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June 4, 2015 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

For six years, a Canadian child protective authority kept a girl in foster care despite knowing the identity and contact information for her father. Now it wants to charge him $7,800 for the cost of that foster care. Read about it here (CTV News, 6/1/15).

It’s a story of a system of family law and childcare that is dysfunctional in the extreme. In the case of Dean Harper and his daughter, Athena Glusing, it acted against the clear best interests of a child and violated the parental rights of her father. That it wants to charge him a significant amount of money for its own incompetence (and possible intentional wrongdoing), is just bitter icing on a toxic cake.

Harper and Athena’s mother split up shortly after she was born. Just how his ex managed to get custody remains unreported, but clearly the decision to place the girl with her mother was a mistake. Mom promptly vanished with Athena and Harper spent the next 16 years trying to find his daughter, to no avail.

And just what behavior on the part of her mother got Athena placed in foster care also remains unstated. Athena simply says that “it’s really not a childhood that a child should go through.” She adds that there was “too much pressure” placed on her and that “I matured way too fast.” Just what the details of that are, Athena doesn’t say, but from here it suggests the usual problems children experience when they’re abducted by a parent. Those kids live lives on the run; they often have to change residences, change towns, change schools, change friends and even change their names. That of course adds pressure and stress most kids don’t have.

They also tend to become the only emotional support for their abducting parent who typically isn’t very stable or in control of the family situation. Is that the sort of thing Athena means when she says she grew up too fast?

It’s hard to know, but whatever the case, for some reason, Canadian child welfare personnel, the Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, decided that Athena’s mother wasn’t caring for her properly and took her into foster care at age 12. Athena credits that decision with helping her live a normal life afterward. She told the CTV interviewer “when I moved in with my family, I got to see how a kid should be.”

From Athena’s description, her foster parents are fine people who gave her the home and the guidance she needed. Despite living with them for only six years (ages 12 – 18), she calls them “my family” and “my mother and father.” When Harper appeared on the scene, one month before her 18th birthday, they encouraged her to meet with and get to know him. And finally, despite her first 12 years with her mother, Athena comes across as an articulate, self-possessed young woman of whom any parent would be proud. Good for her and her foster parents.

But all that time, Harper kept looking for his daughter. With two sons to raise, he didn’t have the money to hire lawyers to find his ex and try to get custody of Athena, so his only resort was social media. Eventually, he located a video Athena had made and posted on YouTube. From there he found a house that he located on Google Street View. More remarkably, Athena’s Facebook page revealed her to be the friend of Harper’s niece. So he contacted the niece who told him where Athena worked.

One day, Harper appeared at Athena’s place of work, walked up to her with his heart pounding so hard he was sure she could hear it and announced to her that he was Dean Harper. Her response was “and so is that supposed to mean something to me?” Athena had no idea even of her fathers’ name.

What she did believe was that he was a terrible man with whom she desired no contact at all. In her interview, she said, “If they’d found me when I was 12 years old (i.e. when she was taken from her mother), the things my mother had told me about him, I’d have told them I don’t want to live with him.” In other words, like most abducted children, her abductor lied to her about her other parent. In addition to being a kidnapper, her mother was an alienator as well.

But when Harper showed up when she was 18, he didn’t seem to be the ogre her mother had described, so Athena talked the matter over with her foster parents who encouraged her to meet with him. Together with Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, they all got together in a supervised setting so father and daughter could get to know each other.

Not long afterward, Athena moved in with Harper at her own suggestion. They’re living together still and discovering some uncanny similarities in their personalities. They tend to like the same foods and share a sense of humor. Most surprisingly, neither can stand the touch of cotton. One day Harper had to open a pill bottle with cotton wadding in the top. Unable to stand touching the stuff, he took the bottle to Athena and asked her to do it. But she recoiled. Like her father, she couldn’t abide the feel of cotton.

At one point, Harper met with Batshaw YFC and asked them why they hadn’t contacted him, given that they knew his name and could easily have located him. Their answer? “We didn’t have your birth date.” Of course that’s largely irrelevant to locating someone. Marriage licenses are records easily accessible to public agencies like Batshaw YFC and with his exact name and location at the time of his marriage, finding him would probably have been a 30-minute job.

But no one even tried to locate him, a fact that upsets Harper to this day. Into the bargain, Batshaw YFC has presented him a bill for $7,800 for “parental fees,” presumably the cost (or some of the cost) of keeping Athena in foster care.

Unsurprisingly, Harper is refusing to pay the fees and considering legal action against Batshaw YFC. He’s done a little research and talked to some lawyers and learned that the Youth Protection Act accords no rights to parents. As the attorneys confirmed, there is no legal obligation on the part of child protective agencies to locate parents. For kids with one unfit parent, it’s off to foster care with no effort – not even a phone call – to find the other parent.

At least in the Ninth Federal Circuit in the United States, it’s different. There, it’s a violation of a parent’s civil rights for a children’s welfare agency to fail to contact the second parent, when a child is taken from the first. And that’s the way it should be, as Dean Harper agrees.

In a legal system in which parents have parental rights, it cannot be acceptable for a children’s welfare agency to simply ignore the non-custodial parent when the custodial parent has been found to be unfit. To fail to contact the second parent, is to effectively adjudicate his rights without due process of law. It is to deny him his parental rights without any notice to him or opportunity to be heard.

Parents’ rights aside, it’s a waste of public resources. Who knows how much Canadian taxpayers spent to house Athena in a foster home? But whatever it was, it was that much too much. They shouldn’t have had to spend a cent, because Athena has always had a fit, loving father who wanted to care for her. The foster parents she had, who seem to be first-rate parents, could have cared for another child who, unlike Athena, needed them.

As I said, the story of Dean Harper and Athena Glusing is one of malfeasance by Canadian courts and child welfare officials. The one placed a child with an abusive mother, the second refused to lift a finger to locate Harper and ascertain whether he was capable of caring for his daughter. Preferring foster care to father care, Batshaw YFC wasted public resources and denied good, loving foster parents to some child somewhere who needed them.

And of course the fact that Batshaw YFC now wants to charge Harper for its own wrongdoing just goes to show that that very malfeasance is so entrenched, so taken for granted that its perpetrators figure they can get away with anything. If experience is any guide, they’re probably right.

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National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#parentalalienation, #parentalabduction, #unfitparent, #fostercare, #parentchildreunification

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