PITTSBURGH, PA - In the wake of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania last week, Fayette County Children Youth and Services (FCCYS) has agreed to allow a father to have supervised visits with his three young children, whom he has not seen in almost a year. The lawsuit charged that the agency improperly removed the children from their father's home nearly two years ago. A hearing in the matter scheduled for today has been canceled.
After a series of negotiations last week, FCCYS agreed to allow John Doe, as the father is known in legal papers to protect his children, to see his 8-, 6- and 5-year-old. The reunion took place on Friday, June 20. It was the first time Doe had seen or spoken to them since August 1, 2007. After a brief period of observation, FCCYS decided that Doe could resume unlimited visits with his children, as long as his mother was present. Doe and the children spent the weekend together.
"Every day for eleven months I dreamed about seeing my kids," said John Doe. When asked how it felt to finally see them last Friday, he replied, "There are no words to describe how great it was."
FCCYS's decision to allow visitation resolved the immediate need to have a hearing. The ACLU and FCCYS continue to negotiate over when and how Doe will be able to regain unsupervised visits. Either party may still petition the court to reschedule the preliminary injunction hearing.
The case will continue to resolve the important legal issues and determine damages. The ACLU continues to assert that FCCYS's policy of forbidding parents to have contact with any children, including their own, when there is no allegation of abuse or danger, violates the parents' right to associate with and raise their children. The lawsuit also alleges that the agency violated Doe's due process rights by failing to advise Doe of his right under Pennsylvania law to retain custody of his children, to have a judge decide whether the children should be removed, and to be appointed a lawyer to help him.
"Although the important legal issues remain to be resolved, we appreciate Fayette County's willingness to allow dad's reunification with his children now," said Witold Walczak, ACLU-PA's Legal Director and one of Doe's lawyers.
The matter began in 2006, when FCCYS concluded in a one-sided investigation that Doe should be "indicated" for child abuse for a consensual relationship with a 16-year-old. Police refused to prosecute Doe, since 16 is the age of consent in Pennsylvania. Despite no allegations that Doe abused or posed a danger to his children, FCCYS threatened to place the children in foster care unless Doe immediately agreed to move them to his parents' house.
More information about the case, Doe v. Fayette County Children Youth and Services, including a copy of the original complaint, can be found at: /our-work/legal/legaldocket/doe-v-fccys/