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Mother had to fight state in child custody dispute

It is the job of a Pennsylvania's child welfare caseworker to take a child from a home when there is perceived danger within that home. Should that happen, the parents of the child are often in for a difficult child custody battle against the state to have their child returned to them. One woman had to fight to regain child custody of her son simply because she was the victim of abuse.

The woman had endured not only permanent injury from a tour of duty in the Iraq War, but also numerous attacks by the biological father of her son. After he was arrested and convicted, she won sole custody of her son, with the father ordered to have no contact with the boy. She and her son moved to another state in search of better security, as they now both suffered from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Because the cost of health insurance was so high, she was not able to get the needed medical treatment for herself and her son and contacted the state's health services for assistance. Instead of giving them the help they needed, the agency took the boy away.

It is often thought by state agencies and even courts that those who have been abused are traumatized to the point that they are not able to care for themselves, and especially not their children. The state to which the woman and her son moved, however, instructs agency workers to keep families together when reasonably possible. Guidance on policy has been given to caseworkers, including formal training. The training that would benefit these caseworkers is often disregarded because most have more work than they can handle without the interruption.

The mother and son are now back together, and a family law attorney who works with victims of domestic abuse has filed a lawsuit against the state agency. She says the treatment by the agency exacerbates the trauma of those who were abused. The attorney hopes the suit will prompt change on the part of the child welfare system.

The best living situation for the child should be the focus of any custody question. Whether the child custody battle is against a state agency or another person, the need for legal representation exists. A Pennsylvania attorney will know the laws specific to the state and can help a client in the fight for the child.

Source: psmag.com, "Victims of Spousal Abuse Are Losing Their Children to Social Services", Natalie Pattillo, March 5, 2018

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