Embattled Cuban Father Wins Sole Custody in ‘Elian Gonzalez II’ Case

Ned Holstein meets with Florida Department of Children and Families Regional Administrator Gilda Ferradaz on October 24 in Miami.

Ned Holstein Meets with Cuban Father Rafael Izquierdo in Miami on October 24.

Background: In October I partnered with Dr. Ned Holstein and Fathers & Families in a campaign to protest Florida Department of Children & Families’ actions in the “Elian Gonzalez II” case in Miami. In that case, Rafael Izquierdo, a fit, loving father, faced numerous obstacles to reunite with his 6-year-old daughter.

The case pitted Izquierdo against wealthy Cuban-American foster parents Joe Cubas, a well-known sports agent, and his wife Maria. In 2005 Elena Perez, Izquierdo’s ex, brought the girl to Miami from Cuba. DCF removed the girl and her half-brother from her mother’s custody in 2006, after an investigation found that the woman’s mental illness rendered her an unfit parent. The girl was placed with the Cubas family, and Izquierdo came to the US to bring his daughter home.

Rather than allowing Izquierdo to take his girl home, DCF hired 19 lawyers and spent over $250,000 to oppose their reunification, and even continued to resist after an exhaustive hearing in a Miami court determined that Izquierdo is a fit and committed father.

When we launched our campaign to protest this injustice, several thousand of you answered our call to action, and our protest was covered or cited in hundreds of newspapers, including by the Associated Press, syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post Writers Group, Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, and many others.

In our letters and faxes to Florida DCF, we asked that they contact Dr. Holstein. DCF, to its credit, did so and agreed to meet. In the photo above left, Dr. Holstein shakes hands with Gilda Ferradaz, head of DCF’s Miami division. Dr. Holstein met with Ferradaz, Mary Cagle, DCF’s Director of Child Welfare Legal Services, and other DCF officials. In the photo above right, Dr. Holstein meets with Izquierdo, who he describes as a “warm, composed, dignified man who clearly loves his daughter.”

To learn more about the case and our campaign, click here.

A settlement has been reached in the Elian Gonzalez II case which gives embattled Cuban father Rafael Izquierdo sole custody of his young daughter. According to the Associated Press’ Cuban father gets custody in settlement (11/30/07):

“A Cuban farmer would get sole custody of his 6-year-old daughter under a settlement reached Wednesday in a lengthy court battle involving the girl’s U.S. foster parents and state officials…Under the settlement, Rafael Izquierdo and his daughter would remain in the United States [until the girl is seven] and the foster parents – former baseball players’ agent Joe Cubas and his wife, Maria – would get regular visits from the girl…

“Beyond that, Izquierdo would have no parental restrictions and could eventually return to Cuba…The agreement is subject to approval by Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Jeri Cohen, who has scheduled a hearing Tuesday.”

Ira Kurzban, Izquierdo’s attorney, thanked Fathers & Families for its efforts on Izquierdo’s behalf, saying that the campaign and media attention “played an important role in the case.” I thank and commend Dr. Holstein for his excellent work in Florida.

I also thank the thousands of you who wrote or called Florida DCF. After Dr. Holstein met with DCF, he told me that the DCF officials had brought in “stacks and stacks” of letters and faxes they had received from protesters, and faxes were coming in continuously during their meeting. Holstein explains:

“We are proud to have played a role in bringing about this proposed settlement…Rafael came through for his daughter like a great father–surmounting obstacles as a poor farmer in Cuba to come to her aid in Florida…He deserves a medal of honor.’

Izquierdo is very happy with the settlement, and we believe that it is good for all parties. While I do believe that Izquierdo should have the right to take his daughter with him back to Cuba tomorrow if he chooses, the agreement is a better alternative. It still allows Izquierdo to return to Cuba when the girl is seven if he elects to, yet it also allows the girl to maintain her relationship with the Cubas family.

Despite the Cubas’ misguided custody bid, they do deserve credit for caring for the girl when the girl’s mother came apart and Izquierdo was still in Cuba. The agreement also allows the girl to maintain her relationship with her half-brother–the girl will be visiting him and the Cubases every other weekend.

Campaigns and victories cost money–to make a tax-deductible donation to Fathers & Families to help defray our campaign’s expenses, click here or contact Dr. Holstein directly at 617.542.9300 or

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