Category Archives: Haley

Haley Singleton

After 11 years – a Reunion!

Sometimes, in the midst of tragedy, good things can happen.  I am extremely happy to report that my daughter Haley has been reunited with her biological brother, Charles!  I wrote about Charles last year in my post Extended family, how he was in foster care, along with his sister, with my family many years ago.  Charles was removed due to some accusations against him by my ex-wife that now, in hindsight, were almost certainly false.  Charles was taken out of my home while I was away on Basic Training with the military in 2006 – he was there when I left and gone when I returned.  Haley always missed her older brother, and often expressed a desire to reconnect with him.

This weekend, that re-connection happened!  I found Charles’ information online, and contacted his adoptive mother, who was thrilled to hear from me.  We set up a meeting that morning!  After a tearful reunion and a huge lunch, Charles and Haley spent the day together at Seaworld.  It had been 11 years since they’d seen each other.  So much had happened in over a decade.  But to see brother and sister together again was amazing.

Charles and Haley

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Appreciating the Heroes – Dawn Scott, CASA

Today I’d like to take a moment to recognize one of the heroes.  This particular person went above and beyond their regular job (which was already a noble undertaking), and took action to right a wrong and to help a child in need.  Today I’d like to thank a true hero, Dawn Scott of the Georgia CASA program.

If you’re not aware of how the CASA program works, it is one of the few things that the judicial system has actually done right.  CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate.  CASAs are volunteers, often with backgrounds in child development, that are appointed by judges to advocate for children in foster care.  Unlike GALs (guardian ad litems), CASAs are not lawyers, and they are not paid, so they are not influenced by the legal system or by money.  Their only allegiance is to the child they are appointed to.  And they usually work only one or two cases at a time, so they are not overburdened like social workers.  While their reports hold no official legal weight, judges often listen to what they say and follow their recommendations.  They are true warriors for children, and heroes in my book.

When my daughter was removed from my ex-wife’s custody by Georgia DFCS, she was assigned the standard DFCS case worker and a GAL to oversee her case.  She was also blessed in a big way to be assigned Dawn Scott as her CASA.  Dawn is a genuinely kind and attentive person, and spent a lot of time with Haley listening to her needs and advocating for her interests, like CASAs are assigned to do.  But Dawn also went above and beyond her regular duties.

When Haley was placed in DFCS custody, my ex-wife told everyone stories about her abusive husband in Florida.  The responding police officer, the DFCS case workers, the GAL, the court officials, and even the Victim Advocate at Family Menders – everyone she spoke to – either bought the story at face value, or didn’t care enough to get involved.  Except for Dawn Scott.  Whether Dawn listened to Haley talk about her father, or simply suspected something fishy in Jennifer’s stories, I’ll never know.  But she decided to dig deeper.  She began to search for information about Haley’s father online.  I don’t imagine it was hard to find.  My Facebook profile is open with pictures of my children, as well as Google +, Wikipedia, and any sites I could find to put my name out there, carefully crafted to make it easy for my children to find me and see fond memories of the relationship we had.

Dawn found me immediately, and she alerted the court about what she found.  Near the beginning of December 2015, I received paperwork from the Catoosa County Court petitioning for custody of Haley.  Of course I had no idea what had happened, and the frantic phone calls and emails began.  It took me several weeks to finally get in touch with all the right people, and no one wanted to cooperate with me.  It took me another month to learn about Dawn, and when I finally emailed her about the situation, she responded immediately.  Dawn was able to meet with me before my first meeting with Haley, and she gave me valuable advice on how to reconnect with the daughter I had not seen in three years.

Were it not for Dawn Scott’s efforts going above and beyond her already admirable work as a CASA, the Georgia court system may have never contacted me about Haley’s situation.  The time it would have taken me to find out on my own is anyone’s guess.   Because of Dawn I was able to begin the journey to win back custody of my daughter and reestablish the relationship that had been stolen from us.  Thank you, Dawn Scott.  You are unquestionably a true hero.

More information about the CASA program can be found here: CASA for Children

custody-hearing

Naming the Failures – Lt. Steve Blevins

I wrote this when I was angry.  I let it sit for a few days, so that I could evaluate whether I still wanted to publish it.  I do, and I am still angry.  I’m angry about the way the system failed my children.  I’m angry enough to name names, and today I’m going to call out one name in particular – Lt. Steve Blevins of the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department.  Lt. Blevins failed me and he failed my children by failing to perform his job.  The police officer’s motto is “To Protect and Serve”, and one would think that they would take that seriously, especially when it comes to children.  But not Lt. Steve Blevins.

On Friday, 8/28/2015, my daughter, whom I had not seen in three years, went to school with bruises on her face, arms, and chest.  A teacher noticed, and rightly contacted Georgia DFCS.  The teacher also spoke with my daughter, who did not want to disclose the abuse at that time.  But when she found out DFCS had been contacted, she told them she was afraid to go home.  DFCS then contacted Steve Blevins of the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department.  I wish they had contacted the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office instead.  When my ex-wife showed up with her mother, they confessed to abusing my daughter, and even produced a video, taken by my son at their instruction, showing part of the abuse. (As a side note, having children witness abuse of another child is a crime in itself). Of course the two of them put the blame on my daughter, but any reasonable person could see that their behavior was abusive.

It was decided then and there that it would not be safe for my daughter to return to her mother’s house.  She was taken into DFCS custody, finally free of the physical and emotional abuses of my ex.  I would like to tell you that the story doesn’t end there.  I would like to tell you that Lt. Blevins arrested my abusive ex and conducted a thorough investigation, that he contacted me or my extended family,  and that he got my daughter in front of a victim advocate to tell her story.  But Lt. Blevins did none of those things.  What he did do was write up a very vague and bland report, and called it a day.  He did no follow up with an investigation at all, but rather sat on the case for six weeks and then marked it “Exceptionally Cleared”, which is cop-speak for “We can’t technically close this case, but we don’t feel like working on it anymore”.

Contrasting Lt. Blevins’ report with the report made by the social worker shows a blatant incompetence and/or apathy on his part.  Several key parts of the narrative that justified the removal of custody, and would have supported a prosecution for a Cruelty to Children charge, were missing.  Phrases like:

“She stated they had “ganged up on her” and that is how she received the bruises on her right arm and right eye”

“Ms. Singleton [was seen] sitting on [child] while [child] was screaming for Ms. Singleton to stop”

“Ms. Singleton also said something in the video while she was lecturing [child] about “a dumbass kid””

“[Child] stated that her mother and brothers would antagonize her and then when she became so upset they would videotape her”

“[Child] stated that… her mother had taken her drawing, journaling, and walking away privileges away”

“[Child] stated that… her mother reached under her arms and punched her in the eye”

“Ms. Singleton became defensive and told Case Manager Baldridge “Just take her into foster care.  I am fed up with her”

Instead of putting these things in his report, Lt. Blevins uses language that suggests my daughter is responsible for the incident, and it’s just a simple matter of a parent being overwhelmed by an unruly child.   Although he acknowledges there are inconsistencies in Ms. Singleton’s story, he simply takes her word for it that “they were all abused by her husband in Florida”, and doesn’t bother to try and contact me.  I don’t even find out about the incident until more than three moths later, and then he ignores all my attempts to contact him at that time.  It won’t be until I am finally awarded custody of my daughter, ten months after the incident, that she finally gets an interview with an Abuse Advocate at my insistance.

Now you may be asking yourself, “Why is this guy so hung up on the criminal case?  He’s got his daughter back, so what does it matter if his ex gets prosecuted or not?”.  Because my ex still has custody of my two sons.  My sons were not only a witness to this abuse, they were a part of it.  Now, I don’t blame my sons for this.  They are children, and they act at the direction of a parent.  My ex has made them her henchmen in carrying out abusive behavior on their sister.  This is unacceptable.  And no one is there to stop her.  The boys are home schooled, and their computer access and contact with adults are tightly controlled.  I haven’t seen or spoken to them in almost five years.  NO ONE IS WATCHING OUT FOR THEM.  So because Lt. Blevins had little to no interest in Protecting and Serving, my sons remain in the home where their sister has been removed by DFCS and the Georgia Court System, with no oversight whatsoever.

Steve Blevins, you failed me, you failed my daughter, and you failed my sons, leaving them with an abusive woman who has already risked their lives with an arson attempt.  Your failure to act and follow up on this case is negligent, despicable, and shameful. You don’t deserve the badge you wear, and you don’t deserve the respect of the people of Fort Oglethorpe.

10/19/16 – Little Moments

I wanted to post something a little different today.  Most of my posts are about what has happened in the past, or what I hope for in the future.  But for this post I just want to take the opportunity to appreciate a small moment that happened yesterday, a moment I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t have custody of my daughter.

Haley went on a school field trip yesterday.  It was a long trip up to Georgia with the FFA to an Agricultural Fair.  I had to drop her off early in the morning, and she didn’t return until 8PM that night.  It was a fairly large group going, with three charter buses taking students from several different schools.  When I arrived to pick her up, it was dark.  The parking lot was full of cars, some with parents still in them, while other parents had chosen to get out of their cars and stand around the parking lot to wait.

But I’m not your typical parent.  When the buses arrived, I got up in the bed of my pickup truck.  As soon as the kids got off the bus, I hit the panic alarm.  So there I am, horn honking, lights flashing, standing up in the bed of the truck, grinning and waving my arms like a maniac.  Needless to say, Haley spotted me immediately.  She sprinted to me, laughing like crazy.

That’s the kind of moment that makes me happy to be a father.  That’s the kind of moment that helps me keep it together, when all week long I’ve wanted to fall apart.

kiss

10/10/16 – Not Ashamed

This was taken from a post by Time to Put Kids First, at http://timetoputkidsfirst.org/ . Although the words are not originally mine, they read directly from my heart.

“I’m not ashamed of the false allegations made against me, or of the threats, the restraining orders, or even the jail time I served because of my ex. In times of darkness when I feel like a failure as a parent because I am not ALLOWED to parent, those things make me remember what a great father I truly am! Though I can’t be with them, I have done, and will continue to do, everything in my power to be a part of their lives. Not everyone could live through so much.”

These words speak to me, because I have been through everything listed here.  I was once ashamed of all this.  When the false allegations were first made, I was deeply ashamed of them.  When a person is accused of something so heinous, it is difficult not to FEEL guilty, even when you’re innocent.  I had made my share of parenting mistakes, and when the false accusations came, every one of those mistakes seemed magnified 100x.  I condemned myself over and over.  I found myself confessing to the smallest infractions to anyone who would listen, trying to rid myself of the guilty feelings.  I felt like others believed the accusations as well, and I wanted to hide, to just disappear.  I found it difficult to trust anyone, even my closest family and friends.

After that, the guilt of not being able to protect my children from what was happening to them set in.  In my mind, a father should be able to protect his children from anything.  I felt that it was my responsibility to protect them, no matter what the courts or the cops said.  I spent two weeks in jail after trying to see my daughter.  It took months of therapy to finally accept that I had to release myself of the burden of protecting my children, because legally I could not.  I still don’t know if I have fully accepted that this failure is not my fault.  Even though I faced a mountain of lies and legal judgements, with the might of the police force to back them up, I still sometimes ask myself, “What kind of father am I to let some stranger tell me I can’t talk to my children?”.

But I am healing.  I am releasing that responsibility.  I am accepting that I am a good father, and I deserve to see my children, even though I am being prevented from it.  Every day I spend with my daughter proves to me that I am a worthy parent.  And I am no longer ashamed.  I do not own those lies – my ex does.  And I will not hide any longer.  The truth is on my side.  The courts do not know what is in the best interests of my children, I do.  And I will never stop fighting for them, whether they know it or not. family-at-epcot

Seth Romeo Singleton

10/04/16 – Extended family

I’d like to reminisce a little bit today. This weekend I was given a picture that was taken a long time ago. It was Seth’s adoption photo. In it are many people my children will recognize. Starting from the left, they would be familiar with their mother’s parents, Cheryl and Romeo Gil, with their Uncle Steven standing behind them. Then comes Seth, being held by me. He was so small! But even at that size, he had a big personality. Their now adopted sister Haley is standing in front of me. Hard to believe she was once that short; she is as tall as I am now! I suspect she will eventually be taller than me.

Next to Haley is her brother Charles, who we were also fostering at the time. I don’t know how much they would remember of Charles, since he was removed from the home when I was away at Basic Training, shortly after this picture was taken. Jenn accused Charles of some pretty awful things. In light of what happened to Haley and me, I have to wonder if any of those things were true. It seems just as likely now that Jenn simply did not like Charles, and wasn’t able to parent him in the controlling manner she preferred. I suspect she made up those horrible things about Charles, so that he would be removed from our home “for the safety of the family”. I’m sure that would sound familiar to Aiden and Seth. I wonder who will be next?

Then we have Jenn holding Aiden. Aiden was so happy to be gaining a brother! I hope he’s just as happy about it now. I’m glad they are still together, at least. Behind Jenn is the judge who granted Seth’s adoption to myself and Jenn. Standing next to Jenn is my mother, who the kids called “Grandma Jane”. She misses Aiden and Seth almost as much as I do. She was thrilled to finally be able to talk to Haley again after so much time, and I know she’ll be just as excited to talk to her grandsons one day. Finally behind Grandma Jane is my Aunt Anna, and her daughter Peggy. Haley was finally able to see them this past weekend.

At one time this family was all together. While we lived in different places, there was nothing stopping any of us from picking up a phone and calling, or making a trip to see another part of the family. At the very least, the children had unfettered access to all of their extended family. I knew that Jenn and I separating was going to be difficult and painful no matter what, my intention was that it be as easy as possible on the children. Our marriage may have been broken, but there was no need for the children to lose so many people who loved them. I know I would have swallowed my pride so that they would still have their entire family. It’s hard to believe that one person could cause so much unnecessary pain. It is my greatest wish that ALL of my children will be able to see ALL of their family again one day.scott_singleton_aiden_haley_seth

Seth, Haley, and Aiden with their Uncle Scott.  He misses the boys very much as well.

http://www.positiveyouthconcepts.com/about/

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is an uncomfortable reality, a social taboo. As such, it is the least talked about yet most common form of abuse. It is insidious and subjective in nature….Read more here: Emotional Abuse

Here is a list of some of the behaviors that constitute emotional abuse of children.  I hope my boys take a good hard look at this list, and maybe pinpoint some of the treatment that they have experienced, or that they’ve seen their sister subjected to:

– harsh criticism, belittling, labeling
– name-calling
– yelling, screaming or swearing at children
– humiliation or demeaning jokes
– shunning the child from the family (or parts of the family)
– locking kids out of the home to discipline or punish
– denying medical or health care, and safe, clean environments
– unpredictable, unreasonable or extreme reactions
– hostility among family members
– inconsistent or unreasonable demands placed on a child
– ridiculing or humiliating a child in front of others
– threatening to reveal personal or embarrassing information
– leaving a child alone or unattended for long periods of time
– not permitting a child to interact with other children or maintain friendships
– keeping a child from appropriate social and emotional stimulation
– requiring a child stay indoors/in their room or away from peers
– keeping a child from playing with friends and activities s/he enjoys
– not permitting a child to participate in social activities, parties or group/family events
– excessive or extreme punishment for typical childhood behaviors
– encouraging a child to reject friends or social contact/invitations
– encouraging or rewarding unethical or illegal behavior (stealing, cheating, lying, bullying)
– allowing or encouraging children to engage in behavior that is harmful to them or others.
– having expectations beyond the developmental stage of the child
– using blame, shame, judgment or guilt to condemn child for behavior of others
– unreasonable expectations to perform chores or household duties

Characteristics of Emotionally Abusive Mothers

http://www.wikihow.com/Deal-With-Emotional-Abuse-from-Your-Parents-(for-Adolescents)