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The
Fatherhood

Coalition
 

Fathers, Women's Group Decry State Recognition Event

By Jean Mcmillan, Associated Press, 06/18/99 16:37


BOSTON (AP) - The state Department of Revenue honored a group of fathers Friday, saying they were models because they faithfully paid their child support.

The department offered T-shirts, fruit salad and a cake for the honorees who came with their children dressed in their Sunday best.


"The Department of Revenue's only concern is cash. Government bean counters have no business defining fatherhood,'' said Mark Charalambous, of The Fatherhood Coalition, a divorced fathers advocacy group.

''I think it's kind of insulting that a state organization that puts fathers in jail daily has any business at all in talking about responsible fatherhood,'' said Charalambous, a Leominster divorced father of two.

But some activists for divorced fathers said the government tax agency shouldn't hold itself out as a judge of fathers. And a women's group said it should be mothers who received the accolades because of all that they do.

"The Department of Revenue's only concern is cash. Government bean counters have no business defining fatherhood,'' said Mark Charalambous, of The Fatherhood Coalition, a divorced fathers advocacy group.

''I think it's kind of insulting that a state organization that puts fathers in jail daily has any business at all in talking about responsible fatherhood,'' said Charalambous, a Leominster divorced father of two.

Amy Pitter, deputy commissioner of the Division of Child Support Enforcement, which is overseen by DOR, defended the event.

''We have to have a carrot and a stick approach. On the one hand, we have to show that we can be tough when that's appropriate,'' Pitter said. ''And we also think it's important that we role-model fathers like the ones that are here today.''

DOR has drawn the media spotlight for its efforts to hunt down deadbeat parents, including its creation of ''Wanted'' posters similar to the FBI's.

But DOR sent out 5,000 letters in the spring to parents who consistently pay their child support, inviting the children to send in drawings and essays to nominate their fathers.

Pitter said paying child support was only one of several criteria for the awards, but it was an important one.

''That's the basic fundamental obligation you have to your children - to support them. The fathers who are here today have done much more,'' she said.

Gov. Paul Cellucci agreed.

''The kids need emotional support more than the financial support. What they really need is both,'' he said.

Outside the Statehouse, about a dozen men from The Fatherhood Coalition held signs to protest the event and call attention to what they say are heavy-handed tactics by the DOR and the extraordinary financial demands placed on divorced fathers.

Another group that said it didn't favor the event was the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization of Women.

''It's really the mothers who should be getting awards for their everyday acts, and not only financially supporting their children, but taking care of their everyday needs,'' said President Cheryl Garrity.

''While I'm not portraying all fathers as being bad - there are fathers who do their share - we need to recognize the mothers as well,'' she said.

The fathers honored were William Biando of Spencer; Jeff LaClair of Gardner; Roger Kimball of Springfield; Michael Lander and David Maxifield, both of Brockton; David O'Donnell Jr., of Bellingham; James Sherman of Attleboro; Thomas Thornton of Foxboro; Benjamin Taylor of Methuen; and Paul Taylor of Marlboro.

''I don't think I'm better than any other fathers out there,'' LeClair said. ''And I owe most of it to what I learned growing up about what it means to be a parent and also from the rest of my family.''


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