A Willing and Able Father Faces the Termination of his Parental Rights
Dads’ Resource Center tries to prevent this tragedy from unfolding
The child welfare and family court systems are supposed to protect children and promote strong families. But there is yet another horrifying example of how they hurt children by denying them access to their fathers.
York County Children and Youth in Pennsylvania
has petitioned for a hearing on February 2, 2022, to terminate the parental rights of Melsaunto Davis. If successful, they will deny his 9-year-old son any contact with his natural family for the rest of his childhood.
“This is the gravest of all the many tragic and heartbreaking situations that have come to our attention,” said Jeffrey Steiner, executive director of the Dads’ Resource Center. “There is an able and willing father who is not being heard or recognized by the system, which is on the precipice of erasing him and the rest of a young boy’s family from his life. This story has to be told.”
Up until early 2020,
Davis’ son had lived in South Carolina, where his mother and Davis lived. He had been an active part of his son’s life until mom abruptly took him and went to Pennsylvania, where he ended up in the custody of York County Children and Youth Services. Since that time, no one has heard from or knows where the mother is.
Instead of working to return Davis’ son to him in South Carolina, York County Children and Youth kept him with foster families. Davis was able to have zoom visits with his son through the end of 2020 but has not been able to communicate with him since then and still does not know why.
“I am still waiting for someone to say something,” said Melsaunto Davis. “They are not even making the effort. They ignore me like I am not there. I just want people to hear me, but they are not even giving me a chance.”
The experience has not been any better
for the boy’s maternal grandmother, Dawn Lacoste. When it was clear that they would not give Davis a chance she offered to take custody of her grandson. But they rejected her, also.
“From the very beginning it was quite difficult to get any answers,” said Dawn Lacoste. “I had to get a lawyer just to try to get anything done and still had to fight to get some visits. Eventually, they told me I could no longer visit, or even send him clothing or gifts.”
Davis and Lacoste are working together to try to keep this tragedy from unfolding. Despite their intention to terminate his parental rights, Davis gave up his job of 19 years in South Carolina to move to Pennsylvania.
He quickly found a full-time job
with hours suitable to being a father to his son if given the chance. Lacoste helped him to find and get into a two-bedroom apartment and helps to coordinate efforts between Davis’ attorney and the Dads’ Resource Center.
But the specter of the judge ruling in favor of terminating Davis’ paternal rights on February 2, 2022, weighs heavy in their minds.
“He would be lost,” said Davis. “He is always going to wonder about his family, his background, everything. We are the only ones that can teach him and tell him about where he came from. He will have questions the rest of his life.”
“He needs to be returned to his family that knows him and loves him,” said Lacoste. “He never should have been there in the first place.”
A video discussion between Davis, Lacoste, and Steiner about this situation, and how you can get involved or make a donation to help pay for legal expenses can be found at https://dadsrc.org/advocacy/.
About Dads’ Resource Center
The Dads’ Resource Center is committed to providing education, resources, and advocacy for dads who are separated or divorced and are determined to uphold their sacred responsibility as fathers. The Dads’ Resource Center was founded by Dr. Joel N. Myers, who is the founder and CEO of AccuWeather. His own experience as a single father led him to start the group. To get more information, visit the site at: https://dadsrc.org.