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A hug is worth a thousand words

Last weekend at my son’s birthday party, my three-year-old niece, Kassidey, came up to me, gave me a big hug and said "I love you Uncle Shawn.

Sunday, July 01, 2001

Last weekend at my son’s birthday party, my three-year-old niece, Kassidey, came up to me, gave me a big hug and said "I love you Uncle Shawn."

This made me feel good in one way, but at the same time I could not help but feel sorry for her. Why would I feel sorry for her? Because even though I only see her once a month – if that – she knows me better than her own father.

Kassidey and her little sister, Abbey, who will be two later this month, have not seen their father since December of 1999. Kassidey was one month away from her second birthday, and Abbey was only four months old.

My sister’s ex-husband left her when she was seven months pregnant with Abbey. For the first few months after Abbey was born, he found the time to visit with the girls periodically. Just after Thanksgiving, though, the visits stopped.

If ignoring his children is not enough, this man owes my sister more than $12,000 in back child-support payments. Though he has been found in contempt of court twice for not making his mandated payments, he has managed to manipulate the system. My sister has received only $400 in child support payments since November.

The court ordered the money to be garnished from his wages, but he has avoided this by changing jobs at least three times since the summer of 1999. Even though the court ordered him to pay the full amount owed my sister by May 1 of this year, no attempts have been made by him to comply with this obligation.

These children do not receive Christmas or birthday presents from their father. They are have not been given the opportunity to form a bond with him. For all intents and purposes, they have been totally erased from his life.

Being a "deadbeat dad" seems to be easy to do today. There are so many loopholes in the system, and if they choose, fathers – and in some cases mothers – can have absolutely nothing to do with their children and not be penalized for it.

State and national legislators need to fix this problem. There are too many Kassideys and Abbeys in this country for this issue not to be addressed.

As Kassidey gave me that hug and I toted her around the water park where we had my son’s birthday party that day, I couldn’t help but wonder how on God’s green earth anyone could forsake such a beautiful, loving child.

All I can hope is that someday he will come to realize he has two wonderful daughters and he will give those girls what they deserve – a loving and caring father. As unfortunate as it is that the relationship between him and my sister did not work out, these two little girls did nothing to merit losing their daddy.