An Important Win for Fathers, Children in Nebraska Supreme Court

Nebraska–We’ve often discussed anti-father bias in Child Protective Services cases. Fathers are frequently marginalized and deprived of custody of their children when their wives/ex-wives/ex-girlfriends abuse their children. This terrible Nebraska case detailed below is another example. In the case, a mother abused her daughter and child protective services took the girl. There were no accusations of abuse against the father. Nevertheless, they deceived and manipulated the father into relinquishing custody of his daughter. The girl was left fatherless — can anyone guess what’s going to happen to her? Surprise, surprise
— without her father, the girl’s life, in the words of the Nebraska Supreme Court, “spun out of control.” She lived the life that so many fatherless girls live — doing drugs, running away from home, getting pregnant at a young age, etc. Justice in these types of cases is rarely done. In this one, justice came, but it came too late. An important finding for fathers The Nebraska Supreme Court said the girl had been “deprived of her right to a relationship with her father.” One attorney noted: “The ruling reinforces the principle that children have a right to a relationship with their parents, as well as parents having rights to their children.” In other words, the Nebraska Supreme Court has agreed with the central argument we put forward — absent parental unfitness, children have a right to a relationship with both their parents. The story is below–thanks to Les Veskrna, MD, Executive Director of the Children’s Rights Council of Nebraska, for sending it. Court says state erred in family meddling BY MARTHA STODDARD Omaha World Herald, 5/24/08 LINCOLN — A child welfare worker who wrongfully talked a Kimball, Neb., man into giving up his daughter for adoption must pay damages to the girl, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday. The high court agreed with the Kimball County District Court that Kelly Case, a caseworker for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, deprived the girl of her right to a relationship with her father without due process. As a result, the high court said, the girl”s life “spun out of control.’ The girl, identified only as Amanda C., began doing drugs, ran away from her grandparents” home, gave birth to a child out of wedlock and struggled financially. “The evidence shows that the relinquishment that Case wrongfully orchestrated was a substantial factor in Amanda”s downward social spiral,’ the Supreme Court said. The high court upheld an award of $150,000 in damages and $64,697 in legal and other costs to Amanda. Case was defended in the matter by the Attorney General”s Office and an HHS attorney. The state likely will pay the award. The ruling reinforces the principle that children have a right to a relationship with their parents, as well as parents having rights to their children, said Monte Neilan of Scottsbluff, Amanda”s attorney. He said the case would help other families who are involved with the child welfare system, because it says state employees cannot simply take people”s children and refuse to be accountable for their actions. “It shows that the law has some teeth,’ Neilan said. “It”s a case that I would anticipate would be cited for years to come’… Amanda”s father, Gary Richmond, filed the lawsuit on her behalf in 2004. Richmond had settled a similar case with the state worker less than a year earlier, a lawsuit regarding his relinquishment of parental rights. In that suit, a jury found that Case abused her authority as a state employee by engaging in the unauthorized practice of law. Trial evidence showed that she repeatedly told Richmond he could still visit his daughter if he willingly gave up his parental rights but that he risked losing visitation if a court terminated his rights. Case appealed the jury verdict but agreed to settle before the appeal was heard. In the settlement, she agreed to pay $130,000, including $40,991 in damages. Neilan said the state paid the award for Case. According to Friday”s ruling, Case was assigned to Amanda five years after the state took her from her parents. The girl had been removed at about age 5 because of alleged abuse by her mother. There were no allegations against her father. Yet three years later, the Kimball County attorney filed a petition to terminate Richmond”s parental rights. Richmond signed the relinquishment papers in 1998. He filed his suit in 1999. Neilan said Richmond and Amanda reconnected following the settlement in Richmond”s case and were able to spend time together. He also said Amanda has straightened her life around and has a steady job and a car. But she lost her father for good last year. Richmond, who suffered from heart problems, died at age 62 in October.

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