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Maryland fathers sue D.C. over child custody issues

Two Maryland fathers have filed a lawsuit against the District of Columbia after the District placed their children in foster care. Because both families reside in Maryland, their lawsuit claims that the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency violated their parental rights by taking their children after their mothers lost child custody.

The men argue that social workers should have given custody to the fathers immediately after taking the children from their mothers. The agency, however, insisted that the fathers be evaluated in order to make sure they could provide adequate housing and care for their children, in accordance with the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

The fathers claim that there was no reason to believe that they would be unsuitable parents, and have accused the agency of misconstruing a federal law aimed at protecting children from being sent to out-of-state foster homes with poor living conditions. If the fathers did not live in Maryland, they allege that they would have received custody of their children within three days of them leaving their mothers' care.

Both fathers were eventually able to regain child custody, but experts say problems are still present within the system. An executive for the Children's Law Center, an organization that assisted the fathers in filing their complaint, said that the agency's interpretation of the law creates custody issues for about a dozen families every year. According to a law professor who has worked on similar cases, children across the country are regularly sent to long-term foster homes, despite having fully capable parents.

Source: The Washington Post, "D.C. sued by fathers over daughters' foster-care stays," Teresa Tomassoni, Oct. 6, 2011

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