November 13, 2007 at 12:08 am · Filed under Vox Populi
I recently partnered with Dr. Ned Holstein, president of Fathers and Families, in a campaign designed to draw attention to a serious problem in our child welfare system. When a father's former wife or partner has been found to have abused her children and has had them taken by child protective services, decent, loving fathers are often denied custody of their own children. Incredibly, children are often put into foster care rather than being returned to their fathers, even though there has not been any finding that the fathers are unfit.
Our campaign called attention to the case of Rafael Izquierdo, a fit, loving father who is battling the Florida Department of Children & Families so he can raise his little daughter, most likely in Cuba. In this "Elian Gonzalez II" case, Izquierdo has been found by a Florida court to be a fit and committed father, but he is still being denied his parental rights.
One reason DCF has acted as it has is that Florida Governor Charlie Crist, like many Florida politicians, seeks the loyalty, votes, and campaign donations of the large, powerful Cuban-American community. Crist (correctly) sees defeating Izquierdo as a way to win Cuban-American votes. In Florida, sticking it to Cuba's government is a crowd-pleaser, similar to the way politicians win popularity by beating up on "deadbeat dads."
We asked Florida DCF to contact us and open a dialogue on how we can address this important issue.
Thousands of you have answered our call to action, and our campaign has been covered or cited in hundreds of newspapers, including by the Associated Press, syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post Writers Group, Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, and many others. DCF, to their credit, contacted us and met with Dr. Holstein in Miami recently.
Our sources indicate that DCF is under pressure from the Governor's office to continue this case, despite a lack of enthusiasm from many in DCF itself. The case is currently on appeal, and may be held up for quite a while, which will delay the reunion of Izquierdo and his daughter. Fortunately, in the meantime, she spends five days per week with him. Moreover, we do believe we have begun a meaningful dialogue with DCF on the issue of fathers and the child welfare system.
We are not asking for more protest calls, letters and faxes at this time, but will instead pursue our dialogue with DCF. We will keep supporters posted as to events in the Izquierdo case and with DCF, and we may again call upon you to protest in the future. Thanks to all of you who supported our campaign.