Weblog archive for August 2004

1st August 2004

Happy birthday to this website!

Child Support Analysis birthday cake

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you!

This web site is now three years old. It continues to be updated every few days with news about child support, plus other related news such as fathers' rights after separation, paternity testing, etc.

It would be good to claim that this web site has been able to help make an improvement to the UK's child support system. Unfortunately, at the moment the system is so faulty that nothing appears able to make a difference. On balance, it appears to get worse year by year, and the new scheme, which was intended to improve matters, is in desperate trouble because of the bugs and limitations in the new computer system.

It is tempting to hope that the highly-visible strategy of fathers' rights campaigners will result in the much-needed improvements. However, although the government is currently running what it calls a "consultation", it appears that it is actually seeking endorsement of decisions it has already made. And these fall short of what is needed. It is likely that many in government really just want the complaints and campaigns to "go away", but without the need to change anything significantly. It would be unwise for campaigners to relax their efforts before real change has been achieved.

Clipart by Bobbie Peachey

1st August 2004

"Who's your daddy?" (Sunday Times article)

This article in today's Sunday Times covered much of the same ground as the BBC programme "From here to paternity", discussed in this blog recently. (Christine Toomey, who wrote the article, discussed this topic with me nearly 2 months ago, and I sent her copies of the four papers on "paternity testing" from this web site).

Do you remember watching on TV the father in America being told his son has been beheaded in Iraq? How he fell to the ground, his legs gave way. Well, that's how I felt. I collapsed.... The pain is physical. It's so hard. 

"Paul", speaking about the moment when he discovered the truth

It is a potentially explosive area in which to legislate, which is why the government probably hasn't done anything about it yet. A lot of us are fighting for the right of every individual to know if a child is or isn't theirs. It's a very modern moral conundrum. 

Vanessa Lloyd-Platt, a London-based lawyer who represents mothers as well as fathers in family disputes

... any attempt to make a mother's consent compulsory will encourage those who don't have that consent to use testing services based abroad, via the internet. The genie is out of the bottle.... Although conducting tests without a mother's consent may seem unfair on them ... this pales by comparison to the anguish some supposed fathers go through". 

Daniel Leigh, spokesman for the London-based company DNA Solutions

... when children are very young they don't have a fully formed idea of what a father is. In some ways they may be better equipped to deal with something like this then. 

Malcolm Stern, psychotherapist

The courts believe generally that it is in the child's best interests to know its biological parents. 

Phillip Webb, chairman of the subcommittee of the HGC currently reviewing the structure of existing legislation for the government

The lengthy article appears to be balanced and accurate. However, as with the BBC programme, the article didn't attempt to answer the question "what should we be doing about this over the next few decades?" The answer posed by this web site is "we should try to reduce the incidence of misattributed paternity by an order of magnitude, so that far fewer men and children will suffer in this way". Those children, and the lies that surround them, are not the result of some mysterious process that people are powerless to influence!

"Scanning the internet, Paul discovered that it was easy to obtain and pay for a DNA test to establish paternity. In the past year, approximately 20,000 British parents are believed to have subjected their children to paternity tests - almost double the number requested two years ago - with around a third discovering that the children they have loved are not theirs by blood.... Many paternity "home testing kits" available over the internet, often marketed as "peace of mind" tests, require the consent of only one parent. It was this type of test - widely referred to as "motherless tests" - that Paul ordered."

Some people think that DNA paternity tests are bad. But consider the implications of the following:

"While early blood tests could rule a man out as a potential father, they were less successful in proving definitively who the father was. But the advent of DNA testing in the past 15 years has left no room for doubt."

"With over a quarter of a million paternity tests - costing on average £400 a time - undertaken annually in the US, DNA testing is big business. Roadside billboards carrying freephone numbers alongside pictures of smiling babies and slogans like "Who's my daddy?" are commonplace, as are TV ads mocking up delivery-room scenes where a man gives birth as an announcer declares: "This would be one way to know the father." Given the speed with which social trends cross the Atlantic, it's not inconceivable that such scenarios will show up here. Already British courts are having to deal with the fallout. One family court recently gave leave to a man to sue for the return of a proportion of many years of maintenance payments for a child who, as he was able to prove through a paternity test, was not biologically his. Legal experts believe that the judge ruled that only a portion of the full sum be returned to avoid a flood of similar court cases - and this may also be why attempts are being made to tighten up on regulations governing "motherless tests"."

Note the logic here. Not "what is best for the people concerned?" But "what is best for the court system?"

16th August 2004

What is the future of male contraception?

The view here is that a new generation of male contraceptives will probably be available in about 2010. They will be unobtrusive, safe, reliable, and reversible. There are a number of trials currently in progress on which these may be based. A variety of techniques will be useful.

There are alternative views.

One is that men won't use such contraceptives because men don't have babies. That is a misguided view. Some men have partners who they care about who don't want babies, and some of those men are willing to help. Some men simply want to ensure that they cannot become responsible for paying child support. They want to avoid emotional and financial commitments to children, and it is irrelevant whether their partners trust them to take "the pill". They will do it for their own sake anyway.

Another view is by Carl Djerassi, inventor of the oral contraceptive:

My pessimism remained unchanged in 1994 when I argued in the scientific journal Nature that the chances of a male Pill by 2000 were nil and given the lack of enthusiasm for such research, "even after 2010 is dismal". And now, another decade later, I am leaning toward the long-term prediction that a male contraceptive Pill will be altogether superfluous since men will increasingly consider the long-term preservation of their sperm (for example, frozen in a sperm bank) coupled with early vasectomy and eventual artificial fertilisation as a viable alternative.

The reasons are simple: while the pharmaceutical industry has lost interest in contraception, the medical community has made startling advances in assisted reproductive technologies.... For ageing countries, contraception and vaccines are of much lower priority. Furthermore, consumers of such preventive medication generally display little patience for side-effects and hence represent the greatest risk for litigation - a lesson not lost on the pharmaceutical industry.....

But we still need to carry out costly and extensive research if we are to provide an answer to just one of several questions of a 20-year-old man: "Can I still become a parent after 30 years on my Pill?" No wonder that, in 2004, not one of the 20 largest pharmaceutical firms in the world is active in male contraception and only two are working on female contraception, mostly minor modifications of the Pill.... As a result, for many infertile couples, sex and fertilisation have become separated: one in bed and the other under the microscope. What is new is that some fertile couples in affluent countries might adopt the same model as well as the resultant social and ethical consequences of such a separation....

As a result, while during the past half century, the catchword in human reproduction was "contraception", it will surely be replaced by “conception” during the next half-century and beyond. Don’t forget that, since 1977, well over one million babies have been born without sexual intercourse.

Is it true that "a male contraceptive Pill will be altogether superfluous since men will increasingly consider the long-term preservation of their sperm (for example, frozen in a sperm bank) coupled with early vasectomy and eventual artificial fertilisation as a viable alternative"?

I doubt it. It is simply one option. And who says that male contraception has to involve chemical or hormonal technologies anyway? Shugs and RISUG appear to be effective, and are an alternative.

The future will probably be more complicated. But ... avoiding litigation will be a key issue. Men could have better contraceptives earlier if they would not take any complications to court!

18th August 2004

Questionnaire about "Open Door"

The CSA web site has a questionnaire about the "Open Door" magazine. The magazine is primarily intended for client representatives. The questionnaire is intended to help determine what the right content and level of detail should be, and how well it meets that at the moment.

Two of the people replying will each receive £25 worth of gift vouchers.

(This appears to be the first change to the CSA web site since April!)

19th August 2004

Survey reports affects of fathers' involvement with their children

Although useful in its own right, the survey technique does not allow reliable conclusions to be drawn about the implications for non-resident fathers.

"Children with non-resident fathers were likely to be less well-adjusted if there were high levels of conflict between parents and if the mother was not very involved with them

What affects non-resident fathers' involvement?
Survey findings based on responses from 520 children with non-resident fathers.
Levels of contact in the sample were higher than those reported by other studies. For example, 43 per cent of the children saw their fathers at least once a week. Fathers were more likely to be involved when the mother was highly involved and if the parents had separated recently. Conflict between the parents militated against fathers' involvement. The insight into resident fathers' involvement permitted by the interviews points to the obstacles non-resident fathers face in being a part of their children's lives. Because a large part of the 'being there' role is not available to them, non-resident fathers have to establish new roles and relationships if their contact is to be rewarding and effective."

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