To steal from Dickens, 2020 has been the best of times, and it has been the worst of times.
You don’t need my help to understand the “worst of times,” so let me take a moment to share how it has been “the best of times” for your Parental Rights Foundation and invite you to partner with us to continue the victories into 2021.
Last January, Texas father Chris Clay was struggling. His daughter was being stripped away from him by a family court that was intent on including a third-party “stranger” in her upbringing, while he and the girl were already dealing with the loss of the girl’s mother in a tragic car accident.
The legal stranger was the late mother’s fiancé. He was of no relation whatever to the little girl over whom the courts wanted to give him partial custody.
She would have to keep scheduled visits with him, spending the night at his house. And he would have full authority over her while she was there: authority to get medical care, get her ears pierced, enroll her in school—any authority a full parent would have.
And if those decisions were disagreeable to Chris, the little girl’s fit and loving father (and only surviving parent)? Too bad for Chris (and his daughter)!
Chris fought the court and appealed the judge’s decision, all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. And the Parental Rights Foundation went with him.
We weren’t physically present in the courtroom, but then almost no one was, this being 2020. The hearing was held by Zoom, and the Parental Rights Foundation was present through an amicus brief we filed on behalf of parental rights in Texas.
We argued that the decision of a parent who has never been found unfit (abusive or criminally negligent) should necessarily supersede the decision of any other actor for that child—including not just this third-party legal stranger, but the family court judge as well.
If Chris is a fit and loving parent and there is no other fit and loving parent in dispute with him (such as in a contested divorce), the court has no business making decisions for his child.
The Supreme Court of Texas agreed with us, sided with Chris, and ultimately removed both the stranger and the lower court from coming between this loving father and his precious child.
Chris told me later, “This has been our bright spot for 2020.” There may not have been many, but this one was huge.
Then there’s the experience of Doreen and Cliff (names changed), two solid parents from the West Coast, whose reputations were soiled by the unjust addition of their names to the state’s child abuse registry.
Their toddler took a tumble down the stairs, but as is often the case (thankfully, for many of us!), she was none the worse for wear. Doreen watched the child the rest of the day, but saw no signs of trouble. Then, around bedtime, what turned out to be an upset tummy made the child fussy and led Doreen to call a nurses’ hotline.
The nurse suggested that Doreen take the child to the ER, just in case the fall had caused damage.
But when the baby passed gas loudly and settled down, Doreen realized no ER visit was necessary. Yet the nurse-line operator, without that information, panicked and reported Doreen to a child welfare investigator.
Even though a pediatric visit the next day proved to Doreen and the investigator that no alarm was needed, that the baby was fine, and that Doreen’s decision had been the right one, the investigator added the couple’s names to the registry anyway.
The Parental Rights Foundation sent a letter on the family’s behalf, urging that their names be immediately removed for lack of evidence or cause. We learned in August that the request had been granted.
Had it not, we were prepared to go to court to defend these parents’ innocence.
Thankfully, this is another 2020 bright spot in which justice was done and this family can now begin to move on from their experience.
Then there were Darby and Greg (names changed), the New York couple who, due to their family medical history, determined (as is their specific right under New York law) that their newborn should receive oral Vitamin K and not the traditional shot.
Their own doctor agreed with their plan, but the doctor who ended up attending the birth did not and had their names added to that state’s abuse registry.
Don’t miss this: he added them to a registry of child abusers, not because they did not give their child medical care, but because he disagreed with their choice to give their child a particular version of that medical care, though it was their legal right to do so.
Once again, the Parental Rights Foundation sent a letter on the parents’ behalf to the appropriate authorities, and their name was removed.
Once again, we were prepared to attend their appeals hearing had it become necessary to do so.
Once again, 2020 had a bright spot. Justice was done and no further action was needed.
And not all of this year’s victories have been in the courtroom.
There was the media hullaballoo over a Harvard article that claimed homeschooling is potentially abusive and should be monitored under strict guidelines, or forbidden altogether. That article hit just when every family in America found themselves educating at home, and you can imagine how that went.
Instead of launching new restrictive guidelines to end homeschooling (as it intended), the article produced outrage and awareness of just how extreme opponents to basic family rights can be.
What was intended as an attack on your family’s choices turned into a considerable victory for your educational freedom.
And we had a grassroots victory in Tennessee, when their department of education proposed sending a state agent into private homes to check on the condition of every child in the state.
Tennessee may be called the Volunteer State, but parents were not volunteering for that kind of intrusion.
We alerted as many people as possible to this issue, and public outcry led the governor to reject the department’s advice and send their task force back to the drawing board. Any plan to keep Tennessee children safe would need to start with a basic respect for family privacy and parental rights.
And we followed all this with a victory of another sort. Giving Tuesday 2020 was the largest single giving event in Parental Rights history. That’s in the midst of a financial downturn for so many. We can’t help but be filled with gratitude for this amazing outpouring of support.
Altogether, that’s a lot of victories in one very tumultuous year.
And while these victories give us a lot of hope and confidence for a future where we can give children the security they need by protecting their parents’ rights, the victories will not sustain themselves.
Rather, moving forward and securing more victories will require the continued partnership of our greatest supporters.
Supporters like you.
With your partnership, we can present more amicus briefs supporting parental rights, keeping good families together. We can remove more innocent parents from capricious child abuse registries. We can stand up to more bad policy decisions. And we can promote more reforms to help families in state law.
Reforms like the one we’re proposing in a dozen states next month that will keep innocent parents’ names off child abuse registries in the first place. And like another model I recently presented to the American Legislative Exchange Council that would replace “anonymous reporting” to child abuse hotlines with “confidential reporting.”
Like anonymous reports, confidential reporting will protect the name of the caller from a potential abuser. But confidential reports, which will require the caller to give their name and contact information to the hotline operator, will cut down tremendously on knowingly false reports, saving countless innocent families from the trauma of unnecessary intrusion.
It’s a reform that’s desperately needed.
But we’ll need your partnership today and through 2021 to bring it to the table, and to see our abuse registry reform start to cross the finish line in these dozen states.
So, can I count on you today to consider carefully and send your most generous tax-deductible year-end donation to the Parental Rights Foundation?
The Foundation has become a bigger player in 2020 than ever before, and this string of victories can help us expand our reach for parents. But will we have the funds to rise to that opportunity?
That will depend on partners just like you.
With your help, we can move forward with the momentum from this line of successes and make 2021 even better.
Will you send your best year-end gift of $35, $50, or even $150 today to see these victories continue in the future?
I am grateful for your past and current support, financial or otherwise. None of these victories would have happened without you.
Let us continue to stand together to protect children by empowering parents through victories like these, into 2021 and beyond!
P.S.—Even in the midst of all the chaos that is 2020, the Parental Rights Foundation has experienced an unprecedented string of successes, from restoring the rights of a father in Texas to removing the names of innocent parents from child abuse registries. Even the timing of that Harvard article against homeschooling served up a victory for parents. And now we’re gearing up to propose our reforms in twelve states. But we can’t make it happen without you. Your tax-deductible year-end support will be crucial to continue this forward momentum in 2021 and beyond.