By Janice K. Neal-Vincent
Women for Progress welcomed Chancery Court Judge Patricia D. Wise as its guest speaker March 8, for a luncheon at Koinonia Coffee House, 136 S. Adams St., in West Jackson.
Dorothy Stewart, founder of Women for Progress, introduced Wise to those who gathered for the event and explained the organization played a role in Wise getting sworn in.
Wise recalled making her first campaign speech in Stewart’s home 27 or 28 years ago.
As she spoke on the topic “Child Custody Issues,” she explained when she first took the bench, there were no custody issues with children because of the tender years doctrine which states that children nourish and flourish when they’re with their mother, but in the 1980s and 1990s fathers were granted the right to have custody.
Wise explained how grandparents rearing children are taken to the bench. “Becoming attached to that child and loving that child causes a grandparent to “do anything for that child. A lot of children become accustomed to the grandmother and view the grandmother as the parent,” Wise said.
Grandparents’ rights are especially important. If the child’s mother dies; the mother has mental issues or finances are not available to the mother, the father could demand custody and win, even if the grandmother has funds.
Wise shared a child is sometimes embarrassed because the parent is absent from his/her life. The child can even become protective of the parent. “Years later, the parent can come to seize the child. Now the mother wants the check and the check has to go with the child,” Wise said.
“The grandmother should give that parent an opportunity to show that she can take care of the child,” President Willie Jones said.
“But that’s all right until they go to court. Mothers and fathers have the presumption that by being the natural parents, they have the right to raise their own children. (They) would have to give the child up,” responded Wise.
Wise then noted the court acknowledges several ways for grandparents to not give the child up: Show the parent at the time he/she was asking for custody that he/she was unfit; show that the parent is immoral, etc.
On another note, the judge told the listeners the black family is increasingly becoming an extended family. She stated, “Don’t get in a big fuss and fight over the child because you might end up in court, and it’s extremely hard to get that child through court if you’re the grandparent … the Supreme Court demands clear and convincing evidence.”
From the above, attention went to incarcerated individuals. Wise explained, “If you served your time, you’ve served your time. If you’re coming out of prison, you’re going to have some support. But you might have served for immorality. When you come out, you can request your child.”
Several persons responded to the session.
Civil rights activist Flonzie Brown-Wright noted that, “Women have shaped our history. As nurturers, they have taught us how to be dignified.” In that vein she expressed gratitude to founder, Dorothy Stewart, and current president, Willie Jones “for their vision.”
“The session was wonderful and is a great subject matter in our community. There are many of our children without parents and grandparents to share in their lives. It does take a village to rear a child,” said Alice Doss.
Cynthia Minor commented that, “We as a village make success by giving support and advice.”
Women for Progress presented a plaque to Dr. Chandra M. Minor, the first black woman orthodontist in Mississippi. Minor is the owner of Smile Design Orthodontics which strives to create a pleasant family atmosphere while providing high quality orthodontic treatment.
Women for Progress of Mississippi, Inc. was chartered on May 11, 1978 as a non-profit non-partisan community improvement organization of action-oriented, influential and talented individuals. It serves as a catalyst for advocacy, awareness and action.
To learn more about Women for Progress call Stewart at (601) 982-3274.
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