Tag Archives: Georgia

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

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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.

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)

09/08/2016 – Writing Through the Pain

09/08/2016  Thursday

Well, I’m finally writing again.  I never was good at this journal thing, but I’m trying again. The pain is just too great today, I have to find a way to let it out.  Aiden and Seth, I miss you so much.  I have Haley here with me now, and that is great.  She’s doing fantastic.  She’s doing really well in school, and she’s reunited with her friends from church.  But like me, she misses you both very much.  Sometimes she cries.  Sometimes I do, too.

I would give anything to hug you guys once again.  I miss putting you up on my shoulders.  I know you’re both too big for that now, but I still miss it.  I even miss Seth’s talking non-stop.  I know a little about both of you, from what Haley has told me.  I know Aiden wants to be a pilot, and loves to cook out on the grill.  I know Seth is an amazing singer, and even does opera singing!  I wish so much that I could talk to you about these things.

I’ve missed you both every single day, but for some reason, today it hurts more than it has in a long time.  I try to stay hopeful, but lately it seems like hope is nothing more than a tease for me, a promise that continually goes unfulfilled.  I’ve wanted to cry all day.  I wonder if you guys ever miss me.

Aiden_Seth_Dad

I miss when I used to participate in Seth and Aiden’s Tae Kwon Do class.  I was so proud of both of them, and I loved being a part of their lives!

Reunited with Haley Singleton!

First CASA Report

Final CASA Report

 

I have finally been reunited with my daughter Haley!  I had been waiting for this day for nearly four years.  I was so nervous to see her, because it had been so long, and I knew that she had been told terrible things about me the entire time.  I was worried that she would blame me for the separation, and all the things she had to go through during it.  Turns out I needn’t have worried!  As soon as she saw me, she ran up and threw her arms around me, sobbing.  I admit I cried a little too.  It is so good to have my little girl back!  Even if she’s not so little anymore.

Walter and Haley Singleton

Haley Singleton and Walter Singleton reunited!