For Immediate Release

Sixth Annual Candlelight Vigil for Fatherless Children

Focus on imprisonment of fathers without trial

BOSTON, Dec. 21, 2001 – The Fatherhood Coalition will hold it's sixth annual Candlelight Vigil for children separated from their fathers this Saturday, Dec. 22 from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. outside the State House. This year part of the focus will be on John Flaherty, the Coalition officer who was jailed without a trial November 1 for refusing to pay an alleged child support arrearage.

The Vigil aims to draw attention to the many children who are forcibly separated from their non-custodial parents due to hostile actions of courts and custodial parents, which can be especially painful during the holiday season. Fatherhood Coalition spokespeople and relatives of John Flaherty will be on hand to discuss his case and the plight of non-custodial fathers and their children. Harry Stewart is this year's Vigil coordinator.

Stewart has been the focus of past Vigils when he was imprisoned two years ago for refusing to sign a pledge acknowledging domestic violence as a condition for entrance into a so-called "batterer's treatment" program. He had been convicted on violating the no-contact provisions of the 209A domestic abuse protection order for getting out of his car during a visitation exchange. Earlier this year, Stewart was exonerated of the charges after finally getting a trial a year after serving the six-month sentence. Dedham Probate & Family Court Judge Eileen Shaevel found "no evidence" that Stewart had threatened or harmed his ex-wife.

The Coalition urges a mass resistance movement against the Probate and Family Court system, even to the extent of going to jail. Like Harry Stewart and others before him, John Flaherty is now serving as a touchstone for the state's persecuted noncustodial fathers. Flaherty was ordered to come up with approximately ten thousand dollars for an alleged child support arrearage that was manufactured at a hearing in August of this year. Irrespective of his inability to comply with order, Flaherty, like Stewart, stood on principle and refused to comply.

More information on John Flaherty is available on the Fatherhood Coalition web site:

Growing awareness of the importance of fatherhood

According to a 1997 report from the Census Bureau, Children with single parents - how they fare, in 1995, 48.3 million of the 70.3 million children under 18 lived with two parents (69 percent); 18.9 million lived with only one parent (27 percent); and 3.0 million lived with neither parent (4 percent). The report states "Children living with a divorced parent typically have a big edge over those living with a parent who has never married—an even bigger edge if that parent is the father."

A 1998 study examined the relation between family structure and serious crime using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth as a database. Cynthia Harper from UC San Francisco and Princeton's Sara McLanahann, one of the nation's top family scholars, studied records of 6,403 boys who were between 14 and 22 in 1979. Controlling for variables such as mother's education, race, family income and number of siblings, and unemployment rates and income in the communities, the researches found:

According to David Blankenhorn, author of Fatherless America, never in history have so many men lived apart from their children, and what is at stake is nothing less than the survival of a "free and ordered society." Speaking in a High School auditorium in Kansas City in 1998,

Blankenhorn said that about 40 percent of American children will live apart from their fathers at some time before they are 18. Even more distressing, Blankenhorn said, is that "as a society, we are losing belief in the necessity of fathers."


For further information, contact:

Mark Charalambous

CPF Spokesman

Harry Stewart

Event coordinator

Suzanne Sargeant

Sister of John Flaherty

Bill Leisk

Friend of John Flaherty





CPF / The Fatherhood Coalition

A non-profit, all volunteer organization of men and women advocating for fatherhood since 1994