Child must visit dad, court affirms

Once again a Saratoga County mother has been ordered to make her young daughter available for visits

Once again a Saratoga County mother has been ordered to make her young daughter available for visits with her father, a convicted child molester incarcerated in Dannemora.

The Court of Appeals last week rejected the mother’s final attempt to block the visits, denying her request to appeal an earlier decision.

The rejection was without comment, and her lawyer said that was the end of the matter.

That means the girl, who is now 5 years, 8 months old, will have to make four visits a year to Clinton Correctional Facility, a three-hour drive north, probably transported by members of her father’s family.

You may remember the father, Christopher Culver. He was a kindergarten teacher in the Shenendehowa Central School District until 2007, when he was accused of sexually molesting little boys in his care.

He pleaded guilty to all 49 counts against him and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

His wife divorced him, changed her last name and their daughter’s last name, and endeavored to get on with her life.

But Culver filed a petition seeking visitation rights with his daughter, whom he was not accused of molesting, and Saratoga County Family Court granted his request after hearing from a psychologist that there would be nothing traumatic about such visitation.

“It takes place across the country,” testified the psychologist, Jerold Grodin, “and these are programs that have been working for many, many years, and if it is the way in which to keep a child and a father connected, then it should be utilized,” an opinion with which the child’s court-appointed attorney agreed.

The mother vehemently disagreed, but now the dispute has run its legal course. The visits are allowed, and so are weekly telephone calls from father to daughter.

At least the mother won’t have to pay the cost of transportation and counseling, as Family Court originally decreed. The appeals court kicked that over to the father.

My own view, in case you’re wondering, is ambivalent. I object to courts taking children away from parents when parents have not harmed those children, which puts me on the side of the father. But if I were the mother I believe I’d feel as outraged as she does. Force my child to go into a maximum security prison to visit a convicted child molester? Over my dead body.

It would be easier if everything in this world were black and white.


Newspapers are like any other specialized business — educational testing, auto mechanics, waste-hauling. If you want to participate you have to know the lingo.

With newspapers it’s quite easy, and anyone can learn in just a few easy lessons.

For example, if you want to say in a newspaper that something promoted or increased or fed or encouraged something else, you say “fueled.”

I make a quick check of the archives of just this newspaper and the Times Union, and I find that the resignation of a European bank official “fueled fears that leaders are at odds over how to solve the Greek crisis”; a torrent of water was “fueled by runoff from Hurricane Irene”; compliments “fueled the hype around the kid from Connecticut”; and, “theories have fueled countless superstitions, traditions and religions, and those in turn have fueled countless wars, peace movements and crusades.” A whole lot of fueling.

If you want to say there was drinking going on at a party, you say it was an “alcohol-fueled party,” always.

I also find in one story that “a buildup of propane gas fueled a huge explosion,” which I suspect is a case of accidental appropriateness, a writer using “fueled” just because that’s what one uses in a newspaper and without realizing it happened to fit.

A related word, with more positive connotations, is “spurred.”

Fears, floods and drunken brawls are fueled, but economic development and other more desirable phenomena are spurred, though this is not a hard-and-fast rule but more like a tendency.

I find “donations were spurred by the devastation,” where you wouldn’t be likely to find “fueled.”

I find “spurred by the low price of beef,” ranchers are trying new cattle-herding techniques, which I like, combining “spurring” with ranchers. There again, “fueling” wouldn’t quite fit.

But I also find “an afternoon rally spurred by a drop in oil prices,” where I think “fueled” would have gone nicely.

Then of course there’s “ramp up,” another newspaper favorite. That also means to increase but with a punchy flavor that newspapers can’t resist.

Sometimes it takes an object, as in “ramping up their warehouse expertise,” or “ramping up their seafood marketing efforts,” both of which I find in the archives, and sometimes it doesn’t.

I find, “The 2012 presidential campaign is ramping up,” with no indication that it’s ramping up anything in particular. It’s just ramping up, that’s all. Like a museum in Los Angeles that is “ramping up with a new support group.”

“City Hall, spurred by a state grant, is ramping up efforts to license dogs, fueling a debate over pit bulls.”

That would be a nice sentence to find in the wild.

There are other words and phrases too, that are essential to the craft, but that’s all I have room for this time.

Categories: Opinion

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