August 22, 2013
By Rita Fuerst Adams, National Executive Director, National Parents Organization

A father, Menahem Savyon, 54, shot and killed his 9-year old son, Joshua Savyon, and then turned the gun on himself at the YWCA visitation center in Manchester, NH.  It appears there are two stories coming forward. One from the father’s friends who did not see this coming, and one from Joshua’s mother who had a protective order placed on Savyon a year ago: the reason for the supervised visitation.

It is a devastating day when we lose a child. National Parents Organization extends its condolences to Joshua’s mother, maternal and paternal grandparents, and all who knew him. We are sorry for the loss of Menahem and we extend our condolences to his family and friends. We cannot agree with his action, but hope it will lead to changes that protect our children and give them what they need and want – both parents.

It appears all who knew Joshua’s parents concur that the separation and current relationship between Joshua’s mother Becky Ranes, and Savyon were contentious. Yet, his ex-wife, Ellen Savyon Vig, to whom he was married from 1991 to 1997, said, “He was a nonviolent guy. He didn’t drink, he didn’t take drugs. He loved his son.”

Now the debate begins. What causes such tragedies? How do we end such tragedies? Are the visitation centers a long-term solution? What can we do to protect our children?

There are some who wish to license supervised visitation centers, including Representative Jeff Oligny, R-Plaistow, a National Parents Organization member. Will such licensing requirements come with the funding necessary to implement changes? Will fees be increased for noncustodial parents, making it even harder for them to see their children?

Right now our inclination is to blame everyone involved from the courts to the YWCA that runs the visitation center, to professionals in contact with the father, and Menahem Savyon. None of this will bring Joshua back.

YWCA president Monica Zulauf said at a news conference that the possibility of violence exists for all the families who use the center for supervised visits, or else they wouldn't need to be supervised. When the YWCA has had the money in the past, it has hired police officers to be in the building to provide security during visitations, Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin told WMUR-TV. But Zulauf said that was an oversimplification, and noted that having a constant police presence would work against the center's goal of providing a homelike atmosphere.

It was two years ago that Thomas Ball to set himself on fire in front of a county courthouse in Keene, New Hampshire. At the time, Board Chairman and Founder Ned Holstein, M.D., said, “The callous and disrespectful treatment of so many fathers by the family courts means that tragedies like this one are sure to befall the most fragile among them.”

The historian of philanthropy in the United States, Robert Bremner, PhD, addressed the need for philanthropy to bring about change. It was his perspective that while we run soup kitchens to feed those in need we should at the same time be advocating for changes in society to end the need for soup kitchens.

National Parents Organization agrees with Dr. Bremner. We work for social change. We believe we can serve more children by making shared parenting the norm in every state.

Starting with the presumption of shared parenting from temporary custody orders, shared parenting places the emphasis on parents caring for their children. It removes the battle between parents as to who will be the victor and “have” the children. And the social science researchers continue to prove this to be in “the best interest of the children.” National Parents Organization fights for all children regardless of whether or not their parents have ever been married; regardless of whether or not their parents fit the “traditional” model; regardless of whether or not their parents were once married and are unable to continue together.

Right now, National Parents Organization has mothers and fathers who see their children in visitation centers. Without spending an enormous amount of time digging into every case it is impossible to determine which of these parents are dangerous, or which have been falsely accused. Although when accusations arise only after divorce or separation proceedings or child custody hearings begin, it does make one wonder.

Perhaps when we remove accusations of domestic violence as a tool in family court, we can spend our precious time and resources protecting those who truly need it. National Parents Organization agrees there are parents and children who need such protection. Let us use our precious resources to protect them.

Media continues to follow the unfolding story:
Union Leader

The Boston Globe

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