MARC CHASE: It's sad when children become commodities

2013-07-09T00:00:00Z MARC CHASE: It's sad when children become commoditiesBy Marc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com

Could you put a price tag on the time you spend with your children -- or worse yet literally barter your children away like property?

Two different cases -- one from 1948 and the other just recently argued before the Indiana Supreme Court -- should be enough to conjure disgust in all of us.

Times reporter Vanessa Renderman recently breathed life back into the 1948 photo that appeared in the old Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger. It was taken in Chicago with four children sitting in the foreground, their mother facing sideways and covering her face in the background and a large sign reading "4 CHILDREN FOR SALE. INQUIRE WITHIN."

When Renderman first showed me this photo a few weeks ago, I thought it was a joke. But this was apparently -- and sickeningly -- real. The mother and her then boyfriend reportedly sold the children, breaking up the family in horrific fashion, say those children, who are now adults.

One of the children, Sue Ellen Chalifoux, is now 70 and living in Hammond. Renderman recently connected with the Chalifoux, who was 7 when she says she was sold, as she reunited with her sister, 67-year-old RaeAnn Mills, who was 4 at the time of the alleged sale. Renderman wrote an exceptionally powerful article in The Times that is available online.

The year 1948 might seem like a long time ago to some -- but not when you're talking about selling children. It continues to baffle me that nothing apparently was done and that no child welfare agencies intervened when this photo appeared in print.

But surely we have evolved as a society since then, right? We wouldn't be putting a price tag on children or the duty to parent them in 2013, would we?

Unfortunately, we might not have come very far. The Indiana Supreme Court recently heard a divorce/child custody case involving a father who had agreed to abdicate his visitation time with his children in exchange for paying less child support. It was all adopted as a court order.

The father later changed his mind -- hopefully because he came to his senses -- and sought to change the order, thus leading to the Supreme Court decision.

The Indiana high court has been making some sound decisions lately, and this is one of them. In this case, the justice's expressed the same horror that I felt. Parents should not be able to abdicate parenting time in exchange for child support discounts.

Attorneys and lower courts should eradicate such out-of-court settlements from the get-go, the court ruled.

The difference between these two examples is that the Indiana Supreme Court was here to do the right thing in the child support/visitation case. But who was there in 1948 for those four little children who were sold like cattle? And who is there today for the countless other acts of injustice perpetuated on children?

It's a sad commentary on society when children are viewed as property and not the future of our communities and country.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

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