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November 27, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

In my last piece on Dorothy Barnett, who lost primary custody of her daughter when the child was 11 months old, kidnapped her and fled first to South Africa and then to Australia and has now been discovered and arrested, I referred to the organization “Children of the Underground.” News reports on Barnett say she was assisted, back in 1993, by Children of the Underground in abducting her daughter Savanna, aka Samantha. The Children of the Underground apparently gave her refuge out of sight of the law and eventually may have helped obtain false passports for her and Savanna so she could go abroad undetected. Whatever the details, the scheme worked. Barnett and Savanna remained undiscovered for 19 years.

Just what is the Children of the Underground? Well, back in the 1990s it appeared to be a loose conglomeration of activists whose core belief was that mothers seldom lie when they claim abuse by a father/husband/boyfriend. So, whatever the name (or even if there’s no organization and no name) Children of the Underground is still around. In essence, anyone who claims that a mother who abducts a child, a mother who denies a father access to his child, a mother who alienates a child a mother who lies about abuse is just a “protective mother,” is part of Children of the Underground, if not in name, then in spirit.

The same thinking holds that family courts pay no attention to mothers’ claims of abuse and routinely hand children over to abusive fathers. The fact that, over the years, these people have come up with possibly a grand total of one instance in which that actually occurred and dozens in which it didn’t gives some idea of the intellectual basis of the movement. For example, one of the movement’s stalwarts seems to be Amy Neustein who has always claimed her ex-husband abused their daughter. She continued doing so even after the girl had grown up and, as a student at Columbia Law School, expressed her thanks to a CPS worker who managed to get her away from her mother and into her father’s care.

Countless other cases cited by this particular arm of the backlash against fathers’ rights have been utterly destroyed by Glenn Sacks, among others.

Children of the Underground was started by a woman named Faye Yager who looks to be a classic example of “believe the woman.” (She denies it, but several known instances in which she conspired with mothers in child abduction contain no hint of abuse by the father.) Indeed, this description of her provided by Professor Hal Pepinsky, who is a big supporter of Yager, gives a pretty fair idea of what she’s all about. The mere fact that, when confronted with a woman claiming abuse, Yager’s method of vetting the person is to rely on her “mother cat’s instinct for the truth” and her “female energy” says a lot. The fact that apparently Yager’s “mother cat’s instinct for the truth” about lesbian mothers is that they’ve invariably not been abused by their partner says a good bit more.

Once a mother and child are determined to merit the services of Children of the Underground, they’re provided places to stay with like-minded individuals out of reach of the law. If Barnett’s case is any indicator, they’re also given false travel documents and, in some cases, legal counsel.

And that of course leads to a life very much like I described in my previous piece and that mental health experts have long disparaged as destructive of the child’s well-being. Once on the run from the law, mothers and children tend to have to remain on the run and in hiding. Here’s one person’s description of life in the “care” of Children of the Underground (Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma). It puts a lot of meat on the bones of Dr. Nancy Faulkner’s clinical description of the hell that is the life of a child of an abducting parent that I described in my previous post.

The mother, April Meyer, ran away from her husband, Brian Otter, with their toddler, Amanda.

She remembers sleeping in her car, and eating at McDonald's. She remembers whispered telephone conversations with contacts who would give her hopelessly complicated instructions -"look for the house with the upstairs left hand window light on," and so forth.

"You'd drive to an address and the people would run out the door and hand you money and groceries and then run back into their house," she recalls. "It seemed so - well, everyone seemed so scared. We were terrified. We didn't know if the police were following us, although you have to act like they're right behind you."

They were constantly on the move, always afraid of the police. Eight months in one place was the closest thing they ever got to “permanency.” Three months looks more like the norm. The strain finally broke up April and her boyfriend who’d run away with her. Eventually the FBI caught up with them and arrested April leaving her (by then) two children parentless.

Here’s her daughter’s memory of life on the run.

Amanda Otter's earliest memory of the underground is a moment in the middle of the night, when she was 4, and she was awakened by her mother.

"She told me we were going to leave, and we had to be really quiet. I remember feeling like we were escaping something. We would drive around different places, live with people for two or three weeks, then move on."

Her mother was apprehended by the FBI and arrested, sending Amanda to a foster home and eventually to live with her father. But old habits die hard and Amanda pined for the life of a fugitive. So, when she got the chance, she contacted Faye Yager who, ever-willing to believe that a father was abusing his child, sent a volunteer.

The driver was "Sally," one of Yager's frequently used designations for her volunteers. They drove out of the city west on Interstate 10. Amanda sat in the back seat crying. She would weep intermittently throughout much of the trip.

As darkness fell, she lay in the back seat, staring, as orange beams from streetlights swept across her face.

They drove for what seemed like days, stopping only very briefly for food, Amanda recalls, and then, suddenly, they were at the "safe house." She was greeted by members of her new "family" and given a swift kiss goodbye from her escort, who then disappeared.

The next day, she stayed in the house by herself while the family went to school and work, watching "The Sound of Music" and periodically looking through the drawn shades in the house, waiting for her new family to come home, as she would every day for the next few months.

It's like being a foreign exchange student, she would tell herself - a chance to meet new people and visit new places.

But for a while, Amanda could not leave the house until late in the day, when school was over, so her presence on the streets wouldn't attract attention. Then, in April, she was measured for a uniform at a Christian school, where the pastor and principal had agreed to let her attend under her new name, "Beth."

In May, Amanda's photograph appeared on the Internet as part of the search for her, and was sent to her school. A mid-level administrator intercepted it and threw it away.

In California, posters went up all over the state.

One was stapled to a telephone pole 100 yards from Meyer's home, by Brian Otter.

And then, one day, Faye Yager decided it was time to move Amanda again. She hugged her "family," walked out of the house and disappeared.

And that, my friends, is the life children are condemned to by their “protective mothers,” when those mothers decide a family court hasn’t done the right thing. The idea that living in cars, moving from “family” to “family,” town to town, every few months, hiding behind drawn blinds, in constant fear of arrest (for the mother) and separation from your mother (for the child) is a “protective” way of raising a child is beyond delusional.

These people are true believers and Children of the Underground is their religion. They believe, often without any evidence at all (remember that Dorothy Barnett never even claimed abuse in her divorce and custody cases) that a father is a danger to a child and that the courts routinely ignore mothers’ claims of harm. That fathers are only half as likely to abuse their children as are mothers and that courts are required by law to investigate claims of child abuse and domestic violence troubles these believers not in the least. After all, those are facts and faith is not about facts.

Children of the Underground is not the only organization that, at least on occasion, assists mothers in flouting the law, fathers’ rights to children and children’s rights to fathers. For example, we’ve seen the Catholic Worker movement assist Helen Gavaghan in her two-year abduction of her daughter from England to Mexico, the U.S. and finally Canada. But the Catholic Worker movement isn’t foremost an organization for that purpose. Children of the Underground is. It’s an organization or a movement whose sole purpose is keeping fathers from their children and in so doing, violating the law and court orders.

As such, it and the people who make up its network, constitute a continuing criminal conspiracy and should be treated as such by national and international police agencies.

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