Scottish Mother Asked for Help, Received Trauma from Child Welfare Agency

selective focus photo of father carrying his child 1701635

August 27, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Why is it that child welfare agencies in different countries sometimes seem so alike?  I comment on those agencies in all parts of the English-speaking world and the issues are almost all the same – nameless, faceless bureaucrats who seem to see their job as taking as many children from parents as possible.  Secrecy of the process, failure to follow the rules of the agency itself, lying by agency officials and “emergency” hearings held solely to avoid parental resistance round out the sorry state of governmental efforts to care for kids at risk of abuse or neglect.

And so it is here in Scotland (The Scotsman, 8/19/20).

Mrs. A and her children’s father are estranged.  They have two children, one of whom has an autism spectrum disorder.  So Mrs. A contacted her local council for help in dealing with her autistic daughter.

Big mistake. 

Far from providing the help she sought, the Moray Council ended up taking both children into “care.”  That lasted for an astonishing 18 months, during which of course the children were traumatized by being separated from their parents and each other.

Mrs. A and others complained to the council early on in the proceedings, but their complaints were completely ignored.  Hearings on the children’s welfare were brought on an “emergency” basis when in fact there was no emergency.  But that meant Mrs. A and her children couldn’t be present while the children’s fates were decided.

Moray Council social workers, along with police, removed two girls from their family home within five months of their mum seeking support for her eldest child who is autistic, and over the course of two years continually breached their own regulations and policies.

The inquiry report by [Scottish Public Services Ombudsman] states that social workers failed to provide clear assessments of risk, made unfounded allegations about the mum’s mental health, and denied the children the right to attend hearings about their care or include their feelings and views in what was happening to them.

They also placed the older child in a residential home for teenagers when she was only 11, and the other into foster care, without any attempt to have them live with extended family, despite offers from grandparents – and even failed to inform the parents when the younger child was hospitalised after being taken into care.

As is so often the case, the result of the agency’s intervention into the family, far from being helpful, ended up as destructive and traumatizing.

[T]he mother said: “Our family was torn apart and our children traumatised and damaged by their treatment by the social work service of Moray Council.

“Asking for assistance and support in coping with a child with special needs led to us experiencing a nightmare of aggressive and unprofessional interventions, and the unnecessary and traumatic removal of the children by uniformed police. Worse, our children had to suffer over 18 months of loss of the love and care of their family while they were in the “care” of the council.”

The council’s behavior was so bad that not only did the SPSO investigate the case, it issued 15 recommendations for improvement in the future, and did so publicly.  In other words, the Ombudsman isn’t happy and wants everyone to know it.  That may be because this case arose just four months after another case of abusive behavior by the Moray Council.  It may also be because, unlike other agencies that were involved in Mrs. A’s case, the council has yet to apologize for its behavior.

And, just to add insult to injury, two of the managers involved in the case have been promoted.  Of course they have.  As Maggie Mellon, of the Parents Advocacy and Rights (PAR) charity, said,

“It is disturbing that senior managers in the council consistently refused to recognise the concerns about their decisions and actions that were brought to them very early on by firstly the family and then by me in my professional capacity.”

She added: “Two of the senior managers involved have since moved on to be Chief Social Work Officers in larger councils. They both were personally involved in rejecting all attempts to have an earlier resolution, ignoring all evidence of breaches of regulations and guidance and of their own advertised policies.

And so it goes.  The arrogance of state officials who know to a virtual certainty that they will not be disciplined for their misbehavior seems the same everywhere.  In Mrs. A’s case, they were caught; in most similar cases, they’re not.  My guess is that Mrs. A and her advocate, Maggie Mellon, have a degree of skill at asserting their rights and those of their children that most people don’t.  The poor and poorly educated everywhere bear the brunt of child welfare authorities’ malfeasance.


Will Kamala Harris Promote Family Court Reform?

pexels element digital 1550337

August 26, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Will Senator Kamala Harris go to bat for parental equality in family courts?  As a senator and California’s Attorney General, she never has, but, as the Democratic nominee for Vice President, she now occupies a much more prominent position on the national stage.  Why would she use that newfound influence on behalf of divorced and separated parents?  See this New York Times article (New York Times, 8/21/20).

Harris’ father and mother are both immigrants to this country, her mother from India, her father from Jamaica.  They met in the ‘60s and married.  Her father, Donald J. Harris was a rising star in academia in the field of economics.  As such, the family moved a good deal from one college or university to another as Harris’ prospects steadily improved. 

But theirs was not a marriage made in heaven.  The pair didn’t get along and separated when their daughter was five years old, divorcing two years later.

The divorce was bitter…

Dr. Harris, in his 2018 essay, said his early, close contact with his daughters “came to an abrupt halt” after a contentious custody battle. He said the divorce settlement had been “based on the false assumption by the State of California that fathers cannot handle parenting (especially in the case of this father, ‘a neegroe from da eyelans,’ was the Yankee stereotype, who might just end up eating his children for breakfast!) Nevertheless I persisted, never giving up on my love for my children.”

Dr. Harris of course was no run-of-the-mill dad, but a highly intelligent, highly accomplished professor who ended his career at Stanford University.  What was there about him that meant his relationship with his daughters had to come “to an abrupt halt?”  Apparently nothing but his sex.  After all, however biased against people of color California courts might have been back in the early ‘70s, that bias would surely have extended to an Indian woman as well.  But it was the anti-dad bias that’s been so often remarked on that told the tale of the Harris divorce and the marginalization of Donald Harris in the lives of his children.

Interestingly, Senator Harris doesn’t seem eager to bring the matter up.

In a warm, encyclopedic tribute to her family Wednesday night, as she formally accepted the vice-presidential nomination, Senator Kamala Harris skimmed past any discussion of her father, Donald J. Harris, a Jamaican-born professor of economics at Stanford University.

Now, I fully understand that her speech to the Democratic National Convention wasn’t the time to raise prickly personal issues, but the fact remains that Senator Harris has yet to say anything about family court reform which is, in fact, the most important social issue of our day.  Single-parent households contribute to a host of social, educational and legal ills in ways that no other condition does.  Many years ago, a California judge brought the hammer down on her relationship with her father, uniquely positioning her to talk about family court reform.  So I hope to see Kamala Harris bring the matter before a national audience.  We’ll see. 

If not now, when?  If not her, who?


Contact With Both Parents is Important After Separating

Is contact with both parents important after separating? Watch the video and visit the article here


Australian High Court Gives Paternity Fraud a Pass

baby sitting on man s shoulder 1497394

August 25, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Australia’s High Court has struck down a husband’s effort to sue his ex-wife for fraud due to her leading him to believe he was the father of two her children when in fact he was not.  The Court is both right and wrong in its decision that cries out for legislative remedy.

Liam Magill was married to Meredith Magill.  During the term of their marriage, she gave birth to three children.  Liam assumed he was the father of all three, but in fact, he fathered only the middle child.  Meredith allowed him to continue his assumption and indeed contributed to it.  For example, when the children were born, she filled out certain necessary forms that attend the birth of a child in Australia.  Those forms named Liam as the father.  Liam also signed the forms so stating.  As such, it seems clear that, whether intentionally or not, she informed him that he was the father of the children.

Later, he learned he wasn’t and the pair split up.  He sued her for the tort of “deceit,” and the trial court rendered judgment in his favor.  That judgment was overturned by the Court of Appeal whose ruling was upheld by the High Court.  Why?

Because, in Australia as in the U.S. and every other jurisdiction in the English-speaking world, there’s no duty on the part of a mother to inform the father that he has a child, nor is there any legal duty to tell her husband that he’s not.  In short, the two appellate courts ruled that there’s silence on the part of the mother wasn’t actionable.  Her decision to withhold the information about the children’s paternity was entirely her prerogative.  Nothing in either statute or common law requires her to tell the truth about the paternity of her children.

It’s a remarkable legal stance by any definition.

For example, in countless situations, we impose a duty of disclosure irrespective of whether there’s a specific statute requiring it.  Generally, a seller of anything who knows about a latent defect not easily observed by a potential buyer is required to disclose it.  That requirement overturns the old common law notion of caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) and does so for a perfectly sensible reason.  The seller knows about the defect and the buyer doesn’t.  Therefore, the seller bears the burden of disclosure.

But when it comes to paternity, we do the opposite.  We allow mothers to hide behind fathers’ lack of knowledge in order to perpetrate paternity fraud.  Again, no jurisdiction places the requirement of disclosure of what is undeniably a material fact on the person with knowledge of that material fact. 

The High Court rightly ruled that, since there was no duty of disclosure, failure to do so by Meredith was not actionable at law.

Now, I argue that Meredith’s representations on the birth forms that Liam read constitutes an affirmative representation to him of his paternity.  They were lies by her to him made for the purpose, or certainly the result, of getting him to play the role of father.  Therefore, her alleged “silence” on which both appellate court rulings hung, was no silence at all.  So, I contend that their rulings were at odds with obvious facts.

Whatever the case, the course for the Australian Parliament is clear – enact a statute requiring mothers to inform all possible fathers of their potential paternity.  In that way, the actual paternity of all children will be established at birth and the blight of paternity fraud will no more mar the lives of children and men alike.

After all, why would any legislative body stand by and watch as children’s lives are thrown into turmoil because their mother chose to lie about paternity?  Why should men’s parental rights depend entirely on the goodwill of mothers who may or may not be inclined to tell the truth?  Here in the U.S., we laud fathers and cry to the heavens that they’re important to their children’s well-being, but at the same time make no provision to ensure that they can be a part of their lives.  It makes no sense.

Plus of course the trauma inflicted on the man who believes he’s the father but turns out not to be is an outrage to any society that seeks to call itself civilized.  And the denial of parental rights to the man who is the father but doesn’t know the fact, is no less so.

There is, very literally, no excuse for allowing paternity fraud to continue and many reasons why it shouldn’t. 

It’s long past time for legislatures to act.


Zimmerman: DV Orders Issued Without Evidence or Knowledge of the Targeted Parent

child cute dad 105952

August 21, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Finally, in his presentation to Australia’s Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System, Augusto Zimmerman takes on false allegations of domestic violence asserted in family courts.

That’s a highly relevant topic, given that almost the sole justification for opposition to shared parenting comes from radical feminists and the domestic violence industry.  They routinely claim that judges ignore claims of DV in order to give primary child custody to abusive fathers.  And, according to them, all those claims are valid, or false ones are so rare that they’re unimportant in the big picture.

Zimmerman takes down those patently untrue claims.

[S]urveys indicate that the general public is now fully aware that false allegations of domestic violence are regularly made, although accusers are virtually never punished. In a survey with over 12,500 Australian respondents, more than half agreed with the statement that ‘women going through custody battles often make up or exaggerate claims of domestic violence in order to improve their case, and only 28 per cent disagreed.’[16]

The same findings were obtained in a survey of 68 Australian families by Dr Sotirious Sarantakos. This sociology professor at Charles Sturt University discovered that a considerable number of allegations of domestic violence are patently false. In such cases, ‘the initial allegations of DV were modified considerably by them during the course of the study, particularly when they were faced with the accounts of their children and mothers, admitting in the end that they were neither victims of violence nor acting in self-defence’.

Plus, family court judges who regularly deal with these claims well know that they’re often made for no reason other than to gain an advantage in the litigation.

As for members of the judiciary, the overwhelming majority of magistrates agree that false claims are often sought for collateral reasons pertaining to family court disputes and child custody issues. According to David Collier, a retired judge from the Parramatta Family Court, these orders have now become a “major weapon” in the war between parents who wish to secure sole custody of children.

In this sense, a survey of 38 magistrates in Queensland reveals that 74 per cent of them agreed that domestic violence restraining orders are often used for tactical purposes.

Similarly, a survey of 68 magistrates from New South Wales informs that 90 per cent of them agree that such orders are commonly sought as a ‘tactical device’ to aid applicants with family law disputes, and to deprive former partners of contact with their biological children.

And why wouldn’t they be?  It is quite the irony that the very judges who know that many accusations of DV are false and made only to more easily marginalize the other parent in the lives of the children are the ones issuing the orders that do exactly that.  Crocodile tears, indeed.

And, speaking of marginalizing the other parent,

There is indeed an obvious link between restraining orders, false claims of domestic violence, and parental alienation.

Of course there is.  If one parent is bent on alienating the child, what better way to begin than by levelling a charge of DV against the other parent?  The alienator will know to a virtual certainty that the judge will issue an order keeping the targeted parent away from the child and the child’s home.  And that of course creates the ideal circumstance for further alienation, i.e. the alienator with 24-hour custody of the child.  Therefore, via the DV process, judges abet parental alienation.

In addition to handing out DV restraining orders like candy on Halloween, the targets of those orders often aren’t given an opportunity to defend themselves because the hearings are ex parte, i.e. conducted without the target’s knowledge or presence in court.  Not only that, but often those orders are issued on the basis of no evidence.

The problem of false allegations lies particularly in how these restraining orders are issued and the grounds for which they are made. Unfortunately, a considerable number of restraining orders are granted on a ‘without admissions’ basis that have virtually no evidentiary value in themselves.

There is therefore a notorious lack of scrutiny concerning the nature and substance of these complaints. That being so, it is always important to remind us that not everyone who applies for a restraining order is a genuine victim of violence, just as not everyone who is subject to such an order is necessarily the perpetrator. In fact, the person who is protected by the order may sometimes be the actual perpetrator, whereas the one bound by the order may actually be the real victim.

Under those circumstances, the targeted parent answers the doorbell one day only to be confronted by armed officers telling him to leave his house and not return.  Why?  He has no way of knowing, but his life is thrown into turmoil anyway.

Because respondents are required to vacate their family home, the granting of such orders have profound implications for the lives of those who are affected…

These orders nullify the fundamental right of homeowners to occupy their property, thus making a crime out of the ordinarily innocent act of merely returning home.

Furthermore, these orders often restrict contact with children, which may result in supervised parenting time or no time at all.  A parent receiving such an order must immediately vacate his or her home and make no further contact with their children.

This is about children being maliciously alienated from one of their parents. These orders, separating fathers from their children for years, and even life, are often issued without any evidence of legal wrongdoing. They are often issued at a hearing at which the accused person is not present.

In short, the entire system of dealing with DV allegations should be scrapped and another put in its place that balances the need for protection from actual harm with the rights of the accused.  As long as the current system remains, those who want to use it unjustly for malicious and deleterious ends will continue to do so.

Thanks to Augusto Zimmerman for fighting the good fight.  It’s far from over.


Play Is Serious Work

dad tossing kid in the air

August 20, 2020 by Don Hubin, Ph.D., Chair, National Board of Directors

Don’t denigrate play. It’s serious child-rearing work. And, it turns out that dads and moms play with their children differently (on average–obviously, there are many individual variations).

According to recent research from Cambridge University reported in The Guardian, dads “tend to engage in more physical play like tickling, chasing, and piggy-back rides.” Even with the youngest children, fathers enjoy more “boisterous rough-and-tumble play.”

This won’t be news to most parents, and certainly not to anyone who has read Dr. Anna Manchin’s terrific book, The Life of Dad. I once read  an article by an expert on child development who frequently asked audiences of mothers and fathers for a show of hands of those who would play with their older infants by raising them up and down in their arms. Almost every hand in the room went up. Then this expert asked, and how many of the parents toss the infant up, letting go and then catching them. Then, this expert said, almost all of the mothers’ hands went down.

All kinds of play, including rough-and-tumble play have specific benefits for children.  “Children who benefited from ‘high-quality’ playtime with their fathers were, according to the study, less likely to display hyperactivity, emotional or behavioural difficulties. They also appeared to be able to control their aggression, and were less likely to lash out at other children during disagreements at school.”

The next time you’re playing hard with your toddler or child, or the next time you see a father doing this, remember: it’s not just play; it’s serious work. (That doesn’t mean that it’s not a lot of fun, too, though!)


Interview with Linda Nielsen on Improving Father-Daughter Relationships

We had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Linda Nielsen, a renowned researcher in the world of shared parenting and father-daughter relationships. In her interview, she talks about her new book Improving Father-Daughter Relationships: A Guide for Women and their Dadsand how fathers and daughters benefit from good relationships with each other. interestingly, she also talks about how fathers greatly benefit when they have a deeper relationship with their daughters. She also talks about how some women regret not having a more than surface-level relationship when their fathers pass away. She talks about how it is important for fathers and daughters to get to know each other including their feelings and beliefs. She also talks about how a father will influence their daughters in the areas of money, relationships and success in life. She also discusses how mothers and stepmothers can inadvertently harm the relationship between the father and the daughter, and what to do about it. You can visit her site and buy her book here.


Zimmerman: Repeal Spousal Maintenance Laws

baby sitting on man s shoulder 1497394

August 18, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Professor Augusto Zimmerman goes on, in his presentation to the Joint Select Committee, to take on the issue of spousal maintenance (A Sense of Place, 7/27/20).  As with the child support/parental alienation/male suicide triumvirate of issues, he pulls no punches.

Surely, there is little doubt that elementary considerations of fairness and equity demand that the law compelling the payment of spouse maintenance be immediately repealed under the current ‘no-fault’ system.

It is that system of “no-fault” divorce that’s the focus of his opposition to alimony.  Zimmerman points out that, in the past, when marriage was much less easy to dissolve than it is today, a system of spousal maintenance could be defended.  After all, back then, women tended to be the primary or sole caregivers to children and, if a man violated his marriage contract, could be left with no means of support.

But today’s reality bears little resemblance to that of pre-“no-fault” days.

During the ‘no-fault’ revolution in Western societies throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the law removed considerations of ‘fault’ and divorce became a ‘right’ freely available at the decision of one spouse even against the wishes of the other.

Naturally, it becomes far more difficult in such circumstances to justify support for a young woman who leaves her husband for reasons such as boredom or because she has formed a new relationship outside the marital relationship.

Indeed, it is precisely that blatant unfairness that so rankles so many payers of alimony.  The idea that the lower earning spouse can fail/refuse to financially contribute to the family, have an extra-marital affair, divorce the other spouse and be paid to do so is simply a bit much for many people.  To the extent our legal system embraces such plainly unjust outcomes, it loses credibility and legitimacy with everyday people.

Curiously though, Zimmerman never mentions the more telling and obvious argument against alimony – that only the disabled or the very old can be said to need that support.  Again, the simple fact is that both women and men can support themselves and any legal requirement that they be supported by an ex-spouse is both unnecessary and unjust.  Essentially anyone can work and earn a living.  They should be required to do so.

Moreover, the promise of alimony is a considerable incentive to divorce.  It’s a regular payment of cash, usually for years and often enough for life.  Like all offers of cash, it powerfully motivates the potential recipient to do what’s required to get it.  In this case, divorce is the only thing required. 

Society has a great interest in stable, long-lasting marriages.  Married adults are more likely to be employed, less likely to commit crime and ingest illicit drugs, etc. than are unmarried adults.  And of course two married parents tend strongly to produce healthier, happier children than do unmarried parents, so a healthy society promotes stable marriages.  Ours does the opposite and alimony is an integral part of that disfunction.

Zimmerman’s argument that Australia’s system of spousal maintenance is unfair is apt, as far as it goes.  But it’s incomplete and, I suspect, insufficient to reform the law.  Somehow I just can’t see appeals to fairness and justice getting much traction, given the current state of discourse about family courts and family law in the Land Down Under.


Augusto Zimmerman Speaks Out on Family Law in Australia

david straight sAabA4Z8OfU unsplash

August 17, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

In Australian Family Law, Augusto Zimmerman is a heavyweight.  He’s a highly-respected academic, former Law Reform Commissioner and current President of Western Australia’s Legal Theory Association.  When Zimmerman talks, people listen.  I hope they do in this case.

The linked-to article is adapted from Zimmerman’s presentation to the current Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Family Law System that’s once again looking into how to make family law fair to children and parents (A Sense of Place, 7/27/20).  He doesn’t mince words.  His words positively seethe with indignation.

For example, the first section of his presentation is entitled “Child Support Payments, Parental Alienation and Adult Male Suicide – an Undeniable Link.”  Strong stuff, and he backs up every word.

In a nutshell, child support levels are determined by Australian courts based on the number of days a custodial parent has the child in her care – the more days, the more dollars.  Unsurprisingly, “it is entirely reasonable to expect that a primary carer may be very tempted to withhold access for solely monetary reasons.”

Stated another way, when we offer a person monetary incentives to take a certain action, we aren’t surprised when the person takes that action.  Money can have that effect.

And, given those incentives and the fact that custodial parents (the huge majority of whom are mothers) often fight to keep non-custodial parents’ parenting time to a minimum, the expedient of parental alienation often becomes the weapon of choice.  After all, why not get little Andy or Jenny to reject Dad outright and so reduce his parenting time from minimal to nothing at all? 


The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reports that the suicide rate for men aged 20 to 39 years has risen by 70 per cent over the last two decades.

This finding has been highlighted in an academic paper by Susan Beaton and Peter Forster. Published by the Australian Psychological Society, these two experts in suicide preventions explain that ‘suicide is the number one killer of men under 44 years’ in Australia, and that the dramatic increase in male suicide is at least partially due to marriage breakdown coupled with ‘poorer social support among divorced males’

According to sociology professor Augustine Kpsowa of the University of California at Riverside, divorce following the loss of contact with their children is undoubtedly a major factor of male suicide. ‘As far as the divorced man is concerned, he has lost his marriage and lost his children and that can lead to depression and suicide’, Professor Kpsowa says.

In short, child support law begets parental alienation that begets male suicide.  Or sometimes it’s just the loss of a father’s children and his status as father that drives him to despair.  Of course, fortunately few fathers actually take their own life, but the point is less that particular tragedy than the profound and powerful impact of the family law system on the emotional/psychological well-being of non-custodial parents.  Is the devastation wrought on children who lose a father and fathers who lose their children truly the best Australian family law can do?

Augusto Zimmerman thinks not and he’s doing his utmost to wring sensible reform from a family law system that’s long been in thrall to the false notion that children having meaningful time with their fathers can only mean violence for mothers.  It’s an absurd idea based on flaky data, but to date, it’s held sway.  Maybe the Joint Select Committee will do better than the last effort at reform.  We’ll see.

I’ll have more to say on Zimmerman’s piece next time.



DCS Attack on Donald Williams: Unconstitutional From the Start

black and white boy child childhood 208106 2

August 12, 2020 by Robert Franklin, JD, Member, National Board of Directors

Last time I posted a piece about Donald Williams, Jr., the California man who narrowly avoided having Arizona child welfare officials shanghai his daughter Melody away from him and into foster care and then adoption.  The process took over four years, but Williams finally prevailed in the Arizona appellate court.  His daughter now lives with him and he’s rightly suing the Arizona Department of Child Safety for deprivation of his constitutionally-guaranteed parental rights.

Today I want to delve into that case a bit deeper.  Here’s the appellate court’s decision that makes all too clear what DCS agents were up to.  Judges write in a very circumspect manner, but beneath that calm veneer, it’s easy to see the unanimous panel seething.  What DCS did was outrageous by any stretch of the imagination.

Most importantly, it was from the start.  DCS knew they had a child of a father who was both impecunious and lived out of state.  Getting his child away from him and into foster care and then to adoption surely looked like the easiest of slam-dunks and DCS lost no time in seeking to remove Williams from Melody’s life.  From the very beginning they violated long-established U.S. Supreme Court precedent that’s written into Arizona statute law regarding state power and parental rights. 

Put simply, the state cannot legally intervene into families in which parents are fit and children aren’t being abused or neglected.  Everyone in the Arizona child welfare bureaucracy knows the law (or should), and everyone in Williams’ case violated it.  In short, they did so intentionally and the juvenile court that ruled on the matter took part.

The very first hearing in the case took place solely to decide whether Melody was “dependent,” i.e. whether she needed the state to step in and care for her.  She didn’t.  Williams had contacted the department and let them know he wanted to care for his child.  The department had no evidence that he was an unfit parent, and of course produced none at the hearing.  Given that, Melody should have been pronounced not dependent at the first hearing and handed over to Williams.

But that’s not what happened.  DCS filed pleadings claiming that he was (a) unfit and (b) had abandoned his child.  As to (a), they had no evidence and as to (b), they knew he’d done no such thing.  So their pleadings that were intentionally false as were the affidavits of caseworkers in support of those pleadings.  As the appellate court said, in its understated way,

The lack of factual support for the allegations in the petition relating to Father’s unfitness creates significant concerns about the ethical propriety of filing the dependency petition claiming Father abused or neglected and abandoned Melody.   

“Ethical propriety,” indeed.  That’s an open invitation for an inquiry into the ethics of the lawyer who filed the pleading and the DCS employees who signed the affidavits.

Still, the judge, who presumably knows the applicable constitutional law, pronounced Melody dependent and the case was off and running.  With the dependency finding in hand, DCS managed to string out the case for an astonishing four years.

Less than six months later, the State of California conducted an investigation of Williams at the request of Arizona DCS, pursuant to the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

The ICPC social worker in California interviewed Father in his home, then separately interviewed his ex-wife, children, and a friend. The report noted that Father’s ex-wife stated: “[he] was a good father, who cares and provides for his children.” After interviewing Father’s children at their school, the social worker further noted that “[i]t is obvious that [the children] feel loved and cared for by their father and that he is very involved in their lives.”

The ICPC concluded: [Father] had good references and all stated that [he] is an excellent parent to his children. From observation it appears that he has a positive relationship with his children and they look to him for attention and affection.

In short, Williams was the very opposite of how he was portrayed by DCS in its pleadings and affidavits.

Williams should have had custody of his daughter immediately after contacting DCS and being proven to be her actual father.  That didn’t happen.  Ten months later, DCS had the ICPC report from California.  It should have then and there handed Melody to him.  Nothing prevented it from doing so, but instead it set up roadblocks to him seeing her.

Recall that Williams had little money with which to finance travel between Sacramento, where he lived, and Phoenix, where Melody lived.  So he got the court to order the state to reimburse him for his travel expenses.  Despite being ordered to do so by the court, DCS never did so on time.  Williams depended on each reimbursement to fund his next trip to Arizona.  When the money wasn’t produced, he couldn’t make the trip.  And that’s exactly what DCS wanted.

Armed with that “evidence,” they told the juvenile court that he was failing to keep his scheduled visitations with Melody and therefore had abandoned her.  That spurred the court to finally terminate his rights, an order that the appellate court overturned.

The entire case is one of the most egregious attempts by a child welfare agency to snatch a child from a father it knew to be not only not unfit, but in fact a “good father,” “an excellent father” and one whose children obviously feel loved and cared for by him.  To do so, the agency didn’t hesitate to lie to the juvenile court and to drag its feet for over four years and all in the service of wresting a small girl from her loving father. 

Heads should roll at DCS, but they won’t.  No, Williams will win his lawsuit against DCS, but the money will be chalked up by the agency as just another cost of doing business.  Meanwhile, other fit parents had best be on the lookout. DCS will stop at nothing.