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March 19, 1998 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1998-03-19

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IOA - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 19, 1998

NATION/WORLD

More single fathers are
taking responsibility

0

los Angeles Times
As his two-day-old daughter squirms in her mother's arms,
Nicolas Reyes prepares to take a step that will make an
indelible impact on the child's future. Slowly, carefully, he
signs his name on a short white form.
The signature etches into the legal record the formal dec-
-laration that Reyes, an unmarried man, is the biological father
of Carla Reyes-Osoy and cements a legal link between father
and daughter that will govern the rest of their lives.
When he finishes, a shy smile spreads across the new
father's face. "I want my name to be on her birth certificate,'
he'says through an interpreter. "I think it's very important for
her to have my name."
In California, where one in three children is born out of
wedlock, unmarried fathers like Reyes have been stepping
forward in record numbers to volun-
tarily sign legal declarations of
paternity.
In 1997, the number of new This is Of
fathers who put their names on the s m ethino
form soared to 111,850, more than a
600 percent increase over the previ- cr
ous year.
Their signatures represented 66
Sercent of all out-of-wedlock births Nation
that year, a dramatic jump from
1996, when only 10 percent of
unmarried fathers signed declarations. In 1998, the numbers
have continued to climb.
The ramifications of the trend are huge not only for the
well-being of children but also for taxpayers who must foot
the bill for the support of many poor youngsters who were
born out of wedlock.
What makes 1997 the watershed year, officials say, is a lit-
tie-noticed state law that required unmarried fathers to sign
paternity declarations before their names could go on their
children's birth certificate.
The law, effective in January 1997, replaced the practice of
simply allowing the mother to decide what information
would go on the certificate.
"Under the old system, you could put anybody's name on
that certificate," said Leslie Frye, chief of the state's office of
child support. "You could put Mickey Mouse. You could put
Bill Clinton, and it meant nothing legally."
The new law makes the name on the birth certificate legal-
ly binding, entitles the unwed father to the same rights as a
harried one and obligates him to help provide child support.
The paternity declarations are an outgrowth of a national
effort to reconnect fathers with their children and a govern-
mental campaign to extract child support from more absent
parents.
Both have been given impetus by federal welfare reforms,
which require states to establish paternity for increasingly
higher percentages of fathers or face the loss of welfare
funds.
For decades, out-of-wedlock births have been inextricably
tied to the welfare system. Four out of five unwed mothers go
6n welfare within a few years of their first child's birth,
.p
W , . I U~r

according to a 1990 congressional budget office study. In
California today, 50 percent of the single mothers on welfare
have never been married and 38 percent of the children have
no legal father.
Governmental efforts to push welfare families into self-
sufficiency have put a spotlight on absent fathers. But in the
case of unwed fathers, district attorneys cannot seek child
support until paternity is established. When a voluntary dec-
laration is already filed, however, it saves the time and cost of
a court action.
Advocates say that it is too early for the explosion in pater-
nity declarations to show in child support statistics, but that it
is bound to increase the number of fathers participating in
their children's lives and contributing to their support.
"This is clearly something positive for children," said Leora
Gershenzon, directing attorney of
the child support project of the

n

n

early
positive for
- Leora Gershenzon
al Center for Youth Law

National Center for Youth Law in
San Francisco.
Besides receiving child support,
she said, the children benefit from
access to the father's medical histo-
ry, rights of inheritance and eligibil-
ity for the father's health insurance.
But more important, say other

advocates, is that the paternity
declaration helps the father main-
tain a relationship with his children. Studies have shown that
children whose fathers are active in their lives do betteriin
school and are less likely to succumb to crime and drugs.
Carrying out the new law fell to hospital workers like Art
Vigil, the birth certificate coordinator at St. Francis Medical
Center in Lynwood, Calif., where nearly 5,000 babies are born
each year. At first, he recalled, the mothers were angered that
they didn't have the option of determining what went on the
birth certificate.
"Oh God, I just wanted to run out of the room sometimes,
they would get so upset," he said.
But the animosity lessened, he said, as unwed couples
learned what to expect when they came to the hospital.
"Eventually, I had fathers asking me before I could even
say anything, 'Where is that new form I need to sign so I can
get my name on the birth certificate?' " Vigil recalled.
To Frye, the favorable response to the law undercuts the
conventional wisdom that the emotional bond between
unmarried fathers and their children is tenuous.
"I think we have maybe done unmarried men a tremendous
disservice over the last 30 years," she said. "I think more and
more research is indicating that ... if given the opportunity to
make the legal link (with their children) in a no-cost way,
they'll do it in huge numbers."
But Reginald Brass, founder of the Los Angeles advocacy
group My Child Says Daddy, said he doesn't think that most
unwed fathers really understand what they are signing.
"They don't know what they're getting into," he said. "The
next thing they know, a year or two down the line, the district
attorney's office is prosecuting them for not paying money
because the mother is on (welfare)."

AP PHOTO
President Clinton addresses 1,500 workers about the Administration's commitment to keeping the American Dream
alive for working families yesterday. Recently, Clinton has been subject to allegations of sexual misconduct.
White House changes Strategy

I

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON - Back last
August, the first time Kathleen Willey's
name sprang into public view, the
Clinton White House took refuge
between a wall of stony no comments.
Had Willey ever been on the payroll?
Ever met with the president? Ever been
appointed to government boards?
White House aides gave no answers.
So it was a striking turn of events
this week when information about
Willey's meetings and correspon-
dence with the president came tum-
bling out - courtesy of the White
House. At the same time, lots of other
questions about Willey on Tuesday
were met with the usual non-answers
from presidential spokespeople.
The episode amounted to maybe
the most vivid illustration so far of the
White House's belief that information
is a potent weapon. When facts are
damaging, they are kept secret with
few apologies. When they are helpful,
as senior Clinton advisers believe

News Analysis
they are in the Willey case, the White
House becomes an advocate of public
disclosure.
It is a practice that the Clinton
White House has followed on contro-
versies ranging from Whitewater to
campaign fund-raising to the latest
allegations of allegations of sexual
misconduct by Clinton.
In the case of Willey, who told her
story of being groped against her will
by Clinton to some 29 million viewers
on CBS's "60 Minutes," the policy of
selective disclosure has blunted what
White House officials considered the
most dangerous week for the presi-
dent since the Monica Lewinsky alle-
gations broke in late January.
Several people who have advised the
president on damage control, both
inside and outside the White House,
said they considered their most urgent
task this week to be rebutting Willey's

suggestion that she was the victim of
coercive behavior by Clinton. They said
the notes she sent Clinton, including
one professing to be his "number one
fan," undermine her claims that she
was angry at the president.
Significantly, some Clinton advisers,
who said they could speak candidly
only if not quoted by name, made no
effort to argue on behalf of Clinton's
story that there were no sexual over-
tones to his encounter with Willey in
November 1993 in a private hallway
outside the Oval Office. Some advisers
even acknowledged that they found it at
least plausible that Willey and Clinton
were intimate on a consensual basis.
That Clinton loyalists would offer
such a minimalist defense reflects the
White House's assessment of public
opinion. Advisers said they long ago
concluded, much to their reassurance,
that Clinton's standing with the public
is not hurt by allegations of adultery as
long as the behavior does not cross the
line into harassment.

r

mU

A

Medical internship spots
revealed at match celebration

By Mahvish Khan
For the Daily
After almost $100,000 in tuition and
a decade of education, graduating
University Medical students waited
anxiously to learn the fate of their
careers at the annual Match Day cele-
bration yesterday.
Run by the National Resident
Matching Program (NRMP), Match
Day is when fourth-year Medical stu-
dents find out to which residency pro-
gram they will be accepted. Students
apply to hospital programs, which in
turn select students they wish to inter-
view.
Applicants and hospitals subsequent-
ly rank one another in order of prefer-
ence. Each applicant is then matched by
computer with the program highest on
their list that grants them residency.
There were tears of joy, sighs of relief

and euphoric cheers as the matches
were announced in a packed auditorium
at the Crowne Plaza hotel.
Students said they were generally
pleased with the outcomes of their
matches.
"I was really nervous when they
called my name," said Chandan
Devireddy, who was accepted at Duke
University's program of internal medi-
cine and thrilled with the results of his
match. "I couldn't be more excited."
Of the 130 medical students, 61 per-
cent were matched with their first choice.
David Lanfear, who was selected by
Washington University in St. Louis was
one such student. "All of those busy days
studying from sun-up until sun-down
finally paid off," he said, "This is the ulti-
mate delayed gratification."
University Medical faculty said they
were equally pleased with their stu-

dents' accomplishments.
"These are very exceptional student
and they have done splendidly" said
Richard D. Judge, assistant dean for
Student Programs at the Medical
School. "Our students always do very
well. They go out there and set the
world on fire."
Anatomy and physiology Prof.
Alphonse Burdie, co-director of
Inteflex, said he enjoyed watching the
students grow and learn.
"This has been like a four-year long
pregnancy," Burdie said. "I've enjoye
watching and feeling these students
grow and enter the world. At U of M,
the students make us look good."
Although students were excited
about finally completing school, many
expressed concern about moving on in
life.
"A part of you feels ready to move
on, while another part is scared of
responsibility" Lanfear said.
Others said they were apprehensive
of their new role as budding doctors.
"I'm nervous about having the ulti-
mate responsibility of caring for
patients," said Sreekant Cherukuri, who
was accepted at Detroit's Henry Ford
Hospital. "But I can safely say that
those 14-hour days of studying with no
sleep and lots of caffeine are all well
worth it now."
Most students agreed that medicine
is a very rigorous and competitive fiel
which calls for tremendous self-disci-
pline.
"If you really want to be a doctor,
then you have to study harder than all of
your friends," Cherukuri said. "Every
grade, every semester counts. You have
to give it your everything."

* --- ---------- - - - ----- - ____________________________
I

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