On Saturday, October 13, I was privileged to travel to Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan, for the State of the Children conference. The event brought together key public figures in the Detroit area along with speakers and organizations from all over the country to network and share their concerns about parental rights and child welfare practices.
Our Michigan State Coordinator Paulette Brack and Citizens for Parental Rights’ John Tuinstra hosted a ParentalRights.org table outside the main event venue, distributing information and gathering new supporters to our email list who can add their voices to ours when it’s time to call Congress or state legislatures to act. It was a joy to visit with these key members of our grassroots army in person for the first time in a few years.
Inside, meanwhile, two of our board members were among those lined up to speak. Bishop Marvin Winans of Perfecting Church in Detroit, a member of the board of ParentalRights.org and a Grammy winning singer-songwriter, was second on the itinerary behind Detroit-area United States Representative Debbie Dingle. And Attorney Allison Folmar, known for defending Detroit mother Maryanne Godboldo in 2011 (and also a member of the ParentalRights.org board), was a highlight of the closing hours of Saturday evening.
The State of the Children was hosted by Families and Children Justice Organization from Detroit Michigan, led by our own Detroit area coordinator, Debbie Williams.
Congresswoman Dingle, who is well familiar with the issue of parental rights, spoke of her concern for the children and the need to provide out-of-home care for children being abused or neglected, balanced against the need to keep children with their families whenever possible. Dingle is aware of our policy recommendations to find that balance, and was kind enough to again take away materials I gave her at the event. We would love to see her support parental rights legislation in the coming Congress, or even in the next two months as the current Congress winds down.
Bishop Winans spoke next, addressing the current drug crisis and its effects on the ability of parents to be good parents. As a member of our board, Winans supports the role of parents in the lives of their children and values the legal presumption that parents are fit unless the state can show otherwise. (That is, proof that there has been abuse or severe or chronic neglect.) But he also recognizes, as do we, that with parental rights comes the responsibility to do our best to be good parents. While we believe drug addiction alone is not sufficient to rob a parent of their rights, nor a child of his rights to his parents, yet it certainly makes it harder for parents to do their job well.
When Winans finished his remarks, the event was running ahead of schedule and our hosts asked me to speak on our parental rights effort. While the spot right after a Grammy Award winner and a sitting U.S. Congressman was intimidating and might not have been the spot I would have chosen to fill, I was grateful for the opportunity to speak up for you.
Many in attendance were already supportive of our work, but those who were new to our mission were no less excited to hear all that is going on. The research and education work of the Parental Rights Foundation was especially well received, as many in the audience have themselves experienced forms of injustice in the family courts and welcome our efforts to expose these problems for public scrutiny.
In addition to the opportunity to speak, I also had the chance to meet Connie Reguli, the Tennessee attorney who represented the parents of “Baby Steffan” last year. (Steffan’s tragic story can be found at MedicalKidnap.com.) Through her Family Forward project, Connie has been championing parental rights around the country and is a powerful ally in the quest to protect our families.
All in all, the event was a success for networking and for presenting the message of the Parental Rights Foundation to a new and passionate audience. I am especially grateful to Debbie Williams and the Family Forward Project for the opportunity to attend and present.
I am even more grateful to every one of you who supports our work through donations to the Parental Rights Foundation. It is thanks to you that I was able to get to Detroit and share our work at the State of the Children conference.
If you would like to invest in our ongoing efforts to teach Americans about the threats to their parental rights through future events like this one, please give today at ParentalRightsFoundation.org.
Thank you for standing with us as we build the coalition to defend our families every day.
Director of Communications & Research