Around the same time my father took ill, a friend had contacted the Danbury paper “The News-Times” relating my plight, contacted me and did this article.
Danbury, Connecticut Section B
Sunday May 24, 1987
Father Fights for Children He Gave up
By Trink Guarino
DANBURY- Michael Evans wants his children back.
Believing he could turn to the Sate Department of Children and Youth Services for help when he needed it. Evans a year and a half ago voluntarily relinquished custody of his son and daughter untill he could provide then a proper home.
Now he is caught in a maze of paperwork, psychological evaluations, social worker reports and red tape. He is trying to persuade the State to give back his children before it’s social workers recommend that custody be granted to their maternal grandparents in California.
His story focuses attention on a complex system designed to protect children from abusive, neglecful parents. Evans raises qusestions about the inner workings of a system that can permanently seperates parents and children.As part of a policy to protect the confidentiality of cases, DCYS will neither confirm or deny that Evans’ children are in State custody.
Rosemary Savino, a spokesman for the department, said Evans has every right to file for revocation of DCYS custody , and it is his right to talk about his children to whom ever he wishes. We do not have that right.
The State prefers to return children to their parents whenever possible and as soon as possible, particulary at a time when there is a critical shortage of foster homes. In Evans’ case , the two hoals are in conflict say his lawyer Heidi Winslow. “In it’s unseemly haste to resolve this situation and open foster beds, the State is considering a situation that would remove the children from their father permanently,” she says.
Evans and his attorney say that delays and snafus have made it difficult for Evans to prove his parenting skills before the State relinquishes responsibility for his children. Winslow is primed for a State recommendation that custody go to the maternal grandparents who live in California with the children’s mother. “Then we go to court and fight,” she says. “In the meantime we wait and hope that nike can meet their requirements in time.”
The State has set a target dat of July 1987 to make a decision about Evans’ children, Winslow says. “At that time they could recommend adoption, a return to the parents or that custody go to the maternal grand parents. If Mike’s evaluations don’t meet the social worker’s standards, the children will in all probability go to the grandparents.”
Meanwhile Evans, who has gotten himself a job as a car salesman in Carmel, N.Y. is trying to meet these standards, he says but he is frustrated at every turn by the system itself.
“It doesn’t matter what I do,” he says, his voice carefully deviod of emotion. “No matter how hard I try, no matter how any requirements I satisfy, there is no way to satisfy the State. And I miss my children.”
Evans struggle with the DCYS bureaucracy began in December 1985, when in desperation he turned to the State for help. At the time , his children were living on Golden Hill Road with his wife of eight years. Eric was 8. Brittany was two years old. Evans who was seperated from her, asked DCYS to investigate his childrens situation. “I had already figured out they were living in squalor in a ramshackle house,” Evans says. But he was in no condition to take care of children at the time, he says. I was working odd jobs, living with two guys in Bethel. I had no home of my own, no financial stability,” he says.
DCYS investigated the case and quicky took the children from their mother and placed them in temporary foster care, Evans says. Six months later, in August 1986, the State filed for temporary custody. “I didn’t fight it,” he says, because I knew I wasn’t set up to take care of two very young children.”
DCYS temporarily placed the children in tow different foster homes in Bethel. At the same time, at DCYS’ recommendation, he began receiving therapy for his own involvement with drugs and alcohol.
Evans, 36, also set about pulling his life together so that he would be prepared to meet a target date of december 1986 when his children would be returned. “I got myself a steady job. I rented a three-bedroom apartment in Pawling and filled with toys for the kids, and I’m still living there alone. The State gave me a lot of good ideas about how to be a better parent, “ he says. “But now it’s time for them to let the chidren come back to me.”
In November 1986 the children were moved to a foster home in Prospect where they would be together. But the move made it more difficult for their father to visit. It also triggered a series of DCYS decisions rescinding and then returning Evans’ rights to visit his children.
With each decision, there were visits from social workers, psychological evaluations, interviews and appointments. Evans began keeping a log of his contacts with DCYS.
According to one of his entries, Brittany had developed “health problems, tummy aches,” and a question was raised by DCYS concerning the cause. As a result, Evans was allowed to continue his visiting his son but his visits with his daughter were cut back, pending a review by social worker Aleta Markham, he says. For the next four weeks, Markham was unable to keep her appointments with Evans and he did not see his daughter for five weeks. Markham said she could not comment on the case.
An independent child psychologist has been called in to evaluate Evans’s parenting skills with the children. There have been several delays in the process because she is coming into the case cold., and went on vacation shortly after being assigned to the case. Psychological evaluations od Evans have recommended that he spend additional time with his children befor they move in with him to pave the way for the adjustment. “The reports State that Evans is too much of a friend and not enough of an authority figure for his children,” Winslow says. Evans also tends to be ‘ overly dramatic,’ partly due to a show business upbringing,” Winslow says.
The evaluations leave Evans with a “deck stacked against him,” Winslow says. “When you’ve got psychologists (involved) we need to do a few more things before mike is ready. It’s tough to go in and persuade the court to revoke State custody.”
At present, Evans is still trying to work with the sate system. He is scheduled to return to court as soon as the State make it’s recommendation, expected some time this summer.
“I can only hope that the State recommends that I get custody,” he says. If they don’t, I’ll have to find another way to fight. I’m not going to give up.”