Tag Archives: Walter Singleton

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

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 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. While 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 could have swallowed my pride so that they would still have their entire family. It’s hard to believe that one person would want to 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 them very much as well.

9/20/16 – Being Stuck

Well, today I feel stuck. Just absolutely stuck. The pain of missing my children is always there to some degree, but today more than anything I feel completely FRUSTRATED. Helpless. I know where my sons are. I’ve known the address for almost a year. More than anything I want to just jump in my truck and go there. To finally see them, and hug them, and tell them I love them. But knowing their location is not the problem. Getting there is not the problem. There are actually two problems, and they are huge.

The first problem is the law. Restraining orders are handed out like candy, but they are enforced stronger than any law out there. The one issued on me was based on a pack of lies, but getting it removed seems impossible. Everything I’ve done in my life proves I’m not a violent person, but none of that matters. I’ve served my country in the military as a Medic, worked in a prison with ZERO uses of force for nearly ten years, subjected myself to psychological evaluations and taken several classes on parenting. But until the judge says it can come off, I cannot see, speak to, or write to my children, or I will go to jail.

The second problem is their own belief. The last time I spent any time with them, our relationship was great. They wanted to spend time with me. Aiden was sick and still insisted on coming with me. But after the retraining order, their mother started lying to them. Telling them I was dangerous, that I wanted to hurt them, that I’m a bad person, and they’re all better off without me. After years of hearing that, and only that, they believe her. What choice do they have? She’s their mother, and their only source of shelter, food, clothing, and information. When you hold that kind of power over someone, you can make them believe whatever you want, even the complete opposite of the truth.

I wish their mother loved them enough to share them with me. I know that they need their father in their lives, just as I need them in my life. I wish she could see that. I know she hates me, and I can live with that. But to manipulate my children into hating me is not just cruel to me. It’s cruel to them. To separate children from a loving parent is child abuse, pure and simple. And it’s also cruel to their sister, who misses them as much as I do. Aiden and Seth, if you ever get a chance to read this, please know that you mean everything to me, and I will NEVER stop fighting for you.

Aiden-Seth-Haley-Singleton

09/12/2016 – All About Haley

Hi Aiden and Seth, I just wanted to let you know I’m thinking about you.  Last week was particularly difficult, but I’m doing better this week, I guess.  Still miss you guys a lot.  Thought maybe I could tell you some of the things that are going on with your sister, Haley.

First of all, you should know that the things you’ve been told about Haley are not true.  She has no mental or emotional problems, and did not “take over my role as the abuser”.  That’s just nonsense.  Haley lived at Cherokee Estate for a year, and got along just fine with all the other girls, and even earned herself several privileges there.  She came home to live with me  permanently on August 8th (so over a month ago), and has been doing very well.  She is not on any medication, because she never needed to be.  She is attending church and school, and making friends in both places.  She has her own room.  There is no yelling, or angry slamming of doors, or any need to “restrain” anyone.  On the contrary, having her home has been a blessing, both for her and for me.

Now that you know what’s NOT going on, let me tell you what IS happening.  I know that Jenn took you both out to fun places several times and left Haley home, punishing her due to some infraction, whether real or imagined.  Well, she now has an annual pass at Disney, and we’ve been at least three times.  She’s also been to SeaWorld several times.  She decided to cut her hair short, and she looks fantastic with it that way.  She has joined the Air Force JROTC at school and was already made the first commander of her Freshman class.  So far she’s loving it.  She’s also participating in band.  I got her a trumpet a few weeks ago, she’s been practicing, and getting pretty good.  Last weekend we went to a concert at the House of Blues in Disney Springs, because I know the band.  She’s been going back to the church you were all going to before you left Florida, and is planning a sleepover with one of her friends soon.

I don’t tell you this to make you envious, but to tell you that your sister is a good person. She always has been. She misses both of you guys a lot, and I know she wishes you could be with us when we do these things. We almost always talk about you two when we’re out doing things, and even when we’re just at home hanging out. Your sister loves you, and so do I.

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Dad and Haley ready to climb!

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Haley kayaking

haley-lobstersSpecial treat!  Lobsters for dinner tonight!