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Fathers and Families

A Change in Ohio Statutes
Could Prevent Similar Tragedies
December 6, 2012
Top Story
A Change in Ohio Statutes Could Prevent Similar Tragedies
Terry Kee, Ohio Executive Committee, Fathers and Families

Terry Kee
Terry Kee
Emilliano Terry, a 3 year Cleveland boy, is dead. His skull was fractured and his body deposited in a dumpster. His twenty year old mother has been charged with his murder.

It’s been just over one week since Emilliano Terry was reported missing. In one month, our memories will fade and those of us outside of Emilliano’s family and community will not remember him at all. He will be remembered as just another sad statistic of domestic violence. But now, one week later, as facts emerge concerning Camilia Terry, the boy’s mother, it is obvious that Emilliano was living in a high risk environment and something should have been done. In fact, a lively round of the blame game has begun.

In this game, everyone associated with the mother is to blame. The maternal grandmother is to blame because she abused Camilia as a child - thus creating a cycle of abuse. The foster care system is to blame because it didn’t do enough for Camilia when she was placed there when she was 14. The father, Shawn Dotson, is to blame because he didn’t do enough to see his son. The paternal grandmother is to blame because she didn’t fight hard enough for custody of her grandchild. Apparently everyone is to blame.

In the end, it was the system that failed Emilliano Terry and if we don’t fix it, we can only blame ourselves.

Here is a rather modest proposal: make it easier for the noncustodial family to be a part of the child’s life. A young single mother, abused by her own mother and placed in foster care at age 14, is in no position to raise children on her own. She needed support. It takes a mother and a father, even if separated. When the parents are teenagers, additional support from grandparents is critical. The father, Shawn Dotson, told reporters that he wanted to be involved in Emilliano’s life, but was prevented from doing so by the mother. Emilliano’s paternal grandmother says that she offered to raise the boy. Yet both are being blamed – apparently for not doing enough to help the mother take care of him.

Listed below are actual comments posted by readers to the Cleveland News Channel 5 regarding an online video and story titled, Father of 3-year old Cleveland boy Emilliano Terry talks about loss of son:

TYM writes, “The news crew running to this Houdini of a father!!! I hate hate hate when a man claims "Oh she pushed me away blah blah and wouldn't let me be a dad"....such BS!!! “

And another from a woman with the initials TW “If u believe the bull the father and grandmother are speaking about not being allowed in his life, then god help you. If a father or mother or grandmother.etc. wants to be apart of a child's life that belongs to them, there is nothing that can stop you from doing so, except unfortunately death. That's what the courts are for....”


If only this were true. There is a misperception that parenting time is enforced in the State of Ohio. It is not. The fact is that the State of Ohio does little to nothing to protect and maintain the child’s right to a relationship with both parents. Unfortunately the State’s primary concern is in collecting child support and has little interest in protecting parenting rights, which paradoxically would result in increased child support collected.

Currently, in order for a parent to seek remedy, he or she must file a contempt charge. It takes a lawyer, it takes time, and it takes money. Lots of money and lots of time. The children will be adults before an Ohio domestic court takes action due to the allowance of unwarranted continuances.

The current system is a mess. It’s designed to not work. Yes, you read it correctly. The system is designed to fail. The Ohio domestic court system does not want to make a ruling on child custody issues or enforcement. By taking the parent’s money and wasting their time, they hope that the two parties can come to an agreement. Its risk mitigation - pure and simple. No decision and no risk of being wrong.

In the case of Emilliano Terry, would the addition of love and support and shared responsibility from other family members have helped? It obviously couldn’t have hurt.

Ohio Needs Family Access Motions

What Ohio needs is an expedited system of resolving access and visitation rights, which includes grandparents. Such a system already exists in Missouri, which provides a “pro se” method to seek relief through the use of Family Access Motions. Within five days of receiving the motion, the clerk of courts issues a summons and the parent named in the motion shall have ten days to respond, or pay fines, post bonds, or provide compensatory custody to the aggrieved party. Within 60 days, the court must make a determination.

What Missouri does that Ohio fails to do is require that judges make decisions, or as some like to call it, perform their job. Missouri has saved countless numbers of children from being robbed of a parental relationship. Ohio, by its lack of action, is favoring a single parent solution subsequent to divorce. It is time for the State of Ohio to protect the rights of children and to allow the family to have a voice – to speak up when custodial parents fail to live up to their duty of providing access to the other parent or grandparent who loves the child dearly – and to take action when necessary.

Emilliano deserved better. He deserved to have a mother, father, and grandmother in his life. They say they wanted to be in his life. Who are we to dispute this? If the State of Ohio had a means of holding parents accountable for access, then instead of speculating on what could have been, we would have the comfort of knowing that everything possible was done to afford Emilliano Terry the happiness and life he deserved.

If you are interested in making change in Ohio, please email Rita Fuerst Adams, National Executive Director, to let her know you are ready to get involved.
In the News
New York Times Calls Family Courts ‘Gender-Neutral’

Australian Embassy Knew Mother Was ‘Planning to Live in Queensland’

Kelli Murphy to Serve Two Life Terms in Children’s Slaying

Florida Dad Ramsey Shaud Stops Utah Adoption of His Child – For Now

Family Doesn’t End When Mom and Dad Divorce

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