How had it come to this? He had always been a kind and loving father who had provided for everything that his daughter had needed. He had even gone so far as to make sure that he could personally give her the best possible education by home schooling her. How could things have gotten out of control so quickly? Why was she taken away from him for no reason?
Little did he know, that over the course of the next several years he would spend over one million dollars of his personal finances on court and attorney fees. Worst of all, it would be three years before his daughter would be returned to him.
Can a Child Lawfully be Taken From a Loving Father?
The Texas Family Code allows non-custodial family members, such as grandparents, in-laws, or estranged family members, to sue parents for access to or possession of a child without an accusation or undeniable proof that the parent is unfit to take care of the child. This usually begins when the non-custodial family member is granted temporary orders with no ending date. The code gives estranged family more rights and power than the parents. It’s unbelievable to think that this is happening in Texas, and furthermore that this issue has not been addressed by the Texas legislature.
Children thrive in homes with fit and upstanding parents who love and care for them. Parents and home educators have the God-given right to direct the care, control, and upbringing of their children. Parents should be considered innocent until proven guilty, however current law throws due process out the window.
What is the Impact on Children?
The negative effects experienced by children removed from their parents through temporary orders can be catastrophic. Previously happy and healthy children return to their loving parents forever changed.
The children are terrified, worried about their parents, do not understand why this is happening, and very often believe that it is their own fault somehow. This causes a normal stress reaction in the children and engages the “fight” or “flight” mechanism as a protective response. Thus, the “fight” reactors often get diagnosed with aggression, ADHD, explosive anger disorders, and bipolar. The “flight” reactors get diagnosed with depression and somatic disorders.
Johana Scott, Executive Director, Parent Guidance Center
How Do We Fix This?
Obviously this trauma within families must end. A parental rights reform bill is one of the top priorities of THSC in the upcoming Texas legislative session.
Crucial changes to protect Texas families are needed:
- Ensure that parents receive proper due process.
- Require reliable proof before children are traumatically removed from their home.
- In circumstances where a parent is deemed unfit to direct the care, control, and upbringing of his or her children, temporary orders must have defined start and end dates as well as deadlines for courts in making decisions.
4 Stories of Families Impacted by This Issue
- Jim Loose, a single dad who spent more than three years at a cost of over one million dollars fighting to bring his daughter back home. She had been removed without even an accusation of abuse or neglect.
- Heather Wyatt’s daughter Danielle was a victim of sexual assault by Heather’s former husband. After he was convicted and sentenced to prison, his parents filed for access to Danielle (who was not their biological granddaughter). In spite of the fact that Heather was considered a fit parent and that giving Danielle to her grandparents could put her at risk of further contact with the man who had assaulted her, the judge removed Danielle from her mother and sent her to live with her step-grandparents.
- Heather Moody, after being married for 11 years and home schooling her children happily and legally, was divorced by her husband who had initially suggested home schooling their children. Her husband informed her that his parents “own(ed) the courthouse” and that the children would be taken away from her. Due to the fact that Heather was an upstanding and fit parent, the attorney used the fact that she home schooled as the reason for the charges, and the children were taken away from their mother.
- Chassidie Russell was married just two years before her husband filed for divorce. Once they were divorced, he sent a letter saying that his parents were filling for possession of her daughter Caitlyn even though they were not even biologically related. Caitlyn was taken from her mother at the young age of six and was not returned for three years.
These are just four examples of the horrific effects that the current statutes within the Texas Family Code can have on families.
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