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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

November 18th, 2011 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
It’s been almost two weeks since Julia Biryukova reported her son Sky to be missing and apparently abducted.  Since then, Bellevue, Washington police have said her explanation for the little boy’s disappearance has fallen completely apart.  Here’s the latest (Examiner.com, 11/14/11).

She claimed she left him in her car that had run out of gas.  When she returned to the automobile after a little over on hour, the boy had vanished.  But police have learned that she never bought gas and that, when they tested it, the car started without difficulty and drove normally.

Worse, apparently no one has seen Sky in weeks.  That includes friends and neighbors and his father, Solomon Metalwala.  He and police are concerned that Biryukova may have harmed Sky.  Given the fact that, despite extensive publicity about the boy’s disappearance and the passage of considerable time, police have essentially no leads regarding his whereabouts or whether he is alive or dead, I’d say their concerns are warranted.

As if all that’s not bad enough, it now appears that Biryukova had recently registered with a dating website called “Seeking Arrangement.com.”  The owner of the site, when contacted by Bellevue police, said Biryukova was seeking a sugar daddy, someone with money who would care for her and her kids. 

Worse still, Metalwala’s divorce attorney says that, during mediation, Biryukova offered to drop all claims of child support if Metalwala would allow her to take the children away, either to Russia or Arizona.  Metalwala refused.

But while the search for Sky Metalwala continues, the whereabouts of the couple’s daughter Maile is no mystery.  The four-year-old is in foster care.  Indeed, she’s been there since Sky disappeared on November 6th.  Not only that, but her father has been allowed no contact with her except a single brief supervised visit just two days ago.

Now, let’s be clear.  Solomon Metalwala has done nothing wrong.  No one claims he’s not a good, loving father.  We know that Biryukova has been hospitalized three times due to her extreme obsessive/compulsive disorder.  And of course we know that, even if she’s telling the truth about Sky’s disappearance – and I don’t think many people believe she is – the best that can be said about Biryukova is that her negligence allowed her son to be kidnapped.

By contrast, the worst anyone can say about Solomon Metalwala as a father is that once, two years ago, he and Biryukova left Sky asleep in their car while they shopped at WalMart.  Confronted by child protective services, Metalwala admitted that leaving the boy in the car was risky.  Charges were dropped against the pair and Metalwala says he learned his lesson.

So why is Maile not with her father?  Why is she in foster care instead of father care?  Why are Metalwala and his daughter being punished for the apparent wrongdoing of his ex-wife?

It’s all too common for children who are taken from mothers by child welfare agencies to be placed in foster care without even attempting to locate the father or ascertain whether he’d be an acceptable placement alternative.  The study done by the Urban Institute in 2006 found that to be the case in over half of the instances studied.

The reasons for that are likely (a) money and (b) anti-father bias.  The federal government pays states for each day in which a child is in foster care.  That means the more children in foster care, the more money for the state.  It also means the longer a child stays in foster care, the more money for the state.

Now, states are fond of claiming that they have to match those funds, so it’s no benefit to the state to place a child in foster care.  Every dollar a state receives it receives, it must match with a dollar paid out.  But, as we learned in a post on South Dakota, in fact the so-called “match” is only partial.  South Dakota child welfare admits to paying only about one dollar for every three received from Washington.  So in fact, the federal subsidy to state foster care is a gold mine for states.  Simply put, the federal government offers a huge incentive to state child welfare agencies to cut fathers out of the child care loop.  Not surprisingly, they do, as Solomon Metalwala is finding out.

As to anti-father bias, many CPS workers are graduates of social work programs at colleges and universities that are no friend to men generally and fathers in particular.  So, despite the fact that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families publishes an extensive booklet on the value of fathers to children and keeping fathers in their children’s lives, few CPS agencies comply.

But of course, Solomon Metalwala’s whereabouts are well known.  After all, he’s on the news almost daily.  So the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services could hand Maile over to him any time it wanted to. 

I spoke with Sherry Hill, Communications Director for the Children’s Administration that’s part of DSHS about why Solomon Metalwala doesn’t have custody of his daughter.  Within a forest of “that’s confidential, I can’t talk to you about that” answers, Hill provided no substantive reason for why Metalwala has been denied custody.  She further gave no timetable for the resolution of that matter in juvenile court.

So Maile is living with strangers; her father has essentially no contact with her.  And it’s plain that that’s a situation that will go on for the indefinite future, not because of anything Solomon Metalwala has done, but because of what his wife has.

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