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Father fears he will lose contact with his ten-year-old son

A frustrated father who fears losing any chance of a relationship with his biological son said he was “treated wrongly from Day 1” after the Department of Child and Family Services deemed him unsuitable for the child’s care.

The 61-year-old, who cannot be identified for confidentiality reasons, said he had been kept from his son since the boy’s infancy after DCFS went to the courts to request a care order for the one-year-old.

The service cited allegations of alcohol abuse as well as domestic violence, and said the father was unable to provide appropriate housing and care for the child.

Ultimately the boy, who turns ten this year, was placed with foster parents who have applied to adopt him.

The father said he had “always tried my best to communicate with DCFS concerning access and visitation with my son” and claimed he had been treated “as if I don’t deserve to spend time with my son — or be a part of his life”.

The child advocacy group Childwatch contends the case fits a familiar pattern.

“It happens too often — courts are not listening to fathers,” said Eddie Tavares, co-founder of the group, which was set up in the 1990s.

“He gave the courts and the Department the name of a family member that would assist him in taking care of his son, and they were never contacted.

“He went through anger management and BARC [the Bermuda Assessment and Referral Centre, an alcohol and drugs service] to clear his name when he should not have to do that.”

Mr Tavares told The Royal Gazette last week: “If a father gives up his rights, then fair enough.

“But if they want to be involved in their child’s life, they should be.”

He added: “The foster parents have made an application for adoption and the father hasn’t given up those rights. It just doesn’t add up.”

DCFS: child’s safety is our priority

A spokeswoman for the Department of Child and Family Services responded to this article with a statement that DCFS will investigate “any allegation of child maltreatment”.

She added: “Our priority is to assess safety and risk to determine a plan to mitigate future harm to a child. A child's safety is our priority, and where that is with either parent, a child would remain in that parent's care.

“If a child's safety with either parent cannot be established, an application to the court is made for the child to be placed into the care of the director for that child's safety.

“Such applications are granted by the court based on evidence that the threshold for abuse/neglect has been established.

“Children in the care of the director have their matters reviewed by the court regularly, where parents are required to attend and have the opportunity to provide evidence attesting to changes in their circumstances that would support their child being returned to their care.

“The Department of Child and Family Services attempts to work with both parents and give equal opportunities to demonstrate their ability to provide a safe, nurturing environment for their children."

The boy’s original parents, who were never married, met in 2012 and had their child late that year.

DCFS highlighted concerns that the parents were inadequately equipped to care for him.

In late 2013 the child was placed in foster care, while the father’s sister was given permission to assist in giving him visits with the youngster.

But the father claimed only the mother was permitted regular visits.

By the time the child was 7, his behavioural troubles made it difficult for his first set of foster parents, and another family was requested from DCFS.

The father said he gave the department references from his own relatives who would assist him in caring for the boy.

But DCFS recorded that no suitable candidate was given, and the child was placed with new foster parents.

As of January 2020, the father was granted visits to his child by the new parents.

But later that year the foster parents applied for a restraining order against him, barring him from “contact or access” with his biological child.

Meanwhile, the child’s biological mother had left the island.

A court document showed the father denied allegations of harassment but agreed to the order based on the risk of “a hearing wherein an adverse finding could be drawn against him”.

The foster parents subsequently filed an adoption application in 2021.

The father insisted he had been given no chance to “prove my innocence” and see his son.

He said he had been a good parent to his daughter by another relationship, now 25 years old and self-supporting.

He added he has nieces and nephews around his son’s age whom the boy will never know, and that he fears having “no right to call or see my son again” once the adoption is granted.

Mr Tavares said Childwatch felt the rights of fathers were being “brushed under the rug”.

“So many situations are similar,” he said. “And then they ask, ‘Where’s the father?’ ”

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Published September 12, 2022 at 7:56 am (Updated September 12, 2022 at 7:49 am)

Father fears he will lose contact with his ten-year-old son

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