People in Wisconsin and around the world are memorializing the thousands of passengers who perished on the Titanic's maiden voyage 100 years ago this week. The cultural mystique of the ship heralded as "unsinkable" has largely been maintained by the Hollywood film that depicted the ship's journey.
One issue many people may not immediately consider when remembering the Titanic is a child custody issue that played out in the headlines after the ship's demise. The father of two young French boys, aged two and four years, placed them on the last lifeboat to successfully leave the ship. Both boys survived, but appeared to be without a parent when they arrived in the United States.
Unable to communicate in English, there was serious confusion over who was responsible for the children. They were the sole surviving children who did not have a parent with them, so they became popularly known as the "Titanic orphans" and were taken into temporary foster care by another French passenger.
Eventually, the boys' mother saw their picture in the newspaper and brought them back into her care. The two boys were staying with their father, who had recently split from their mother, when they decided to move to the United States. At the time of the parents' split their mother was awarded full custody, but their father decided to take them to America anyway.
This incredible story is one that would not likely play-out in exactly the same way today with the advent of modern technology, but it still includes details that are relevant to many Milwaukee families in 2012. It is not unheard of for parents to attempt to geographically isolate their kids from the other parent, in defiance of court-ordered custody arrangements. Though the boys' story is laced with tragedy, they were still reunited with one of their parents.
When modern day Wisconsin parents are in the midst of a contentious child custody disagreement, they should always try to preserve the child's best interests. Understandably, divorcing parents may have anger toward each other, but if they are willing to negotiate a fair custody arrangement, everyone involved can stand to benefit.
Source: The Daily Mail, "The Titanic Orphans: Two brothers put on last lifeboat by father who died in disaster (and were only reunited with their mother after she saw newspaper appeal)," Kerry McQueeney, March 25, 2012