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December 1st, 2011 by FAF Staff
Matt Phelps’ piece National group lobbies to return Sky Metalwala’s sister to father ran today in several of the PNW News newspapers. We encourage our members and supporters to comment on the piece by clicking here.

Phelps writes:

Most feel the holiday season is a time for families to be together. But a judge will have to make a decision Monday on where 4-year-old Maile Metalwala will spend her Christmas and maybe beyond.

Maile’s brother, Sky, went missing Nov. 6… Maile was immediately put into foster care and a judge ruled on Nov. 10 that she stay in foster care until a dependency hearing this Monday in King County Superior Court.

But a national family court reform organization, Fathers and Families, has launched a campaign, demanding the court to return the girl to her father.

The Boston-based organization is urging the public to call the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and King County Superior Court to give Metalwala sole custody of his daughter.

“Four-year-old Maile was shoved into the foster care system after the mysterious disappearance of her 2-year-old brother Sky,” said National Executive Director for Fathers and Families, Glenn Sacks. “Currently everyone’s focus is on finding Sky, as it should be. Yet it is also important that Maile be reunited with the father she loves and needs as soon as possible”…

“We really want Maile home with her father, and we appreciate the support and prayers of other groups, but as far as Solomon is concerned, he must stay on the administrative track he is on,” said Metalwala’s attorney Clay Terry…

Sacks claims that the DSHS is “being bombarded with calls and letters demanding that they reunite Solomon Metalwala with his daughter,” thanks to the organization’s campaign. Maile has been “unjustly kept for almost a year” from her father, said Sacks.

“Through all the coverage of this highly-publicized case, the fact that this father and daughter have been separated without cause has slipped under the radar,” said Sacks. “Citizens are quick to decry government interference in people’s lives, yet few apply it to what happens in child welfare cases and family court. But if denying a fit, loving parent the right to raise his own child isn’t a governmental abuse, what is?”..

“Little Maile has had to go through a great deal for a little girl,” said Leslie Clay Terry, an attorney representing Solomon Metalwala. “When she was just a baby, younger than Sky’s age, the happy family they had was turned around by the advent of Julia’s OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).”

By the time Maile was 3 years old, Terry said the girl’s mother had been involuntarily committed by the police for mental observation.

“When the mother got out, she went on a form of revenge ride in judicial system to prevent Solomon from seeing the children,” said Terry, noting the abuse allegations Biryukova brought against her estranged husband. “Then, when everything else failed, the mother claimed the child had been physical abused and possibly sexually abused.”

He said the hospital did not find any signs of sexual abuse. In addition, a polygraph and a second-opinion CPS investigation concluded that there was no physical abuse.

“However, the allegations, the teaming up of victim advocates who are supposed to help retrieve victims, and an abundance (actually, overabundance) of caution by the court prevented Solomon from seeing his children for more than 11 months,” said Terry, adding that Biryukova was given temporary custody of the children. “There was a provision to see the children with supervised visitation four hours a day, but it was connected to some very expensive and long-running domestic violence classes, which he could not afford.”

Terry said there was no domestic violence proven or accepted by any authority other than the court commissioner and “the victim’s advocates who hover protectively around anyone who makes such allegations, without the duty to check it out.”

Solomon has had four separate two-hour visits with his daughter since his son disappeared, and is permitted telephone contact with her every day, said Terry.

But some, like Sacks, believe he should have sole custody.

“When a mother and father are divorced or separated, and a child welfare agency removes the children from the mother’s home for abuse or neglect, an offer of placement to the father, barring unfitness, should be automatic,” said Sacks.

Yet, Sacks pointed out, when fathers inform child welfare officials that they would like their children to live with them, the agencies seek to place the children with their fathers in only 15 percent of cases, according to a study by the Urban Institute…

Fathers and Families claims that Metalwala is a victim of two common problems. First, Family Law Commissioner Jacqueline Jeske, a former domestic violence prosecutor, approved a restraining order against Metalwala.

This was done despite the fact that Biryukova had previously made false abuse charges, and Child Protective Services had concluded that these new abuse charges were also false, said Sacks.

“Biryukova, having lied to police about the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of her son Sky, is a thoroughly discredited accuser,” said Sacks.

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