Parents Target Family Court -> Taxpayers should too.

From The Times Leader:

Parents target family court

By Christopher J. Hughes

SCRANTON – A group of parents demonstrating on Courthouse Square Friday morning across from the Lackawanna County Administration Building at 200 Adams Ave., Scranton, said they feel the county’s family court and guardian ad litem are the focus of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts defines a guardian ad litem as a “person appointed by a court to look after interests of a minor or incapacitated person involved in legal proceedings.”

But parents holding signs suggesting county officials “Toss Ross” and handing out literature about the county’s guardian ad litem system said that was not the case.

Olyphant resident Cherie Matassa said guardian ad litem Danielle Ross, who is supposed to represent her two children in a custody battle that began in March 2010, has not listened to their own wishes.

Matassa claimed that Ross forced her to provide visitation rights to her ex-husband, who she did not name but claimed is employed in Lackawanna County government, despite the children’s expressed wishes.

“I paid her to be their voice… She didn’t care what they said,” she said.

Matassa fears that she could eventually lose custody of her children because of the actions in family court, but a visit by the FBI to the Lackawanna County court administrator’s office on Monday gives her hope that such issues could begin to be resolved.

Efforts to reach Ross for comment at her office in the county administration building and by phone Friday afternoon were not successful.

When contacted earlier this week regarding the FBI’s search at the Lackawanna County Courthouse, Court Administrator Ron Mackay, FBI Special Agent J.J. Klaver, and spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Officer Heidi Havens each declined comment on the nature of the ongoing investigation.

Dawn Lewis of Scranton claimed that her father-in-law’s working relationship with a current county judge prevented her from keeping full custody of her now-7-year-old son after his father died from cancer in 2010.

Lewis said the Ross is also her child’s appointed guardian ad litem.

“My son was seen twice for a total of 22 minutes,” Lewis said. “During this 22 minutes, Ms. Ross came to her own conclusions and figured out what was best for my (then-) 5-year-old son who was grieving the loss of his father. She decided he needed to spend three out of five days with his grandparents. Custody? Visitation? No. That’s co-parenting, and that is not right.”

Lewis said she’s working to get a new court date after more than 18 months of legal battles. She believes that the FBI is looking into the finances of family court and that it “is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Another woman from Blakely also feels she was treated unfairly by the county’s family court system. She said Ross, her children’s court guardian, gave custody of her children to a man with whom she had a prior relationship.

That man, Maurice Wayne Hunting III, was charged Sept. 28 with rape of a child, involuntary deviate sexual assault of a child, indecent assault of a person under age 13, corruption of minors, and contact with minors involving sexual offenses, according to court records.

Charges were held for county court after an Oct. 5 preliminary hearing, and a formal arraignment was set for Nov. 18.

The woman, who is not being named to protect the identity of the alleged victims, said she hopes that an investigation by the FBI will end troubles in the Lackawanna County court system.

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For the past 30 years, protective parents have begged family court judges to protect their abused children in child custody cases.  Unfortunately, according to family law in America, abusive parents have a more of a “right” to see their children then children have a “right” to be protected from parental abuse. 

Today, our family court judges force approximately 58,000 children  into unsupervised contact with their identified abusers every year. And most people have no idea this is happening. 

The mainstream media covered the “Catholic Church scandal” but not the family court scandal – which is bigger than the “Catholic Church scandal” ever was.

We protective parents have tried to figure out how to protect our children in a corrupt family court system. We’ve tried to figure out why the mainstream media is ignoring the family court crisis. We’ve tried to figure out how to gain our legislators’ attention. We’ve petitioned the United States Supreme Court. We’ve tried to figure out how to ask for the help from the general public at a time when the mainstream media won’t tell the public about the failure of our family courts to protect children.  

Now, many protective parents are thinking of another way to gain the attention of the public and the attention of our legislators: Through the wallet. Money talks.

Where there’s an abused child, most people turn away. No one wants to talk about child abuse. No one wants to think that our family court system doesn’t protect children. The subject matter is too embarrassing for an every-day-kind-of- conversation. 

However, where there’s money – people listen. People want to talk about saving money. Especially in this economy. 

The FBI is now investigating the court in Pennsylvania. They’re investigating courts in Georgia and courts in a couple of other states too. Protective parents are using the words “tip of the iceberg” to describe these investigations and 21% of Lackawanna County’s budget is no small change. 

Do the taxpayers in Pennsylvania care about children? Of course they do. But not enough people have been talking about saving children in Lakawanna County – or in any other state county in the nation. 

Let’s hope and pray the FBI finds the rest of the iceberg in Pennsylvania, Georgia and in all the other states too. 

Let’s also hope the public starts to talk about how the family courts waste taxdollars. Maybe we’ll save the lives of a few children in the process.

Pennsylvania family court “failed to see sufficient allegations of conditions or facts.”

 

Please see related post here.

From: Pennlive.com :

 

Swatara Township boy’s death ruled homicide; maternal grandmother says she tried to report child abuse, but was rebuffed

By Lara Brenckle, The Patriot-News

Thursday, September 23, 2010, 12:43 PM

 The Dauphin County coroner’s office announced Wednesday what Tammy Beltz said she’s known since May 25. Her grandson Jayahn Cox-Phoenix’s death was a homicide. Jayahn was found unresponsive in the bathtub of a home in the 3600 block of Chambers Hill Road on May 21, police said.

The coroner ruled Jayahn, 3, died as a result of freshwater drowning and traumatic brain injury, according to a news release.

Swatara Township police issued a news release stating they were opening an investigation into Jayahn’s death.

The district attorney’s office, the police and Dauphin County Children and Youth Services, which was involved in Jayahn’s life, declined further comment. No charges have been filed.

But Beltz, of Harrisburg, is talking. She said she has been even before the day her grandson, who loved walking to the store and afternoons at Chuck E. Cheese’s, died.

Jayahn, she said, was being abused. She had proof, she said, but no one would listen.

“I have 11 grandkids,” Beltz said. “I lost my grandson, and I feel like I failed as a grandmom because I couldn’t protect him.”

Born to Beltz’s daughter, Jasmine Cox, in 2007, Jayahn and Cox lived with Beltz in her Crescent Street home.

Stephen S. Dixon, Jayhan’s father, didn’t care for him until January, Beltz said. Initially, Beltz said, her daughter allowed Dixon to care for the boy on weekends. On March 21, Beltz said, Dixon took Jayahn and then refused to return him when the weekend was over.

Beltz and her daughter called police, but were told that with no formal custody arrangement and Dixon’s acknowledged paternity, there was nothing they could do.

Two days later, according to court documents provided by Beltz, Dixon lodged a child-abuse complaint against Cox with Dauphin County Children and Youth’s Childline. Those allegations were unfounded, Beltz said.

Throughout April, Cox and Beltz attempted to contact Jayahn and Dixon.

Those calls, Beltz said, either went unanswered, were blocked or answered evasively.

Beltz made several calls to CYS after reports from other family members and friends told her that Jayahn was being abused.

She said she never heard back from CYS on the findings of her family’s allegations.

“They never came out, never invited us to a safety plan meeting, nothing,” Beltz said.

In a last-ditch effort, Beltz went to Dixon’s home to try to get Jayahn back. The police were called, she said, and refused to let her take Jayahn.

Beltz called CYS during the incident to plead her case one more time, she said. She said she was told to stop bothering caseworkers with unfounded allegations.

The next day, May 7, Cox filed a handwritten petition for emergency custody.

“I also reported to Children and Youth about my son being beat,” she wrote. “I haven’t seen or talked to my son in over two months now. Every time I call and ask to speak to my son, he’s either asleep, not there, just left or half the time they don’t even pick up.”

On May 11, Judge Andrew Dowling denied the petition, saying the court “failed to see sufficient allegations of conditions or facts.”

Eleven days later, Jayahn was hospitalized.

A cell phone number for Dixon was disconnected.

A woman who answered the phone at another number, which Dixon had given in court papers, said Dixon would not be speaking to a reporter about his son’s death and told a reporter to never call her home again.

Beltz and her daughter are grappling with the loss. When she misses her grandson, Beltz plays the message Jayahn left on her phone in one of his last calls, about three days before his father took custody of him. It’s all she has left of him, she said.

“Why nanna not answering phone?” his baby voice asks his mother. Then the line goes quiet.