June 17, 2008

PA- Smithfield man sues county CYS

6-17-2008 Pennsylvania:

A Smithfield man has sued Fayette County Children and Youth Services on Monday, claiming that the agency had no right to remove his children – ages 5, 6 and 8 – from him in 2006.

A caseworker took the children from the 29-year-old man’s home during an investigation into his relationship with a 16-year-old girl who sometimes baby-sat the children.

The man, referred to as John Doe in the suit, and the 16-year-old, identified only as K.K., both told a CYS caseworker that they waited until she was 16 to have a physical relationship, according to the suit, filed in federal court in Pittsburgh. The age of consent in Pennsylvania is 16.

Also filed was a request for a temporary restraining order that would return Doe’s children to him.

The suit, filed by American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania attorney Sara Rose, indicated the man never was accused of abusing his own children, and asks a judge to order their immediate return.

“My kids are my whole life and I just want them back,” Doe is quoted as saying in an ACLU-issued press release about the suit.

Rose said that CYS “abused its power to place children in state custody by removing these children from their father, even though the children never have been abused and are in no danger of abuse.

“As a result, Doe has had no contact with his children for almost a year, and has not lived with his children for almost two years. That is time with his children that he will never get back,” Rose said.

The children have lived with Doe’s parents since September 2006, and Doe has had no communication with them since August 2007.

“Even parents convicted of abusing their children often are allowed more contact with their children than plaintiff,” Rose contended in the suit.

According to the filing, Doe got involved with K.K. in 2006, after she turned 16.

K.K. also acted as a baby sitter for the Doe children, according to the complaint, and Doe and K.K. have known one another “for a number of years through family connections.”

The suit indicated that Doe and K.K. “deliberately waited” until K.K. turned 16 to initiate a sexual relationship because they called the Crime Victims Center of Fayette County to inquire about the age of consent in Pennsylvania.

K.K.’s mother found out about the relationship and called police in September 2006, Rose indicated.

“The police declined to press charges against plaintiff because engaging in a consensual sexual relationship with a 16-year-old is not a crime under Pennsylvania law,” Rose wrote.

The legal standards that police and CYS apply to cases differ.

K.K.’s mother also contacted CYS, the suit alleged, and a caseworker initiated an investigation. During that investigation, they both admitted to having a sexual relationship after K.K. turned 16, according to the complaint.

In November 2006, a letter from CYS informed Doe that the agency had determined there was “substantial evidence” that he sexually abused K.K. Doe appealed in January 2007, the suit indicated. The state Department of Public Welfare heard the appeal in November 2007, and has not yet rendered a decision.

The suit indicated a caseworker called Doe on Sept. 22, 2006, and asked if there was anywhere his three children could stay during a 60-day CYS investigation into the investigations into the allegations that he abused K.K.

If there was nowhere for the children to stay, the caseworker told Doe that they would have to go into foster care, the suit alleged.

Doe sent the children to stay with his parents, according to the suit. He was allowed supervised visits by CYS, the suit indicated, and visited with them daily until Aug. 1, 2007.

That day, another caseworker came to Doe’s parents’ home with two state troopers and said she believed he was having unsupervised visits with his children.

That caseworker threatened to remove the Doe children unless plaintiff’s mother signed a plan that forbade Doe’s parents from allowing the children to have any contact with the plaintiff, the suit alleged.

Neither caseworker told Doe or his mother what their rights were, Rose alleged.

On Aug. 2, 2007, a third caseworker told Doe’s mother that he could not talk to his children unless he completed a sex-offender treatment program.

Doe indicated in the suit that he attended one sex-offender class, but stopped after learning that one of the requirements was admitting that he was a perpetrator of sexual abuse.

“Plaintiff refuses to state that he is a perpetrator of sexual abuse, as he disputes defendants’ claim that his relationship with K.K. constituted sexual abuse under the law and contests defendants’ contention that he is a perpetrator as that term is defined in the Child Protective Services Act,” the suit stated.

The suit indicated that CYS closed the case and indicated that it is the agency’s policy that because Doe is believed to be a sexual abuser that he cannot have any contact with his children.

Doe, according to the suit, is the children’s’ legal guardian since June 2005, when he and their mother separated. Their mother has been a psychiatric patient at Torrance State Hospital in Torrance since February 2008.

U.S. District Judge Donetta W. Ambrose has been assigned the case. ..News Source.. by Jennifer Harr, Herald-Standard


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