their obligations.  Innocent parents should not have to die because of real “deadbeats”.

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