September 05, 2007

Child Molesters/Child Safety

The article below is an open letter to the mother of a young man who was molested by a fellow who is currently serving a life sentence for his crimes against children.

This mother found that this man had received a Certificate of Completion from Parenting with Dignity and she wrote to me asking that we ensure that no person convicted of child molestation be allowed to attend a Parenting with Dignity Class.

The basis of her concern was that at trial this child molester testified that he had used the Focus on the Family Curriculum created by Dr. James Dobson as a means of approaching children at his church where he taught Sunday School.

An Open Letter

Here is my answer to that lady an an open letter:

Dear "Mother of a Molested Son",

My sincerest sympathies go out to you and your son for the terrible thing that was perpetrated by the fellow who molested your son. I cannot imagine what it must be like to endure such a terrible thing. Believe me, our Parenting with Dignity Program works daily to attempt to prevent this type of thing from happening to other children.

That being said, this fellow and his ability to perpetrate further misery upon children seems to have been effectively and justly dealt with by our court system. He is serving a LIFETIME sentence! He will never be free to prey upon children ever again.

Continued Use of PWD in Prisons

I do wish to let you know that I have been personally working in prisons with inmates for over twenty-five years and I will continue to do so. One of the things that we know about the use of our Parenting with Dignity Curriculum is that we must allow the agencies and organizations to “take ownership” of the program. Once they have ownership, they will then put their maximum efforts forward to see that the program helps the maximum number of their clients. In doing this we must trust that they will assume the responsibility for insuring that the program not be used in any inappropriate manner. I do not see how Ken Bennett could ever use our program in any way to harm children because he will never be in the presence of children ever again.
Justification for PWD in Prisons

I would like to share one story that has taught me that the work that we are doing in prisons is not only worthwhile but must continue.

About three months ago took my grandchildren out to dinner. It was "Papa’s Night Out" with the kids. While we were at dinner, a fellow came in with his wife and three children. They sat down at a table next to us and as we were leaving the fellow stood up and offered his hand to me saying, “you are Mac Bledsoe, aren’t you?”

I replied, “Yes, I am. How would you know that?”

He said, “Well, I would like to shake your hand. I recognize you because I was in the State Prison in Idaho when you and your son came down to speak to us about Parenting with Dignity about ten years ago. I want you to know that I have been through your Parenting with Dignity class four times and let me tell you, I would not be standing here today if it had not been for your program!"
Husband, Father, and Employed, Taxpaying Citizen
"I am a loyal and dedicated husband to this wonderful woman.” He said gesturing to the lady seated at the table with him who now had tears openly flowing down her cheeks.

“I am a dedicated father to my three children seated here. I love them more than life itself and I tell them that in one of the ten ways your program suggests, every day!”

“I am employed at a meaningful job at a local agricultural chemical company and I bring home a paycheck every week to support my family. I am a responsible, law biding citizen, and I am proud to be a taxpayer in this great country!”

“I would not be any of those things had it not been for Parenting with Dignity and I just want to say thank you to you for creating such a great program and making it available to men like me. I had lived a life of crime and would have continued had I not learned that the ‘Ideas in your head rule your world’ from you through the Parenting with Dignity Program!”

Then he went on to ask, “Do you ever see your son?”

When I replied that I would be seeing him that evening when took his four children home he said, “Well, when you see him will you also convey my thanks to him also. When you guys were down speaking to us he gave me an idea that rules my world daily. I have it written on the mirror in my bathroom and I read it out loud to myself every morning while I shave. When Drew spoke to us he said, ‘Guys, respect yourself… because if you don’t respect yourself, how can you expect others to respect you?’ I read that idea to myself and I use to make most of the decisions that I make daily. If I feel that doing something will not allow me to respect myself, then I just don’t do it!”

“I teach my three children to use that same approach to life. Daily we talk about making decisions that will cause them to respect themselves. Thanks again, Mr. Bledsoe, for creating such a great program and for bringing it to prisons so that men like me can learn to be good husbands, fathers, and productive citizens!”

I could share stories like this with you until you grew tired of listening and I would have thousands more to tell you. That one fellow’s story is enough to let me know that our work with fathers in prison will continue. I will continue to work to help parents where ever they are.

The Ku Klux Klan claimed that the Bible was the justification for their hateful behavior. We do not ban the Bible because one group misinterpreted it… and I am not going to stop our work just because some fellow misinterpreted the work of James Dobson and may have used it in a manner that it was not intended. I have never before heard of anyone using a parenting class for the purpose of hurting children. I have never known of anyone using our curriculum to hurt anyone. I suppose that it could happen but I am not sure that I see how.

As a matter of fact, many of the child molesters use religion as their basis for gaining the trust of children (priests, ministers, youth leaders, etc.) If there is a culprit here, it might be more fruitful to challenge the process of selecting and supervising priests and ministers.

I will say that the best manner for parents to use in preventing this type of thing from happening to their children would lie in teaching effective decision-making skills to children at the earliest possible age. So many parents are deluded into thinking that they (the parents) can protect their children by what they, themselves, know as parents; and that is simply not true. Children must be taught to protect themselves because, by definition, they will make all of the big decisions in their lives for themselves. Drug pushers will make sure that parents are not present when they offer drugs. Kids will make that life-or-death decision for themselves.
Child molesters will make sure that parents are not present when they target children! I believe was the case with your son. (Unless you were there with him and did nothing, which I seriously doubt.) When Ken Bennett approached your son he most surely made sure that you were not present! He relied upon your son to make innocent but dangerous decisions that led to terrible consequences. Parenting with Dignity teaches parents how to teach their children to avoid bad situations with sound decision-making skills. Parenting with Dignity teaches parents to teach these effective skills BEFORE children are forced to make those decisions.

Contrary to what your letter implies, there are literally millions of families (thousands of which are prison inmates) who have been immeasurably helped by our curriculum. Rest assured that we will continue to do our great and beneficial work both inside and outside of prison walls.

Thanks for writing. I hope that things are going as well as possible for you and your son. Be sure to communicate your love to him in one of the “ten ways for expressing love to children” every day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't know how I feel, Mr. Bledsoe, about prison inmates having ANY special privileges but I am trying to remember that, as a parent, I have not walked in the shoes of having an offspring in prison. I do feel strongly, though, after reading your response that if indeed the inmates are going to be released and ARE parents, they must have new tools to use so their legacy of crime and prison is not repeated. This costs us too much in misery and taxes. I hope your energy lasts for a long time.