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U.S. News Archive
January 24 - January 31, 2000

 

 

 
 

 

This page contains news for the period Monday, January 24, 2000 through Monday, January 31, 2000.

 

 

 

 

<<   January 2000  >>

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Sunday, January 30, 2000


More immigrants in U.S. are divorcing

A story published today in the Chicago Sun Times reports that a million divorces are granted each year in the United States and a growing number of them are to immigrants.

Social service providers in Chicago and nationwide are seeing more divorces in immigrant communities, a drastic change from a decade ago, when the word earned immediate ostracization in many cultures-loss of social position and economic status.

"It's [divorce is] definitely rising now," said Hyun Lee, a program coordinator for Korean American Women In Need. "It's still not well looked upon, but seeing other women going through the same thing is encouraging for women who come to us."

The story says that hard numbers that plot the trend of divorce among immigrant groups are few, but marital and legal counselors say immigrants' exposure to a tolerant and opportunistic American society is driving the phenomenon.

Many immigrants come from nations where domestic violence does not constitute a legal cause for divorce.

Shelters that have opened recently in the Chicago area have encouraged women to defy cultural stigmas and seek help for marital difficulties that often are exacerbated by transition to a new country.

"It's not just about survival anymore," said Ngoan Le, an activist in the Vietnamese community. "The first priority used to be getting jobs. Now there are other needs emerging."

Women's rights groups, abuse shelters, divorce groups, lawyers and even priests are targeting immigrant women with the message that abuse shouldn't be tolerated.

A provision in the 1994 Violence Against Women Act removed a legal barrier that has kept many abused immigrant women from seeking help: that their husbands sponsor their permanent-residency applications. The act allowed more than 5,000 women to sponsor their own bids.

But the story points out that few abused women ever leave -- often for their children's sake, sometimes because they depend on the men for support.

It's also about body image, says Mayda Rivera, a clinical social worker at Northwestern University's Family Institute who works with Latino women.

"A lot of it has to do with virginity," Rivera said. "Once you lose that darn thing, you're used, and therefore nobody else wants you. You better put up with what you put up with."

The story says that in making the difficult leap to divorce, immigrants inevitably learn two other very American traits: self-reliance and confidence.

 

Saturday, January 29, 2000


Michigan parish calling back stray Catholics

A story published today in the Detroit News says that Katie Hurst considers herself Roman Catholic. But she attends mass sporadically and keeps hoping the experience will connect with her spiritually. So far, it hasn't.

"It was in high school that I probably stopped going regularly," said Hurst, 39. "I just didn't feel that I was getting anything from it."

For Hurst, the church needs to be more tuned to the concerns and issues of a person like herself, divorced and a single mother. That makes her one of an estimated 17 million Americans born Catholic but classified as inactive -- or lapsed Catholics -- in church jargon. Church leaders define a lapsed Catholic as one who does not attend mass or receive sacraments regularly.

A movement to reclaim lapsed Catholics came to Clawson, Michigan this month, modeled after a similar program in Phoenix. Church counselors answer blizzards of questions, especially on how divorce squares with Vatican teachings against it. It's a timely issue because one in five adult Catholics have been divorced, according to a 1999 national survey.

The story says that returning Catholics are dubbed "reverts," a play on convert.

Bobbi Friedrich, who helped organize the Arizona project, is a revert. "My own reason for leaving? When I was attending Catholic high school I couldn't get the answers to the questions I had on moral issues," Friedrich said. "I was given stock answers."

For example, she wanted to know why the church banned the use of the birth-control pill for her friend, a mother with two sets of twins. "When I would ask why, they couldn't give me anything more in depth," she said. "So that started my drifting."

She left the church as a teen and came back through friends in her late 20s. "But it took me another 12 years to go to confession," she said. "I knew God had forgiven me, but I wasn't sure any priest would. I could hear the words You did what?' echoing loudly in some church. I was afraid to go to confession. I was terrified."

The story reports that in Phoenix, at least 1,500 were counted as returnees in a diocese with some 280,000 inactive Catholics, by one count. That's a return rate of less than 1 percent. But Friedrich said the project to return Catholics to the church is not about numbers, but about reaching people who are waiting to be asked back.

Helping ease re-entry qualms among Metro Detroit's 1.5 million Catholics is the aim of Catholics Come Home, a program at Guardian Angels Church on 14 Mile in Clawson. The first of eight weekly topic sessions, Memories of the Church, begins at 3 p.m. today in the church.

Other topics will include marriage and annulment issues, as well as sessions on matters such as prayer, sexuality and Vatican II, a 1962 church council that launched a still-controversial changes.

For Katie Hurst, a more open-minded church would be a key to her returning to Mass regularly. "They've come a long way," she said. "But when you go to church, it could be more inspirational -- priests dealing with the situations of today's life" on matters such as divorce and single parenthood.

Hurst sends her son, Taylor, 11, to Catholic catechism class, at which he is taught fundamentals of the faith. But she finds her occasional attendance at Mass less than inspirational.

"I do believe in God," she said. "But as far going to church every Sunday, I'd like to get something out of it. It needs to be more uplifting. It's all so stand-up, sit-down, kneel, stand up, sit down, kneel."

Church leaders also must address the feelings of many of their members that, contrary to church teaching, artificial birth control is not a sin, Hurst said. "It would be ridiculous not to take birth control into consideration," she said.

The story notes that the issue of birth control might be a rub for many prospective returnees to the church.

The church's ban on artificial birth control is, from the Vatican's view, a matter of faith and morals that is not negotiable. But surveys indicate most Catholic women use the pill and still consider themselves Catholic.

The church also widely teaches that marriage is forever. But it sometimes grants annulments, a declaration that a valid marriage never existed.

In the face of secular commentary on church matters, some Catholics aren't clear how their divorce squares them with church teaching, church leaders say.

In Saginaw, Bishop Kenneth Untener last month directed a special message at divorced and remarried Catholics, part of an annual "Come Home" drive separate from the Phoenix effort.

"Some are divorced and, even though not remarried, think they are excluded from the sacraments," Untener said. "Not true."

The bishop's aide, the Rev. Rick Filary, explained church views.

"We believe that a person who divorced and remarried outside the church puts themselves in a situation in which they are going against a very strong moral teaching of the church," said Filary, head of the diocese's church court. "Without making individual judgments, we state that those people probably are not living a life in union with the church and perhaps morally are not in a state where they ought to be receiving communion."

"A person who is separated, or a person who has divorced but not remarried, is in no way barred from receiving the sacraments," he said. "Sometimes therein lies the confusion. Many Catholics feel that if they are simply separated or divorced, they are somehow cut off from the church, excommunicated, barred from the sacraments. That is not true."

The story says that besides marriage and divorce issues, last year's program in Phoenix turned up numerous reasons for Catholics bailing out.

"Some people left because, after Vatican II, the church didn't change fast enough, or changed too fast," Friedrich said. "Some people had alienation problems with the church because years ago they couldn't get their mother or father buried in the church, or they couldn't get a priest to come to the hospital. Some people dad issues like Sister Discipline who used the proverbial ruler or embarrassed a child -- and that set up hostility."

 

Friday, January 28, 2000


Florida Supreme Court rules unmarried parents can block grandparent visitation

A story published today by the Sun Sentinel reports that a Boca Raton couple on Thursday lost all legal rights to visit with their dead daughter's son as the Florida Supreme Court continued to scale back a 1984 law designed to help grandparents maintain contact with their grandchildren.

In a case brought by Diane and David Saul, the state's high court ruled that unmarried parents have the right to prohibit visitation between grandparents and their grandchildren.

The court ruled that all parents, married or not, have the right to rear their children as they want. The court cited the constitutional right of privacy listed in the state constitution. The justices ruled that the Sauls do not have to be granted visits with Tyler, 5.

"They are devastated," said Steve Pesso, one of three attorneys representing the grandparents. Thursday's ruling was the third time in four years the justices have attacked the constitutionality of the law that gives Florida grandparents the right to ask for court-ordered visits.

Two years ago, the court ruled that the grandparent visitation law clashes with a parent's right to privacy. That decision came in the case of a Miami couple fighting to see their granddaughter after their daughter died of cancer. Their son-in-law had remarried and no longer wanted his child to have contact with his former in-laws.

In 1996, the court struck down another section of the grandparent law that allowed court-ordered visits when biological and adoptive parents prevent a relationship between grandparents and a grandchild. Again, the court relied on the right-to-privacy guarantee in the state constitution.

Thursday's decision extended the previous rulings to cover children born out of wedlock. In their order, the justices even quoted from the 1996 ruling:

"We recognize that it must hurt deeply for the grandparents to have lost a daughter and then be denied time alone with their granddaughter," the court said four years ago. "We are not insensitive to their plight. However, familial privacy is grounded on the right of parents to rear their children without unwarranted governmental interference."

The story says that the Sauls' daughter, Beth, was unmarried when she gave birth to Tyler in October 1994. The mother and child lived with the Sauls while the boy's father lived with his parents in Boynton Beach.

Two years after Tyler was born, however, his mother was killed in a car accident. That's when Brunetti decided to take the child to live with him. The Sauls still had visitation, but not for overnight visits.

"The child had lived with the Sauls and to lose contact like that would be devastating," Pesso said. "But the father wouldn't allow overnight visitation."

In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld grandparent visitation laws as constitutional. Only two weeks ago, however, the court agreed to tackle the issue again, hearing the appeal of a ruling that had invalidated a visitation law in Washington state.

 

Thursday, January 27, 2000


Bill in Utah would restrict adoptions by unmarried adults

A story published today in the Salt Lake Tribune reports that a debate over what makes a person fit to adopt a child in Utah took center stage at the Capitol on Wednesday when Rep. Mary Carlson, D-Salt Lake City, called a news conference to oppose a bill restricting adoptions by unmarried adults.

"It is incomprehensible to me there are legislators supporting these bans,'' said Cynthia Coor, a Salt Lake City pediatrician and adoptive mother of 14-month-old Cara. "If these rules had been in place, I wouldn't be here today. I wouldn't be able to love this child.''

The story says that Cara was born prematurely with multiple medical problems and was abandoned by her birth mother. Coor said she has cared for thousands of babies, many who were adoptable, but never thought about becoming a mother until she met tiny Cara.

"At the time, I was moving and living with a friend. I guess that means I would be unfit to adopt,'' she said.

Both Rep. Nora Stephens, R-Sunset, and Sen. Howard Nielson, R-Provo, said they will unveil bills by week's end that will outline who can and cannot adopt children in Utah, whether the adoptions are handled privately or by a state agency.

Both bills would go one step beyond a rule adopted last summer by the Board of Trustees of the Division of Child and Family Services that bans unmarried, unrelated adults from adopting children who are in state custody. The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the ban in a lawsuit.

On Friday, the DCFS board is expected to expand the rule to include a ban on unmarried, cohabiting foster parents.

Stephens said her bill is unrelated to the action of the DCFS board, although she supports the rules. She says that her will would prohibit placing children in homes where adults are cohabiting or having sex outside marriage. Utah law prohibits cohabitation.

Nielson, on the other hand, said his bill would specifically prohibit placing children with homosexuals.

 

Wednesday, January 26, 2000


Bill to end common law marriage narrowly defeated in Colorado

A story published today in the Denver Post reports that a legislative committee narrowly defeated a bill that would have ended common law marriage in Colorado.

Rep. Brad Young, R-Lamar, argued that too many people are taking advantage of tax and other laws, claiming they're married, then they walk out on their mate and move on to the next partner and continue taking advantage of the laws.

Young said Colorado is one of only 11 states that still recognize such partnerships. Unless a state passes a law to forbid it, common-law marriage is valid. Young said his bill would not affect people currently in common-law marriages, only those wishing to claim such marriages in the future.

"I'll be back next year," Young said, noting that he expected HB 1147 to fail and was surprised that it didn't fail by more votes.

 

Tuesday, January 25, 2000


Many single parents survive paycheck to paycheck

A story published today in the San Jose Mercury News reports that many single parents, especially unmarried mothers, are barely making ends meet.

Belinda Lockett is one of those single moms. She wants to save for retirement and fund her children's education and buy a house, all while providing for her family's day-to-day needs. But unlike many parents, she's doing it on one income.

The story notes that as a single mother, Lockett is fully responsible for all of her own financial needs as well as those of Michael, 13, and Reginald, 12. She said it's a daunting proposition, and one where not much information is available.

"It's very, very sad to me that in school, we learned nothing,'' she said of her financial education. ``I took four years of French, but French can't buy me a house.''

Lockett is hardly alone -- in fact, some would argue that her situation is far too common. Sixteen million children were living with one parent in 1990, and there's been no indication that number has decreased since the last national census.

Of the 8.6 million single-parent households with children, the vast majority (about 7 million) are headed by women. And those women, according to the census, earn less than half what married couples earn -- $385 a week, compared with $783 a week. Men who are single parents pull in an average of $520 a week, according to a 1991 census bureau survey.

And with the cost of raising a child from birth through college currently estimated at $450,000, it's no wonder that women such as Lockett have a lot on their minds. Like almost 2 million other single mothers, she receives no child support.

"The ball stops with me,'' the medical secretary said. ``It's even more important for single parents to learn about how to handle money.

Lockett said she tried to invest in the stock market once but pulled out when she became discouraged because she didn't know what she was doing.

Barbara Culver, a certified financial planner, said like anybody else, single mothers who want to invest should first determine their risk tolerance and how that matches the desire for a given return. Then, after a plan is set in place, they should watch fees and expenses associated with the investments.

But she said investing and handling money is only a part of what single parents need to consider. There is also insurance coverage and company benefits that should be taken advantage of.

The story stresses that even though insurance coverage might be easy to overlook, any parent should ensure that they are adequately covered in case something happens to them or their income. This is especially important for single parents if their children are dependent on their income alone.

"Disability of the mother looms as a major concern,'' Culver said.

"How will the family survive if she is unable to bring home a paycheck? Many mothers ask: How can I afford another payment for the disability income premium? The flip side of this is: If you are now living from paycheck to paycheck, how can you afford to not have the coverage?''

Financial planners suggest working with a professional to ensure that the proper amount of disability and life insurance is bought to protect the children.

Often, companies offer life and disability insurance as part of benefit packages, but like so many other benefits, they go misunderstood and underused.

People should be fully aware of what their companies offer and then make the most of it.

"It is critical for single mothers to understand their corporate benefits and to maximize them,'' Culver said.

 

Monday, January 24, 2000

More adults in U.S. choosing unwed motherhood

A story published today by the Associated Press and the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that unmarried mothers now tend to have a baby at a later age than was the case a few years ago.

Although the rate of teen births is steadily falling, births to unmarried adult women are on the rise both locally and nationally.

According to the story, in 1990, teen-agers accounted for nearly 50% of 6,400 births to unmarried mothers in Cleveland. In 1997, they accounted for only 20% of 6,250 such births. A similar trend is visible in Cuyahoga County as a whole.

Children born to unmarried mothers have a greater chance of living in poverty at some point in their lives than children born to married women, said Gretchen Holsinger Kunkel, co-author of Social Indicators 2000, a recent compilation of statistics about the risks facing Cuyahoga County children and families.

But more and more, unwed motherhood is viewed as an acceptable way of life. For some women, having a baby is a means of building self-esteem. For others, being single is an alternative to living with an abusive man.

Lisa Brush, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh, said a "moral shift" in American society had made unwed motherhood more acceptable.

 

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