Friday, October 7, 2011

Arnold & Porter Files Pro Bono Lawsuit for Fathers Seeking Custody

Washington D.C. engages in a practice that is duplicated in every state across the country. . .when a custodial parent is investigated for child abuse or neglect and the child is removed from the custodial parent, the agency does not place the child with the non-custodial parent who was not accused of abuse or neglect.

Instead, the agencies will often make the non-custodial parent to prove their fitness before placing the child with his own parent. If the non-custodial, non-accused parent lives in the same state, they will conduct a home study and background check at the very least, which can take months. These are often nit-picky and require the non-custodial parent to prove adequate housing, child care, income, school, etc. If there is a new spouse or live-in partner, that person will also have to be background checked and undergo invasive questioning and intrusions.

Or, as D.C. does, they will often require an out-of-state non-custodial parent to complete the ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) an even more invasive process which can take six to twelve months.

The ICPC was not intended to be invoked when placing a child with his own parent, it was only designed for out-of-state foster care or adoption. I'm not a lawyer and I knew that this bureaucratic dragnet was not intended to be invoked when placing children with their own parent. One can only conclude that these legal experts intentionally misused the law to keep children in foster care longer and milk the system for the federal funds attached to warehousing children in foster care rather than sending them to the own parent.

This practice violates every protection written into the child welfare laws, that a parent is presumed fit, and absent proof of unfitness, cannot be deprived of the care, custody and control of his own child.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief  to force D.C. to stop this practice and monetary damages. While it purports to represent non-custodial fathers and their aggrieved children, I must observe that non-custodial mothers are not excluded from this egregious misuse of government power.

The law requires the agency to place the child with his parents. If one parent is unfit and the other is fit, it's a no-brainer. .  the law mandates the the child with the fit parent who wasn't accused of abuse or neglect. But it's not as profitable for the agency as placing the child in foster care and making a fit parent prove his fitness.

I applaud Arnold & Porter for taking on this important issue on behalf of aggrieved parents and children in Washington D.C.

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