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U.S. News Archive
September 21 - September 28, 2001



This page contains news for the period September 21, 2001 through September 28, 2001.  

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Friday, September 28, 2001

Census reveal some Americans still don't have health insurance coverage

A report recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau on the 2000 U.S. Census reveals that an estimated 14 percent of the American population are without health insurance coverage.

Census figures also indicate that young adults between the ages of 18 to 24 were less likely to have health insurance coverage. The census estimates that 27.3 percent of young adults who are not covered are mostly single adults who might have been dropped from their parent's work health coverage due to their age or are working part-time or low earning jobs that do not provide for benefits.

The report also revealed that the proportion of uninsured children has declined in 2000, from 12.6 percent or 9.1 million in 1999 to 11.6 percent or 8.5 million.

The 2000 Census also indicates that children living in single parent families were less likely to be insured than children living in married-couple families. The percentage shows that 15.4 percent of children in single parent families have no health coverage compared to 9.7 percent of children in married couple families.

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Dismissals in divorce cases in Texas county soar following Sept. 11 tragedy

A story published today by the Houston Chronicle reports that dismissals in divorce cases have skyrocketed in Texas’ Harris County Family Law courts since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Family-law attorneys have found that clients contemplating divorce, as well as those in the middle of one, now say they will try to patch things up.

Family-law cases, the vast majority of which are divorces, have been dismissed in nearly three times the volume in the days after the tragedy as in the days before it. In the 10 working days since Sept. 11, about 400 family-law suits have been dismissed. In the five working days before airplanes struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, about 75 lawsuits were dismissed.

State District Judge Linda Motheral, who hears family-law cases, said the trend seems likely a product of the "general sense everywhere that people realize this could be it, our lives may have changed forever and the things we worried about before look like small potatoes."

David Wells, associate minister of counseling services at Houston's First Baptist Church, is pleased but not surprised by the trend. Wells has a client who said the tragedy made her husband finally take working on the marriage seriously. He also said he has seen an increase in people wanting emergency help with their relationship problems.

"People seem to be wanting to get their life in order," Wells said.

It's not all wine and roses at the courthouse, though. Plenty of new lawsuits have been filed in the days since the attacks. And plenty of divorce lawyers haven't seen any reconciling clients.

Family-law attorney Ellen Elkins Grimes hoped the national tragedy would cause some clients to leave differences behind.

"Unfortunately, I haven't seen that. There are still people calling, upset with each other," Grimes said. "Maybe when people hear about the others trying this, they'll find hope."

Tuesday, September 24, 2001

U.S. welfare chief espouses marriage as a way out to poverty

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that Wade Horn, the nation's new welfare chief, thinks that matrimonial vows may be crucial to moving families out of poverty.

He also is preaching the virtues of sexual abstinence, saying unmarried people should not be having sex.

"I think it's the healthiest choice, yes I do," said Horn, who was recently confirmed as assistant secretary for family support.

Horn, whose agency is responsible for Head Start, adoption, child care, child abuse, foster care and welfare programs, said the success of welfare should be measured by the effect on children, not by the number of people who have left welfare. He notes that some people who have left welfare appear worse off, adding the system needs to help people move up the economic ladder by advancing to better jobs.

"I don't think we as a nation ought to be satisfied with simply moving people from welfare to the working poor," said Horn, who is returning to the HHS after six years as head of the National Fatherhood Initiative, which he founded.

In 1997, Horn suggested that married couples should get preferential treatment in public benefits with limited spots, such as housing and Head Start.

Some 90 groups opposed Horn's nomination to the HHS job. Women's groups complained that this could trap poor women in abusive marriages.

During his recent Senate confirmation hearing, Horn renounced these views, and easily was confirmed.

"I've thoughtfully considered critics of that idea," he said in an interview. "I've become convinced over time that ... it is too easy to translate it into a discrimination issue against single moms.

"I am not in this at all to bash single moms. You know why? Because children are in single-mother households. If I were to kick single moms out of public housing or discriminate against single moms, kids would suffer. I have no interest in that."

The landmark 1996 welfare law must be renewed next year, and the Bush administration is formulating its position on making reforms, said Horn. 

Horn has personally detailed ways that Congress might prod states that have done virtually nothing to promote marriage in their welfare programs.

He has also taken a conservative line on sex education, supporting teaching abstinence.

"Heaven knows kids get contrary messages to abstinence every day. The idea that if parents emphasize abstinence to teenagers that they will be completely oblivious to contrary messages that are coming from the popular culture, that's a ludicrous assumption," he said.

New solution for divorce proceedings

A story published today by the St. Petersburg Times reports that with the adversarial nature of divorce proceedings, more lawyers are suggesting to their clients new methods that focuses on negotiation and compromise.

"Lots of people getting divorced are very frustrated with the process. This gives them an option," said Tampa attorney Nancy Harris. "Divorces do not have to be a third world war."

Collaborative law, founded a decade ago in Minnesota, was adopted in the bay area about six months ago. About 60 attorneys have committed to use collaborative law for some cases -- making the group in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties in Florida one of the largest in the nation.

The collaborative law movement promotes a simpler way to resolve issues without the lengthy and costly legal back-and-forth that often leads to a barrage of motions, depositions, restraining orders and nasty letters.

Here's how it works:

Clients and their attorneys sign a contract with each other agreeing to full disclosure while they work together to resolve their differences outside of court. Typical cases take four or five two-hour, sit-down sessions with the couple and their attorneys hashing out an agreement.

Collaborative law attorneys estimate their cases may cost a couple 20 percent of what they would pay in many divorce cases. That's because they save money on fees for lawyers who spend less time on a case and on hiring mutually agreed upon experts, among other expenses.

A husband and wife don't file the typical divorce forms. They only go to court for a short hearing at the end of the process for a judge's approval. Those hearings usually take a matter of minutes.

If they want to give up on the process for any reason, the couple will be forced to hire other attorneys and start the entire process over because their lawyers will not represent them in court. Collaborative law attorneys hope that gives the couple an incentive to work out an agreement.

"It takes the adversarial nature out of these divorces," said Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Judge Frank Quesada, who heads up a new unified family law division. "People usually come out fighting, but this really pulls them together."

"It's about actually working out an agreement, not just gearing up for trial," said Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Levens, who specializes in family law.

But even those who tout the benefits of the program realize it has limits.

It may not be suited for cases that involve strong animosity, mental health problems, drug or alcohol abuse or domestic violence.

"It's a solution for many, but not others," Clearwater attorney Dean Hoolihan said.

Stuart Webb, a Minneapolis divorce lawyer, created the program in 1990 after becoming so frustrated with bitter court battles that he thought of quitting the legal profession. These days, he works solely on collaborative cases.

But the new procedure still accounts for only a small portion of the 2-million divorces in the United States each year, though no accurate statistics are kept. It has received little attention, and many lawyers and judges have never heard of the concept, let alone understand it.

Pet dogs can help children in divorce proceedings

A story released today by the Deutsche Press-Agentur reports that children who have pet dogs adjust better if their parents divorce than those who do not, according to a published report Monday.

A study into the behavior and feelings of 150 children whose parents had divorced found that one year later those with pet dogs were less aggressive and better socially integrated than those without, said the report in The Times. Children without a dog tended to be prone to vandalism, stubborn and irritable, and likely to act up to gain attention.

Tanja Hoff, a psychologist at the University in Bonn and co-author of the research, said that pet dogs appeared to provide children from divorced families with a strong sense of security and could help in stabilizing mood swings.

More than 40 percent of children without a dog displayed aggressive behavior, frequently breaking things on purpose, compared with 25 percent of the children with dogs.

The Times said Hoff attributes the therapeutic effects of a dog to the additional security the animal provides to children through its affection and loyalty. The dogs love is unconditional and is always there. He provides continuity and stability."


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