Dear Governor Deal:
I am a child advocate with an advocacy group called SAVE (Stop Abuse and Violence Everywhere)...we cover child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and bullying. The case I am working on now involves a judge that is NOT taking into consideration a safety plan that DFCS had in place for a victim of sexual abuse. I contacted the State Attorney General...'s office and was referred to the Commissioner's office of DFCS, who then referred me to Shawn Momin at the Hearings Office. I also called The Governor's office who told me they would contact the Judicial Qualifications Commissions. I called the Lowndes County Sheriff's Department who said they would review the case once again. We expect all appropriate agencies and officials to uphold Georgia law to protect this child and acknowledge that a judge must take the following into consideration when granting visitation rights:
How will a judge make a decision about custody?
- Generally, the state of Georgia encourages a child to have continuing contact with both parents.* However, custody will be determined according to what the judge considers to be in the child’s best interest. The judge may consider any relevant factor including, but not limited to the:
Love, affection, bonding, and emotional ties existing between the child and each parent, as well as his/her siblings, half siblings, and stepsiblings;
The father has had a handful of visits with his daughter since she was born that the mother was aware of, because he chose not to be in her life until now. There is no bond between the child and this father, other than the child disclosed to her therapist that her father abused her at grandfather's house, and also names her Grandfather as an abuser.
- Ability of each parent to give the child love, affection, and guidance and to continue raising and supporting the education of the child;Each parent's knowledge and familiarity of the child and the child's needs;
Since the child has not had a relationship with her father the past 4 years...he is not knowledgable or familiar about her needs. She has been in therapy for the past year because of the disclosed abuse she suffered and suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Home environment of each parent (focusing on whether the environment will allow for the nurturing and safety of the child, rather than superficial or material factors);
Allowing the child to be in an environment with her alleged abusers, and against the DFCS safety plan, is NOT nurturing or safe.
- Importance of continuity in the child's life and the length of time the child has lived in a stable environment;
The child is in a stable environment with her mother where she is safe and protected and in therapy. Any environment involving her father and grandfather is against the safety plan in place. Father has not wanted to be involved in the child's life at all up to this point, and so it is unstable for her to be put in an environment with someone who she has named and alleged as her abuser.
- Stability of each parent’s family and community support systems;
The father's family (his father, the child's grandfather) are involved in the alleged abuse that the child has suffered, and it is not stable for her to be in that environment.
- Mental and physical health of each parent (Note: The judge has the power to order a psychological or medical evaluation of the family)*1;
Because of the seriousness of the allegations against the father and grandfather of sexual abuse, the judge should have found it in the best interest of the child to order a psychological evaluation of the father, and grandfather.
- Home, school, and community record and history of the child, as well as any health or educational special needs of the child;
The child has special needs in regards to her current therapy that she has had over the course of the past year for PSTD due to disclosed abuse she alleges she suffered at the hands of her father and grandfather.
- Each parent's ability to manage parenting responsibilities (both past and future);
The child's mother, has proven her ability to manage her child's needs and responsibilities of keeping her child safe by taking her to the doctor when she exhibited vaginal irritation symptoms and regressive and violent behavioral issues. This child, 2 at the time, had hemorrhoids and vulva vaginitis, and The Dr. recommended she take her to the therapist for treatment, which she did. The child then disclosed abuse at the Therapist's office, and the case was reported to DFCS and LE. She followed all instructions and steps that officials told her to follow to ensure her daughter's safety. A safety plan was put into place by DFCS, which stated that the child have NO contact with the alleged abusers, father and grandfather. For the past year that has been the case until father filed for legitimation and visitation. She sought counsel to request that the safety plan be upheld, but that did not concern the Judge. Mother has since taken child back to therapy to let her know that the judge is ordering her to be with her alleged abusers. The child is scared and is begging mother not to make her go. The mother has reached out to all agencies for help and guidance as to how to keep her child safe and not further traumatize her.
- Each parent’s willingness and ability to encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship with the other parent (if it is in the best interest of the child);
Mother has told child at therapist's office under therapist's care that she must go visit with her father, and grandfather is allowed to also be present. The child has been exhibiting symptoms of PTSD ever since being told, and is exhibiting violent behavior, hitting, kicking and biting her mother and tried hitting her therapist. She says that her mother does not love her because she promised to keep her safe. THIS IS NOT IN THE BEST INTEREST OF THIS CHILD!
- Any recommendation by a court appointed custody evaluator or guardian ad litem (attorney or representative appointed for the child during the court case);
Mother requested a GAL be assigned to this case in order for there to be an unbiased assessment of child's best interest to report back to the Judge, however, Judge DENIED this request.
- Any evidence of family violence or sexual, mental, or physical child abuse or criminal history of either parent;
There is plenty of evidence of sexual and mental abuse documented by physical evidence of sexual abuse symptoms from child's Dr. and medical records, and also all documentation of disclosure of abuse made by child to her therapist that she was sexually abused by her Grandfather and Father.
- When evidence of family violence is found, the judge will also take into consideration:the safety and well-being of the child and of the parent who is the victim of family violence – this should be one of the judge’s main concerns;
This Judge was quoted as saying that allegations of abuse were not a concern of his despite all evidence presented to him of physical medical evidence, therapy disclosure of sexual abuse, as well as a substantiated report of sexual abuse made by DFCS with a safety plan in place that she is NOT to have contact with Grandpa or Father. We feel the Judge did NOT make this child's best interest and safety his MAIN concern.
- the abuser’s history of violence or of causing reasonable fear of violence to another person.*3
The child has a reasonable fear of violence against her by her father and grandfather as indicated in her disclosure of sexual abuse.
* O.C. G.A. § 19-9-3(d)
*1 O.C. G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(7)
*2 O.C. G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(3)
*3 O.C. G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(4)
*4 O.C. G.A. § 19-9-3(a)(4)(C)
Sunday, October 13th is the first day of the scheduled visitations to begin. This little girl is 4 years old and has been in therapy for a whole year with PTSD...and judge disregarded all of the facts. She is begging her mother and therapist not to make her go. This mother is doing her best to protect her child. Please help! We are working with attorneys to file an appeal and modification based on the evidence we have proof and documentation of, but in the mean time need to keep this child safe. We expect Law Enforcement and DFCS to keep this child safe. We are ready and willing to take it to media who are waiting on standby to cover this story.
Please sign the petition so we can spread the word and help fight this injustice. Thank you again for your vigilance in keeping this child safe! We look forward to a positive outcome!
Visit our webpage at www.facebook.com/wesaveusa