TIME Family

African American Donor’s Sperm Mistakenly Sent to White Mom

A medical worker works on a dish ready f
Georges Gobet—AFP/Getty Images

Lesbian parents tell the TODAY Show that they love their mixed race daughter but are suing their sperm bank to prevent future mixups.

The Midwest Sperm Bank sent Jennifer Cramblett of Uniontown, Ohio, the wrong sperm. She’d requested sperm from donor number 380 and received instead sperm from donor number 330. Ms. Cramblett and her partner are now suing the sperm bank.

What makes the story a whole lot more complicated is that donor number 330 is African American.

“On August 21, 2012, Jennifer gave birth to Payton, a beautiful, obviously mixed-race baby girl,” says the lawsuit. “Jennifer bonded with Payton easily and she and Amanda love her very much. Even so, Jennifer lives each day with fears, anxieties and uncertainty about her future and Payton’s future.”

Among the issues that are causing these anxieties are the prospect of sending her mixed race child to an all-white school, traveling to a black neighborhood—where she feels unwelcome—to get Amanda’s hair done and the lack of acceptance by her extended family, who, according to the suit, are already having issues with the whole same sex couple arrangement.

Ms. Cramblett told The Today Show that she and her partner Amanda Zinkon love their daughter very much, but she doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else’s family. “I’m not going to let them get away with this,” she said. She’s primarily angry, she says at what she considers the sperm bank’s cavalier attitude and “lack of concern for me and my family…if they had some compassion and just said sorry. But they didn’t.”

So far, the Midwest Sperm Bank has declined to comment.

(This might be a good time to direct Ms. Cramblett’s attention to Chocolate Hair, Vanilla Care, a website used by many transracial adoptive families. You’re welcome.)

TIME politics

Cornel West: Obama Administration Is a ‘Drone Presidency’

"I think he's settled for the middle ground rather than the higher ground"

Famed public intellectual Cornel West, whose new book Black Prophetic Fire is a re-examination of key black political figures through a different lens, was initially a big supporter of Barack Obama and appeared with him during his first presidential campaign. But in 2012, West says he didn’t even vote. “I couldn’t vote for a war criminal,” he said, calling Obama’s administration a “drone presidency.”

In an interview with Time for 10 Questions, which can be read here, the always outspoken West said the President lacks courage. “I think he lacks backbone,” he says. “I think he’s settled for the middle ground rather than the higher ground.”

One example of that, he explains, is the way Obama addresses young black men, which West characterizes as “paternalistic,” and very unlike the subservient way he deals with Wall Street. “When you say your major program for black young boys is going to be one of charity and philanthropy but no public policy, no justice, then criticism must be put forward just to be true to the black prophetic tradition,” he said.

The Obama legacy, West says, is contrast to the black leaders in the book, such as Malcolm X, whom West says, “specialized in ‘de-n___izing’ black people”–that is, he clarifies, encouraged them not to “be intimidated, afraid, and so scared of speaking [their] mind and allowing [their] soul to be manifest that [they] defer to the powers that be, especially the white supremacist powers.”

West, who’s no stranger to controversy, is currently a professor at Union Theological Seminary. He’s hoping to draw as many young people as he can to a rally in Ferguson, Missouri, on Oct. 13, to protest the killing of Michael Brown by police there. “It’s a beautiful thing to see the young people in Ferguson and all across the nation, organizing there.”

TIME

How to Spot a Trafficking Victim at an Airport

High angle view of three passengers walking at an airport lobby
Getty Images

Sex trafficking is a big business in the U.S. How come more people don't notice it?

Every time a new horror story about sex trafficking pops up on our radars, about women held for years against their will, or forced to be child brides, or ensnared in a prostitution ring, the same question also surfaces: why didn’t anyone notice anything?

One of the reasons sex trafficking is frequently overlooked is that it’s hiding in plain sight. Victims are not always bundled across borders in cars vans with blacked out windows or transported in shipping containers. Sometimes they’re simply brought in with thousands of other international travelers on an airplane, and forced to service johns at a local hotel.

Law enforcement authorities are beginning to work together with businesses—particularly hotels and airlines—to spot people who are being moved around against their will. While many of their techniques are proprietary, and the companies don’t want to say too much about them, there are a few measures that anyone might use.

(MORE: Inside the Scarily Lucrative Business Model of Human Trafficking)

Delta airline employees are now being trained to ask certain questions at check-in, Letty Ashworth, general manager of global diversity for Delta, told a packed symposium on human trafficking in New York City on Sept. 29. They’re told to carefully watch for anyone whose documents are not in their own possession. “If for instance you are at a gate and there is an unaccompanied minor, do they know the name of the person they’re traveling with, or where they’re going?” she said.

Crewmembers also watch for unusual activity on a plane, such as when kids don’t answer questions or avoid eye contact when addressed. Other telltale signs might be bruising or other wounds, or a ravenous appetite. (Insert your favorite “you’d have to be starving to eat airline food” joke here. Or actually, don’t.)

Don’t expect trafficking victims to be foreign: 83% of people forced into prostitution in the U.S. are from the U.S. They’re often runaways and sometimes have been at the mercy of their traffickers for so long they see themselves not as women being pimped out for sex but as girlfriends helping their boyfriend pay the bills. “We’ve had women testify on behalf of their abuser, that they loved them and were not there against their will,” even though they had been severely abused, said Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance at the event. He’s seen at least one woman tattooed with a barcode by her trafficker, as a mark of ownership.

Vance’s office is also working with hotels to prosecute sex traffickers. One of the big red flags is people who have a pattern of frequently booking a series of hotel rooms on a credit card then paying in cash. Because sex trafficking spikes around the Super Bowl, hotel employees are being asked to be particularly vigilant during that time. And the NFL has been asked to only host the Super Bowl in states that have robust anti-trafficking laws.

(MORE: Super Bowl Prostitution Crackdown: Inside the NYPD’s New Strategy)

The response that trafficking activists are hoping for is similar to the response for suspected acts of terror: “If you see something say something.” Vance is a bit more circumspect. “First people have to decide they care about it,” he said in an interview. “Unless you acknowledge that it happens and are prepared to talk about it it’s not going to change. It all starts at the grass roots. We had 3,500 homeless kids come to New York City last year; they’re a target for traffickers. It has to start from people understanding these aren’t kids in Africa. These are our kids.”

 

TIME singles

Why 25% of Millennials Will Never Get Married

A new report from Pew Research predicts that more folks under 35 will be single forever. Here's why

The number of Americans who have always been single and will never marry is at a historic high, says a new Pew Research report, partly because they don’t have jobs and partly because marriage is becoming less highly-regarded. Most people think it’s important for couples who intend to stay together to be married, but the number of single Americans who want to get married has dropped significantly even in the last four years.

The report, based on census data and Pew’s surveys, is the latest in a series of indicators that marriage’s stock is on a sharp downward trajectory. Fewer young people are getting married and many are getting married later. About 20% of Americans older than 25 had always been single in 2012, up from 9% in 1960. In the black community, the numbers are even starker: 36% of black Americans older than 25 have never been married, a fourfold increase from 50 years ago.

The one number that hasn’t really budged is the percentage of 64 year olds who have never been married. In 1960, it was 8% and in 2012, it was 7%. But the report’s authors Wendy Wang and Kim Parker say this might be changing. Each decade, the percentage of people of marriageable age who are single has grown. “When today’s young adults reach their mid-40s to mid-50s, a record high share (roughly 25%) is likely to have never been married,” they write. “This is not to say that adults in their mid-40s to mid-50s who still haven’t married will never marry, but our analysis suggests that the chance of getting married for the first time after age 54 is relatively small,” adds Parker.

Why aren’t people getting married anymore? The three main reasons people give for their singleness are that they haven’t found the right person (30%), aren’t financially stable enough (27%) and are not ready to settle down (22%). Many more young people are eschewing tying the knot, at least for a while, for shacking up. The researchers don’t see that as the new normal yet. “Cohabitation is much less common than marriage and cohabiting relationships are much less stable than marriages,” says Parker.”It’s hard to imagine marriage being replaced any time soon.”

But the Pew researchers teased out a bunch of other reasons by asking what people wanted in a partner.

The quality most women want in a husband, somewhat unromantically, is a secure job, followed very closely by similar ideas on raising kids, which was the quality most men wanted in a spouse. The problem is, the report points out, that young men are increasingly less likely to be employed. “In 1960, 93% of men ages 25 to 34 were in the labor force; by 2012 that share had fallen to 82%.” Those young men who are employed are not bringing home as much bacon as they once did. In fact, if you adjust for inflation, the median hourly wages of men aged 25 to 34 are a fifth less than they were in 1980.

Compounding that issue is that women have entered the labor force in much higher numbers. So while there are more men than women who are single and available, there are far fewer employed men who are single than employed women. Fifty years ago there were 139 single young men with jobs for every 100 single young women; that ratio has now dropped to 91:100. “If all never-married young women in 2012 wanted to find a young employed man who had also never been married, 9% of them would fail,” says the report, “simply because there are not enough men in the target group.”

But lest that bum all the single ladies out too much, the report points out that single young women don’t have to marry single young men: they can marry guys who are divorced, widowed or much older. Should they bother? Now that comedian Sarah Silverman has declared marriage barbaric, is it done? The Pew researchers don’t think so.

“Marriage hasn’t fallen out of favor,” says Parker, “but financial constraints and imbalances in the marriage market may be holding people back from taking the plunge.”

TIME Fatherhood

Mark Sanford’s Oversharing Doesn’t Make Him a Bad Dad

Sure, the S.C. senator wrote a 2300-plus-word breakup post on Facebook that reads like a romance novel--but that doesn't mean he shouldn't be allowed to see his kids

Being a hideously tone-deaf oversharer and terrible husband does not necessarily make you a bad father. An embarrassing one, yes, but not a let’s-keep-him-away-from-the-kids one. I’m speaking, of course, of South Carolina Senator Mark Sanford and his latest Facebook rant.

There are so many things wrong with the way the Senator runs his personal affairs. First and foremost, he too often seems lose sight of the “personal” part of that phrase. He justified his 2300-plus-word Facebook post of Sept. 12 by saying he believes he owes the taxpayers of South Carolina an explanation: “In as much as you sign my paycheck and you have elected me to represent you in Washington, I think I owe you my thinking on this personal, but now public matter.”

This feels a little like a butcher forcing his or her customers to watch him make the sausages, because later they’re going to buy them and eat them. No, really, sir: we’re fine.

The “sausage,” in this case, is that Sanford and his wife, Jenny, with whom he split after falling in love with an Argentinian women, Maria Belén Chapur, are fighting over how much access he has to their four sons. Attorneys are involved, and while Sanford proclaims a huge aversion to the legal profession, he’s decided to lawyer up. (Jenny’s side claims he always had a lawyer.) All of this, one would think, might merit a crisply worded 250 word press release, noting that the Senator, having tried all avenues to reach an amicable settlement with his former wife, has retained legal counsel and blah blah blah et cetera. Nothing to see here; move along.

But no. The public has to endure another in a series of Heartfelt Sanford Outpourings, which–for those who haven’t been following along–so far include the one about how he was not on the Appalachian Trail but with a woman (June 24, 2009), and how Maria Belén, the woman he was with not-on-the-Appalachian-Trail, was his soulmate and how theirs was “a forbidden, tragic love story,” (July 1, 2009).

These communications always seems to come from the Harlequin playbook, full of emotional pleas and heartsore teeth gnashing. “No relationship can stand forever this tension of being forced to pick between the one you love and your own son or daughter,” writes the former Love Guv in his latest post on Facebook.

The one difference is that Harlequin novels are blessedly brief. As one wit noted, Sanford’s post contains more words than the Senator has uttered in Congress this year. It’s a small mercy that there is no accompanying video to go with this announcement, as that’s where Senator Soulmate really seems to let his emotions get the better of him.

It’s clear, though, that this post too was written in the heat of the moment and without much forethought. One sentence uses the word “way ” four times. Other phrases in his Facebook tome, with their references to faith, smack of that kid in a church youth group who always used prayer requests as an excuse to gossip about other kids in the youth group who weren’t in the room.

Still other pieces of this confessional quilt have enough lashings of self-pity to make Uriah Heep throw up a little in his mouth. “It seems that history well documents that those who work to avoid conflict at all costs wind up being those destined in many instances to find much conflict,” writes Sanford. Quick, alert the Nobel Committee: Mark Sanford, Peacemaker at a Price.

What transpires is this: Sanford and his wife continue to tussle, legally, over how often he gets to see his sons. He’s accusing her of playing dirty pool–all pretty standard high-conflict divorce shenanigans–and it is stressing him out, people. As a result of this, he’s calling off his engagement to his Argentinian soulmate, whom he has “always loved.” (Not quite enough to let her know in advance of the announcement, though, reports say.)

But while Sanford may be about the most ridiculously inept and cheesy cheating ex of all time, none of it should disqualify him from being able to see his four sons. He says, somewhere in there among all the crazy, that he didn’t get to see one of them for 17 weeks. It’s hard to tell if that’s just the anguish speaking or if it’s true and it’s generally a fool’s errand to try and second guess the family courts. Maybe there are extenuating circumstances. But if true, that’s too long. There’s already enough fatherlessness in the land.

Custody battles can be ugly messy businesses and can end up in disaster and tragedy. Posting a public tear on a well-visited social media site about a mean ex-wife is clearly bad for the kids (and avert-your-eyes embarrassing for everyone else), but it does not disqualify someone from being a dad. One definite upside of regular contact with one’s offspring is that they’re not afraid to opine on how irrevocably lame attempts at social media are. Now that is advice which Sanford desperately needs to hear right now. And which we, the public, need him to hear.

TIME

The 13 Most Moving Things Said at the Celebration of Maya Angelou’s Life

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou Gerald Herbert—AP

Maya Angelou’s New York friends and family and fans got together to celebrate her life on Sept. 12 at Riverside Church in Manhattan. In a service which ranged from a mashup of “I’m Every Woman” and Angelou’s poetry to a stirring speech from her son, editors, offspring and dignitaries swapped stories and remembrances. Here are a dozen of the things people said to recall Angelou’s life:

Colin Ashanti Johnson, Angelou’s grandson spoke first remembering her resilience: “When she was treated badly she’d say, ‘Should I stop my ascension to heaven and turn around and discipline them?’ That was not going to happen.”

Secretary Hillary Clinton recalled how Angelou’s life reminded her of her mother’s and how Angelou encouraged first Bill and then she to run for President. “She was a walking talking work of art. Being in room with her was like being a room with the Mona Lisa. All eyes were on her.”

“Our country’s struggles and triumphs and progress over the past century are written all over her life. Indeed, she helped to write them.”

The room fell quiet as author Toni Morrison spoke of the friendship she and Angelou shared over the years. “We all know her public and celebrated and magnigficent reputation. We know these things and they’re stellar… Even more noteworthy are those private moments, those intimate gestures: her soothing voice on the telephone at the exact moment when you needed it most… She was the first non family member to call when my son died. It was a short, poignant conversation and it surprised and thrilled and comforted me.”

Rev. James A. Forbes., Jr., the senior minister emeritus at Riverside Church, who broke into poetry frequently, urged people to follow her advice. “Maya Angelou knew that every child of God has a song inside…Don’t wait for things to be perfect. Sing it.”

Guy Johnson, Angelou’s only son, whom she had when she was 16, and who is paralyzed as the result of a car accident in Ghana in his youth, recalled how he was sure his mother was going to get him killed with all the protest marching they did, but what a rich life they’d had together:

“I’m amazed at the life she lived. I was almost an adult before I really understood who she was. She scared me as a child…because she was so different from anyone else.”

“She wore her hair natural… at that time there were only eight other women under 100 who wore their hair natural and mom knew them all.”

“My mother knew that all knowledge was spendable currency, depending on the market. “

“Her faith was like a rock and I know because I rested on it…She used to say one person standing on the word of God is the majority.”

“She’d always say ‘Put it in my mouth to say Lord and I will say it. Put it in my heart to do it Lord and I will do it.’ ”

“If you remember anything about her remember [how she said] ‘Don’t be a prisoner of ignorance.’”

The last speaker, her grandson, Elliott Matthew Jones told the story of how, while visiting her when he was in college, he asked her to write a poem about the lamp on the table and she did. He asked how she did it and she said ‘I think of every lamp I’ve ever known and what they meant to me.’

TIME Family

Why Not Having Kids Makes Some People Crazy

Ray Kachatorian—Photographers Choice

It's less about the children and more about thwarted dreams

The great, worldwide, international jury is still deadlocked over whether having children makes people happier or not. On the one side, there are chubby fingers and first steps and unbridled joy and on the other side, there’s sleep, money and time. But an intriguing new study from the Netherlands suggests that not having children only makes infertile women unhappy if they are unable to let go of the idea of having kids.

It sounds obvious, but here’s the twist: women who already had children but desperately wanted more had worse mental health than women who didn’t have kids and wanted them, but had managed to get over that particular life goal. So it’s not just whether they had kids that made people depressed or content, it’s how badly they wanted them.

The study looked at more than 7,000 Dutch women who had had fertility treatments between 1995 and 2000. They were sent questionnaires about how they were doing and what caused the infertility and whether they had kids. Most of them were doing fine, except for about 6% who still wanted children even a decade or more after their last infertility treatment.

“We found that women who still wished to have children were up to 2.8 times more likely to develop clinically significant mental health problems than women who did not sustain a child-wish,” said Dr Sofia Gameiro, a lecturer at the School of Psychology at Cardiff University in Wales. True, the women who had kids but had undergone fertility treatments for more were less likely to have mental health issues than those who didn’t have kids, but they were still there. The kids hadn’t cured them. “For women with children, those who sustained a child-wish were 1.5 times more likely to have worse mental health than those without a child-wish,” wrote Gameiro. “This link between a sustained wish for children and worse mental health was irrespective of the women’s fertility diagnosis and treatment history.”

The women most likely to be laid low by wanting a child were those with less education and thus probably fewer options for fulfillment. Similarly, if the fertility issues were on the husband’s side or if they were age related, women were more likely to be able to get over it, possibly because they felt there was nothing they could have done. Those most set back by their inability to conceive were those who had started young and found that the problem was with their reproductive system, not their spouse’s, women who in the ancient days might have been called “barren.”

“Our study improves our understanding of why childless people have poorer adjustment. It shows that it is more strongly associated with their inability to let go of their desire to have children. It is quite striking to see that women who do have children but still wish for more children report poorer mental health than those who have no children but have come to accept it,” said Gameiro.

The paper, which was published online on Sept. 10 in Human Reproduction, recommends sustained psychological counseling for people who did not conceive after fertility treatments and a lot of frank talk about the possibility of failure during the treatments. The author also throws some shade on those “I-can-do-anything-if I-try” types (cough, Americans, cough). “There is a moment when letting go of unachievable goals (be it parenthood or other important life goals) is a necessary and adaptive process for well-being,” said Gameiro. “We need to consider if societies nowadays actually allow people to let go of their goals and provide them with the necessary mechanisms to realistically assess when is the right moment.”

TIME Love and Money

Wealthy Kids Are More Affected by Divorce Than Poor Kids

wealth family divorce
Getty Images

And study says it's not just because they suddenly have less money

Children of wealthy families that come apart have a bigger spike in behavior problems than children of poor families who experience the same thing. But wealthier children benefit more from being incorporated into stepfamilies than poorer children do. So says a new study in the latest issue of Child Development, which also noted the kids’ age when parents separate plays a key role, with the most vulnerable stage being from 3 to 5 years old.

The study was conducted by researchers at Georgetown University, in Washington, D.C., and the University of Chicago, using a national sample of nearly 4,000 children from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth. Researchers divided the kids into three groups by income and studied the effect of a change in family structure on each group.

“Our findings suggest that family changes affect children’s behavior in higher-income families more than children’s behavior in lower-income families — for better and for worse,” says Rebecca Ryan, assistant professor of psychology at Georgetown University, the study’s lead author.

Why do children of high-income parents act out more after separation than children from low-income parents? Ryan isn’t sure. “To be honest, our study finds most conclusively that they do act up more, but says less about why that might be.”

But she has some guesses. The first is that dads, who are usually the breadwinners, often move out of the home so there’s a big dip in household income. Or it could be that the kids have to move to a new neighborhood/school/friend group and the instability takes a toll. Or maybe less-wealthy families don’t take it so hard. “Parental separation is more common among lower-income families,” says Ryan. “Parents and children may perceive family changes as more normative, more predictable, and, thus, less stressful.”

However Ryan says, it’s not just about the money. “Changes in income itself did not seem to explain the increase in behavior problems, which surprised us.” Moreover the changes in behavior were only noticeable if the kids were younger than 5 years old. “We found no effect of parental separation on children ages 6 to 12,” says Ryan.

Another surprise was that wealthier kids older than 6, who were blended into stepfamilies had improvements in their behavior. Ryan and her crew first noticed this when she did a prior study back in 2012, but was still surprised to have those findings confirmed. That study also suggested that parental separation affects kids whose parents were actually married more than those who were cohabiting.

Ryan cautions that the differences between kids whose parents were separated and those who were together was not as strong as the differences among low-, middle- and higher-income families. “These results suggest that many factors other than family structure influence children’s behavior, particularly for children in low-income families. For them, the quality of the home environment, regardless of family structure, mattered most to social and emotional well-being.”

She even wades a little into the debate on whether fixing marriage will help fix poverty or whether you need to fix the poverty to have a shot at saving marriage. She’s on the side of the latter. Programs designed to save marriage, she says, will not be as effective as programs that “enhance the quality of the socio-emotional or educational environments in the home.”

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