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Family equality is a civil right [Letter]

Ned Holstein hit the nail on the head ("Joint custody should be the norm," Oct. 9).

I'm one of Maryland's leading advocates for children's rights and shared parenting. My partner and I were a big part of establishing and passing the legislation creating the Maryland Commission on Child Custody Decision Making. David L. Levy has been an iconic advocate and leader for children's rights for over 30 years. Del. Jill P. Carter of Baltimore has been our leading sponsor and advocate on this issue for years as well.

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I'm the co-founder and co-director of the Children's Rights Fund. Our mission has been to promote shared parenting in Maryland so that children and parents can maintain as much time as possible with each other even after a separation or divorce. Also, we are changing terms like "custody" and "visitation" to "parenting responsibilities" and "time" as we focus more on ensuring that both parents have a shared amount of responsibility and time with their child on a year-round basic.

I ask, "As parents, we teach our children to share so why can't parents share their children when they separate, split up or divorce?" Parents are not visitors to their children, they are parents!

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As we continue to push forth in our effect to better our children and families, we know that this is definitely a work in progress. However, progress must move forward. Remember the saying, "it takes a village to raise a family?" Well, if that village is torn down, damaged or destroyed, how well is the family going to be supported? We must do better for our children and families and the time to start is now!

Gov. Martin O'Malley said back in 2012 that we were "One Maryland with equality for all." But where is the equality for children and families? Where are our civil rights protections on this issue? Equal parenting equals family equality. When we can better the lives of our children by improving the relationship with their parents, then we make everyone in that family circle much stronger, healthier and happier.

As we aim to better serve and make a difference in the lives of children and families, we must continue "serving children first; and supporting family always."

David W. Smith Sr.

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