Mike Franco's testimony before the Judiciary Committee
Regarding shared parenting legislation
By Mike Franco, Chairman, The Fatherhood Coalition, Sept. 25, 2003
Good afternoon. My name is Mike Franco. I'm the state chairman of the Fatherhood Coalition. I'm from western mass, the greater Springfield area. Mr. Chairman and committee members, thank you for having us here today to review shared parenting legislation and other related matters. One thing before I begin; will more of your colleagues be returning for the remaining presentations? (at this point there were only about 3-4 people sitting on the panel. The Chair's said he would make sure that other committee members received all the information).
The Fatherhood Coalition was formed in 1994, we're based in Milford, but have active chapters all over the state such as the chapters we have in Hampden county and Merrimack valley. We advocate for men and fathers primarily, but have helped women and others out as well because these issues tend to touch all types of people regardless of gender, extending deep into our families. We are a non-profit, 501c3 organization. Currently, we don't receive money from the state or federal government. We run the organization out of our own pockets, and through volunteerism.
If you really want to know about parenting issues that affect men, divorced and single dads, you should ask us, because we are one of the leading authorities on these matters. We advocate for men on a daily basis. Hundreds of fathers come to us for help during the weeks and months, and thousands over the years. We know what's happening to these men in these tragic and unjust cases, some of them here today.
We know of the injustices done to men and fathers, and we urge you to support these bills presented here today by groups like the Children's Rights Council, the Fatherhood Coalition, Fathers and Families, and the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition, such as House Bill 940, Senate Bill 1075 which is sponsored by one of your committee members, Senator Brian Lees and other prominent senators throughout the state, and house bill 2101 regarding moveaway of minor children which my daughter and I have experienced firsthand.
I urge you, on behalf of the Coalition and these men, to give these bill serious consideration and move them along favorably though the Statehouse for the sake of our children and in the name of justice for our citizens -- men and women alike. Don't just appease us by sponsoring bills and then by letting them die here. We will not rest or go away.
As you have heard here today, these men behind me have solidified our base pretty well with their candor. But please allow me to solidify it even more with what I will tell you, frankly, as well. Many family judges in this commonwealth are marching to the same beat of bigotry and bias, and sex discrimination against men and fathers that separates them from their children. It's time to act courageously and expeditiously in the name of justice and for the sake our children.
You have also heard here today some opposition from Western Mass Legal Services, a Ms. Darringer, and a man from the Family Law Task Force. Let me tell you, these individuals and organizations are living in the past, and using our tax dollars to fund agendas that are harming families. We don't want to live in the past in Massachusetts... We want to live in the future, and we hope you'd want to live in the future too.
(here I read stats into the record on behalf of Rinaldo del Gallo about contested custody cases and how rare it is for men to win custody of their children in mass. The study was performed by a professor at Northeastern University gathering data from 501 cases at the Worcester Probate and Family Court. We need someone to follow up on this.)
Before I close, I'd also like to address Senate Bill 1117 put before you today by a gentleman from Hampshire County (Mr. Sullivan). He's the Registrar of Probate and Family Court there. On behalf of the Fatherhood Coalition I want to tell you, and please note it for the record here today, that we oppose this bill because it will create a harsher system of child support collection through the long arm of law enforcement.
Senate Bill 1117 will be prone to building more of the Gestapo regime that we're experiencing presently. This bill is an archaic initiative and would become moot once shared parenting is enacted. The only way we're going to truly improve conditions here for men and their children is for the Commonwealth to send a strong message to dads -- fit and willing dads. That message is: Here dad, here's your baby, your child... Hold it, love it, nurture it, watch it grow, and help it learn and survive in this sometimes harsh world.
Right now, what we've got a lot of in Massachusetts is children, fathers and the paternal side of our families, missing those precious years, and in the words of Benjamin Franklin, "Lost time is never found again."
This concludes my presentation. Thank you.