Daddy Wars

not daddies fighting daddies.

This is about a war against fathers. The daddies that want to be involved and can't be.

My [Glenn Sacks] new co-authored column, Choosing Foster Parents over Fathers (San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/11/07), discusses perhaps the worst verified child custody/family law injustice against a father and a daughter which I have ever seen--the outrageous Melinda Smith foster care case.

It's horrifying. Imagine a world where an unwed couple fathers a child, a little girl. The father (like so many) is involved in his daughter's life, loves her and pays child support faithfully.

Then, imagine the mother moves away, taking the child with her -leaving no forwarding address. He can no longer see her on a regular basis, but still faithfully pays the mother child support to take care of his daughter (this can happen if the father pays through "friend of the court".

It happened that the girl was removed from her mother's home because of abuse and she was placed in the foster care system.

The father was never notified.

Thomas--whose fitness as a father was never impugned nor legally questioned--continued to receive and pay his child support bills. Authorities refused to disclose his daughter’s whereabouts, and didn’t even inform him that his daughter had been taken by the County. Smith employed private investigators and attorneys to try to find Melinda and secure visitation rights, but he eventually ran out of money.

Rather than allowing Smith to raise his own daughter, the system shuttled Melinda through seven different foster care placements. An understandably angry child, her outbursts led authorities to house her in a residential treatment center alongside older children convicted of criminal activity—when she was only seven years old.

Melinda says that during this period she was told that her father was a “deadbeat dad” who had abandoned her. When Melinda was 16, she told an investigating social worker that the “most important thing” for her was to find her dad. Moved by her story, the social worker began searching for Melinda’s father--and found him in one day. In 2005, Thomas and Melinda were finally reunited.

Surely this must be an aberration, right?

Unfortunately, the Smith case is no aberration. When a mother and father are divorced or separated, and a child welfare agency removes the children from the mother’s home for abuse or neglect, an offer of placement to the father, barring unfitness, should be automatic. Yet in the report What About the Dads? Child Welfare Agencies’ Efforts to Identify, Locate, and Involve Nonresident Fathers, the Urban Institute presents a shocking finding: when fathers inform child welfare officials that they would like their children to live with them, the agencies seek to place the children with their fathers only 15% of the time.

We need to be more vocal about fathers' rights. Take a look around Glenn Sacks' site, read some of his columns and be appalled by the "system"

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