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Child custody evaluations are not always accurate

When Louisiana parents are faced with a challenge to their parental rights, there are no words that can properly describe the stress and anxiety that follows. When the state acts to remove a child from his or her home, the parents are often at a distinct disadvantage. States have a number of tools at their disposal in these cases, including attorneys, social workers, guardian ad litems and individuals tasked with making child custody evaluations. Parents are allowed the right to an attorney, but many do not have the resources to match those that the state can gather. This can lead to controversial and distressing child custody outcomes, including a recent case in which children may have been wrongly placed in harm's way by state authorities.

The case centers on a family in which the man and woman have a history of domestic violence. Their 5-year-old twins and an older child belonging to the mother were removed from the home, based on the court's belief that there were issues of neglect and that the children were witnesses to acts of domestic violence. The children were placed into a foster home.

Not long after, the parents were notified that the claims of neglect and abuse were found to be unsubstantiated. Then, the older child began speaking out about acts of sexual abuse. Her stepfather was accused of those acts, although it was later revealed that the girl was speaking about her biological father. Around the same time, the female twin also began disclosing sexual abuse, this time at the hands of her foster father. He has since been arrested and charged with sexual molestation.

The judge in this case has been suspended for her role in removing the children from their home and placing them into foster care, as well as ruling to keep them in foster care as the case moved on. In making those determinations, the judge relied on the testimony of a guardian ad litem and at least one mental health worker. In cases such as this, the word of individuals who are tasked with making child custody evaluations can weigh heavily on the outcome of the case. For Louisiana families that are faced with a challenge to their parental rights, it is important to present a strong legal approach as soon as possible.

Source: kentucky.com, "Before suspension, judge put 5-year-olds in foster care. Now foster dad is charged with sexual abuse", Fernando Alfonso III, April 7, 2017

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