Countless Measures

Thursday, February 8, 2018 - 10:30am
John Kushma

Countless Measures


To what lengths would you go to protect a child?  Countless measures, of course.  


Child custody cases are on the rise in America as our society continues to defy traditional family values.  I’m not talking about gay marriage or LGBTQI family issues.  I’m talking about values that are central to any successful family scenario, not issues that arise as life plays itself forward within any family framework.


What this is really about are the flawed processes that have crept into our national framework of government and laws which have helped to corrode the justice system and subsequently the basic family value systems justice is supposed to support.    


Children that are the product of a relationship, whether the relationship is a traditional man-woman marriage with biological offspring, or a foster parent scenario with an adopted child, or a gay-lesbian relationship with adopted children, are the most valuable asset of any relationship, and the most vulnerable. Although you’d think that the traditional man-woman-child family situation is the most stable, often it is not.


Separation and divorce always place the children in jeopardy.  Add drugs, crime, alcohol, ignorance and abuse to the plot and the kids are susceptible to the same fate.     


Statistics can be confusing and often inaccurate depending on who’s doing the research, and how and where it’s being reported.  Some say the divorce rate is on the upswing in America, some say divorce is in decline.  Whatever the trend is, it doesn’t matter if children are involved.  The separation and divorce scenario can be an enduringly traumatic and damaging experience for a child, and a parent, no matter what the trending statistics say.


It’s not about statistics.  It’s about the individuals involved, especially the children.  


The reasons for separation and divorce are varied and many.  Some divorces are amicable and settled between the two parties with dignity and restraint, some are violent and nasty, and are ultimately settled in court after a long and costly, sometimes knock-down-drag-out fight between lawyers of varying skill and talent.  Also involved in the mix are law enforcement, DCFS (Division of Child and Family Services), therapists, character witnesses, grandparents, relatives, friends, and ultimately the final decision maker, a judge.  Hopefully, an unbiased judge.   


Any family therapist will tell you that you want to avoid, at all costs, settling a divorce scenario in a court of law.  Once you enter the courtroom you lose all power and are at the total mercy of all the above cast of characters, and ultimately, that hopefully unbiased judge.  The child can become a mere pawn in an absurd and complicated chess game pitting one parent against the other, one lawyer against the other, the final outcome of which the child or either parent has no final authority, and either lawyer really cares ...after fees.      

Some cases can get dicey.  There is an ongoing case in Utah right now where a mother was awarded sole custody of a 7 year old child who was born after a rather difficult separation based on the mental stability and suicidal tendencies of the father.  Three years later, after much courtroom and family drama, and a challenged lawyer, the divorce decree granted a modified custody settlement to the mother with visitation and minimal rights granted to the father.  Further, the father is not responsible for the child’s education, clothing, etc., has been ordered to pay minimal child support (far behind in payments), and owes thousands of dollars in medical payments.  The father is reported as being mentally, verbally and physically abusive to the boy, unstable and unreliable, but the authorities are balking at intervention until more substantial proof can be collected.  They don’t believe what the child is telling them.


Complicating the issue even further, the child has some issues with speech, behavior and function.  He has been diagnosed with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), ADD/ADHA (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder), Anxiety and Depression.  The child is operating more like a 4/5 year old, not a 7 year old.


Recently, the child’s mother wanted to issue an AMBER Alert because there had been no contact from the father and he was known to take the child out of the state without notice.  The authorities refused to issue the alert.  


When countless measures turn into desperate measures and nobody listens, there is something very wrong somewhere, ie, “something’s rotten in Denmark”.   


It would seem that children with these kinds of disorders would be afforded special protection and consideration.  In this particular case, however, and in a courtroom environment where the most crafty and clever lawyer wins, winning the case as opposed to the wellbeing of the child is seemingly the name of the game.


In addition to all the other reasons why this is of critical concern, is the fact that many, 85-95% (statistics!) of the kids out there that have severe social problems due to RADS, some shooting up schools, were left undetected, untreated or under-treated.


There is another case that has just come to conclusion in Cache County, Utah involving a couple of male teens, 17 year olds, who shot a 14 year old female classmate in the head with a .22 caliber handgun and left her to die in a cold, snowy irrigation canal ditch last February 2017.  Miraculously, the girl was found barely alive by a couple of heroic rescuers and she is alive today, but with a long road to recovery.  The boys will serve 15 years to life in juvenile detention and prison. 


There is no connection between these two cases, only that they involve kids.  Kids have parents and a home-life, some more graced with values, love and caring than others. Some more deplorable than others.  In both of these cases, and so many more like them, the parents or guardians either are or should be accountable for their own behavior and actions and the actions and behavior of their children, because often, in my opinion probably always, the children are a byproduct, some kind of manifestation, of the actions and behavior of the parents or guardians. 


I noted that when the authorities were trying to determine the shooter’s motive for the Las Vegas shooting back in October 2017, the first thing that jumped out to me after his brother and friends and neighbors painted a favorable picture of the guy, was that his father was on the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted list.  DNA can play a part in this type of behavior as well.                                          


So, before that “D-I-V-O-R-C-E becomes final today” (reference Tammy Wynette’s famous song, click link below here), think twice, good and hard, about a parents’ responsibility to a child and the sometimes dire consequences of court-ordered actions, because C-U-S-T-O-D-Y does not spell fun or play.


...and we’d hate to see little J-O-E go away for 15 to life.



John Kushma is a communication consultant and lives in Logan, Utah.