Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down Bypassing of Dad’s Rights
In case you’re an Illinois father and on-or-around October 27, felt a blanket of calming warmth over you, Fathers & Families has an explanation of what it was: you were no doubt feeling the security of knowing that you’ll be considered in all matters of custody and child support.
But this doesn’t come without a complicated story where one father was almost pried out of his kids’ lives.
As usual with our recaps of F&F stories, you’re going to be far better-off reading it on their site (sauced below!). But here’s some quick-and-dirty bullet points:
- Illinois couple, Daryl Crockett and Tonya Findley, had two children together.
- Crockett was diagnosed with a mental illness. He was placed on medication and declared disabled by the Social Security Administration.
- Findley moved out of town with the children.
- Crockett lived with his parents and his sister, and continued to see his two daughters when he could, and would correspond with them over the phone and in cards. He’d also send them gifts, and even decided to have some of his disability check go to his daughters as child support.
- In 2007, the State Department of Children and Family Services received a report that Findley was neglecting the children. She was also found to have alcohol and cocaine addiction problems.
- The daughters are taken into custody by the Department of Children and Family Services, and DCFS says they’ll reunite the mother and children in 12 months if Findley is rehabilitated.
- Findley was not rehabilitated in 12 months, so the DCFS terminated her parental rights.
- The DCFS tried to terminate Crockett’s parental rights on the grounds that he’d abandoned the kids.
As the F&F mentions, Crockett did have limited contact with his children – but c’mon, the guy was disabled with a mental illness, and the mother had physically moved the children away from the father. It sounds as if the DCFS wanted to terminate his parental right just because and that they’d do it in the worst way – by actually bringing a lawsuit against Crockett.
And the plot thickens, as the DCFS got the go-ahead to serve Crockett his court order via an announcement in the newspaper, since they couldn’t find his address.
So you’re thinking “well, if the DCFS couldn’t find Crockett, then clearly he shouldn’t have custody.” And normally you’d be right. Except that the DCFS had misspelled Crockett’s name in their search, which made it hard to locate his records. So now you’re wondering why no one just asked the (now-not-legally) mother, Tonya Findley. Must have slipped everyones’ minds, and Findley, who had an axe to grind (to go along with her pile of other already-ground axes), certainly didn’t tell anyone where Crockett could be.
No one even tried to ask the Social Security Administration, who knew his address – because remember, Crockett was receiving disability and had opted to have some sent to the daughters for child support. And speaking of, F&F‘s Robert Franklin explains that “there was a lawyer in the child support office who knew Crockett’s whereabouts and had even talked to him on the phone. That attorney of course worked for the same State’s Attorney’s office that was simultaneously telling the trial judge that it had no idea of where Crockett was.”
So, the Illinois State Supreme Court eventually stepped in and reversed Crockett’s parental-rights termination.
F&F‘s Esquire also mentions this gem: “The Urban Institute studied that and found that, in over 50% of the cases in which the father is known to the caseworker, he’s still never contacted to see if he’d be an appropriate caregiver for the children.”
Now we’re safe to say that even if there’s not a grand conspiracy against fathers in the CPS industry, there does exist a paradigm of disclusion. And yes, I realize that “disclusion” may not be a real word. Well, it is now. And some fathers are living it.
As I mentioned, F&F‘s got a mostly-smarter analysis of these facts. And I say “mostly” only because I invented a word. That was pretty smart of me.