Protecting Fathers Rights: Agency Sued For Removing Children

fathers rights judith sandalowA previous men’s rights article discussed a lawsuit filed on behalf of fathers rights after a welfare agency placed children in foster care rather than let them live with their fathers.

Both dads were active, involved fathers who shared child custody with the children’s mother. They argued their children should have immediately been sent to live with them after they were removed from their mothers’ care because of neglect.

Judith Sandalow, executive director of the Children’s Law Center, filed the lawsuit on behalf of the dads whose rights were ignored.

Sandalow (pictured) discussed the lawsuit and the work being done at Children’s Law Center.

Men’s Rights: This lawsuit stemmed from two fathers – who had joint custody – fighting through the courts in order to have their children live with them after the kids were removed from the mothers’ homes because of neglect. Why were the children not allowed to be placed in the care of their fathers, who by all accounts were active and involved parents?

Judith Sandalow: The lawsuit stems from the District of Columbia’s interpretation of law called Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). It’s a law that is a compact across all the states. It is a well-intentioned law that governs the placement of children with foster and adoptive parents. Of course if a children in D.C. is going to live in Missouri or California we would want the social agency in that state to be aware the child is being placed there.

But the District of Columbia government applies this law not just to foster parents and adoptive parents but even to birth parents against whom no allegations have been made. So the basis of the lawsuit is the fathers were unjustly treated because it’s illegal to treat them that way.

Men’s Rights: Has this happened before in other states where agencies deem the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children to apply to biological places as well or is this unique to D.C.?

Judith Sandalow: It has applied in other jurisdictions across the country. To be honest, the courts have gone both ways. Most courts agree with us that parents have a constitutional right to their children.

Men’s Rights: The D.C. attorney general’s office said it “will defend vigorously the District, the Mayor, and the agency’s efforts to ensure that children are in a safe home.” Again, these were active fathers who shared custody so what was deemed so unsafe about living with their fathers particularly after being forced to leave their mothers home because of neglect?

It just doesn’t seem to add up that the agency claims to look out for a child’s safety, but they wouldn’t put the child in a safe home with their father?

Judith Sandalow: It’s a very good question. I want to stress that the Children’s Law Center also believes all children ought to be safe, and in fact we work directly on behalf of children.

But we don’t think this lawsuit nor the interpretation of the ICPC has anything to do with protecting children or keeping them safe. One of our bigger concerns is it flips the burden of proof.

Birth parents have the right to raise their children and the government needs to show that a parent has been harmful to a child before they can remove a child from that home. In this case, the government is doing the opposite and saying the parent has to prove that the parent is safe and that’s why we followed the lawsuit.

Also, I want to explain why we would be filing on behalf of parents and children when what the Children’s Law Center cares about is the well being of children. We know from experience that children suffer great trauma and great harm when they are separated from their parents.

The trauma really leads to long-term problems, such as significant developmental setbacks and they develop attachment disorders, which can have long-term effects on their life.

So we bring this suit because we believe parents have a right to their children and ultimately because we think that children being with their parents is best for them.

Read Related Article: Fathers Rights Violated: Dads Sue Agency For Putting Kids In Foster Care

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