Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Psalm 23: My One Sided Conversation With God

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ..... although I am very much in want of healthcare right now, and I worry about being in want of housing soon because of my need for healthcare.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters....
Does that mean the Waterfront Park along the Willamette River where I see so many homeless people lying when the weather is halfway warm?

He restores my soul... I used to garden to heal my wounded spirit, but now I have a broken arm that needs surgery, and I can’t do much in the garden but pull weeds with my left hand.

He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake..... I am trying to give my children the best life I can with one arm. I still listen to abuse survivors’ stories over the phone and in person. I haven’t numbed myself with drink or drugs, but my mind is too full of worries at night to sleep so I listen to a meditation tape to guide my thoughts to healing.

Even though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil... I’ve been raped and abused and thrown out of Church for telling painful truths about child abuse, and now the longer I wait for charity surgery, the less likely I am to regain use of my broken right arm. I am scared and hurt. It seems as though most of my life I have been scared and hurt. How do I overcome fear? The fear of losing my home and my children, the fear of being permanently disabled.....

For you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.....I am feeling alone and scared, God, can you be with me and comfort me? Can you help me find grace and strength to go through what I am going through?

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies....I don’t think I have enemies. I just wish the nameless and faceless bureaucrats at the hospital could look at my application for financial assistance for surgery a little sooner.

You anoint my head with oil....That’s a little old fashioned these days, Lord, could you anoint my car with gasoline instead?

My cup overflows. Surely goodness and love ....from my children....and surgery on my right arm...... will follow me all the days of my life.

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever ... as well as my own house here on earth...until I die...hopefully.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Don't Make it Harder to Report Child Abuse

I was drinking my morning green tea one day last week and perusing The Oregonian when my eyes fell upon the headline about House Bill 2183, “Oregon House passes bill outlawing purposely false child abuse claims”.
“Huh,” I said to myself, “It needs to be easier to report child abuse, not harder.”
I am the Executive Director of Compassionate Gathering, a budding not-for-profit that works to end abuse and heal the wounds in individuals and communities.  I guard our not-for-profit status zealously, so I don’t do political advocacy, but this law is so bad I had to speak out against it.  Each of the last three summers members and friends of Compassionate Gathering have walked through towns and on scenic trails from one side of Oregon to the other.  Local media usually covers our Walks (except in Portland), and people come to meet us and share their stories with us.  We’ve met frantic grandmothers and babysitting family friends trying to protect children from abusive parents as well as adults who grew up in abusive families.  The biggest problem with abuse is not false reports but that it is very difficult to obtain enough evidence for criminal prosecution of the abuser.  Child Protective Services is not only underfunded to investigate adequately, it acts very cautiously.
False reports of child abuse are very rare except in the cases of divorced families -- the situation in the article that State Senator Jeff Krause claimed he was a victim of.  I have spoken about the issue with a family practice lawyer.  He told me that in his experience working with divorced parents, that while 50% of accusations of child abuse were false, 50% were true.  Rather than criminalizing false accusations, it is better to recognize that such accusations are often the result of dysfunctional relationships -- not criminal activity.  Since child abuse can be so hard to prove, criminalizing false accusations will depress the reporting of abuses and cause more children to suffer.
There is a far better solution.  When families are in conflict during and after divorce, make therapy mandatory.  Every divorced family in conflict needs two therapists -- one for the children and one for the parents called a Parenting Coordinator.  Parenting Coordinators make decisions about childcare with the same level of authority as an arbitrator, but currently they must be court ordered -- which allows a parent intent on conflict to drag out the process of obtaining help for children.  Unfortunately, divorced parents in conflict tend to wound children emotionally, which is a form of legal child abuse.  Courts should be able to appoint Parenting Coordinators automatically for divorced parents in conflict.  Therapy is much cheaper than litigation.  Parents’ financial resources should go to caring for children instead of fighting each other with lawyers.  Therapists are also usually able to pick up on child abuse and parental conflict much better than judges and arbitrators, because they see families over time and are able to sort out relationships and behaviors.  Judges and arbitrators see parents for an hour or two during which a good lawyer can represent their client’s bad behavior in the best possible light.
As always, the needs of the children should come first and not the need of one parent to punish another parent for a false accusation of child abuse.  Divorced families in conflict need help with healing, not more litigation. I can’t tell you to vote for anybody or anything, but please act to protect children and heal wounds in divorced families.