Wednesday, December 22, 2010

System biases against fathers?

Yesterday, the  North Dakota Supreme Court announced its decision regarding A.B., or Abel Blotsky, a little boy whose mother died after a beating by her husband last March. In short order, Burleigh County (ND) social services petitioned to terminate the parental rights of Abel's father, who lived in Washington and was a former boyfriend of the mother. The mother had another former boyfriend as well--one whose father, Kevin Cramer, happens to be a prominent North Dakota GOP politician and current Public Service Commissioner.

Although Abel's father sought to gain custody of his son, he was dismissed as a parent right from the start. Social  Services "misplaced" contact information after he called them. He was not served notice of hearings. Although Social Services later testified he had not completed their recommendations, the fact is they had already decided to terminate his rights and turn the child over to unrelated individuals who had clout. In court, Social Services would testify--and the prominent politician's lawyer would argue--that Abel's father had taken no action even though Abel apparently lived in an unstable, violent environment from the day he was born. The politician should know--his son was involved with the child's mother for awhile himself. The mother, her brother, the mother's husband, and the politician's son all had criminal records even before she was killed. The politician and his wife would take in the child when his mother asked them to care for him. They were certainly in a position to act--and they likely knew that the mother operated a small daycare (perhaps unlicensed) in her "unstable, violent" home.

This termination was accomplished in record time, as was its appeal.

According to the father's attorney, he had completed a home study which found him to have a stable home.

There is plenty of room for concern here--simply because one would think that, if one parent of a child dies, the other parent--even one who lives several states away--should be able to immediately assume custody unless there has been a prior finding that parent has deprived or harmed the child. But money and status do make a difference.

The case also illustrates the problems faced by non-resident fathers when a child is removed from the care of its mother for whatever reason. Child welfare and juvenile court systems are, in many ways, inherently structured in a way that often biases them against nonresident fathers, particularly fathers who can't manage to pull off the alpha male role.

(In the Interests of A.B.)

(American Bar Association information about representing and advocating for non-resident fathers in child welfare proceedings)

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