Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WOW OH WOW

There is a story out of Nebraska about a serious wrong. A man rapes the 13 year old daughter of his girlfriend. She becomes pregnant and goes to place the child for adoption. The rapist aka the father wants custody of this child. There is something so wrong with this. I just got the fourth part in this story today. It was always my understanding that rapists can NOT get custody of the child produced from that rape. This boggles my mind. Although I may not agree with adoption as it is practiced, I do think that this should have NEVER happened. A rapist should not ever get custody of the child he created with his actions. Even more so when those actions landed him jail.

Here is part one:

n Editor's note: This is part one of a series involving the struggle of an adoptive mother to keep her son away from a man who conceived him by raping the boy's mother when she was just 13 years old. Only the boy's name has been changed in order to protect his privacy.

By Mark Young

The North Platte Telegraph

A young life hung precariously in the balance over the last few years - his fate left to the hard-to-understand reasoning of bureaucracy, potentially inadequate state laws and agency policies.

Eight-year-old Tyler walked a tightrope over a system that was supposed to protect him, but came close to allowing him to fall into the hands of a predator. On the other side of Tyler's perilous walk across the judicial wire were the open arms of a loving, adoptive mother who offered hope of a future with endless opportunity.

Tugging at his balance from below was an ongoing effort to reunite him with his imprisoned father, convicted for raping Tyler's underage mother. The sexual assaults began when Tyler's mother was just 13 years old, while the offender was 35 and the boyfriend of the young girl's own drug-addicted mother.

The victim was a young girl whose life circumstances, trauma of being sexually victimized, and a family environment of drug use led her down a darkened path that ended with her own methamphetamine addiction.

More than three years after the young girl's darkest days of falling prey to a predator, Tyler came to the foster home of Missy Black when he was just 3 years old, the son of a meth addict mother and convicted sex offender father. The Black family did all they could, not only for Tyler, but also for the troubled young mother.

"Tyler's mom and I had a good relationship," said Black. "Over time, I saw this whole situation as helping her as much as I was trying to help Tyler, because we both just wanted what was best for Tyler. She didn't have anyone in her life that was a positive influence and that's what I tried to be to her."

For a time, it appeared the young woman would get herself back on track, but the call of her drug addiction proved to be too strong. Yet, her love for her son was strong enough to recognize the right thing to do. She asked Black if she would consider adopting Tyler and Black, who had already cared for the boy for several years, agreed.

"She told me she wanted to give up her parental rights," said Black. "But she said she would only do it if I adopted Tyler. He had been a part of our family for a long time and everyone in our family thought we should do it."

But that single act of love proved to be the catalyst of what launched Tyler's dangerous journey through a system designed to protect him. Tyler was now stranded on the proverbial tightrope between loving parents and the convicted sex offender empowered by lackluster laws to fight for custody.

State law outlines several scenarios where the state has the authority to terminate parental rights, but being a convicted felon is not one of them, nor is being a convicted sex offender, if the perpetration had not been committed against the child in question.

Although state law does allow for termination under, "Child's best interest," for a long while the system failed to consider Tyler's best interest by allowing his convicted biological father to pursue custody of Tyler.

When the law is interpreted in favor of the sex offender, the policies set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services' Children and Family Services are to protect the rights of the biological father. In the case of Tyler, DCF's first priority was shifted away from continuing with a willing adoption, to making every attempt to reunite the child with his biological father - a convicted sex offender serving time for raping his son's underage mother.

The sex offender empowered with parental rights

Henry Watson Rubens, 44, was 35 years old when he started raping Tyler's 13-year-old mother. He was sentenced to prison in January of 2004, after being convicted in Lincoln County for First Degree Sexual Assault on a Child. He served two years and seven months on a six-year sentence, "an injustice in its own right," said Black.

His record indicates that he is no stranger to trouble with the law and has multiple aliases. According to the Florida Department of Corrections Web site, Rubens had also been a fugitive from justice after absconding from community supervision stemming from a 1990 cocaine conviction. The warrant for his arrest was still valid throughout his Nebraska legal issues, but is status in Florida is currently listed as suspended.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office initiated the warrant for Rubens in 1991 for violation of probation. He also had a protection order filed against him by Tyler's biological mother and grandmother in 2001. Rubens spent a few months back behind bars in 2007 for terroristic threats against Tyler's mother. He has additional charges on his record from 1999 for intent to deliver or possess a controlled substance and a few DUI convictions.

Despite all these convictions, including the sexual assault of Tyler's mother, DHHS set in motion every attempt to reunite Tyler with Rubens. Rubens had never spoken to the boy prior to the mother giving up her parental rights and being approached by DHHS who informed him of his paternal rights. DHHS enacted a parental case plan for unifying the boy with the man who conceived him by raping his 13-year-old mother.

DHHS says that they were under a court order to begin the case plan.

Fortunately, another mother's act of love would prevent the DHHS case plan from coming to fruition, risking jail herself at one point.

But it was a difficult and uphill battle. Tyler had been with the Black family for several years and there were many emotionally painful battles ahead for the mother and the son. This is their story.

Click on this story at nptelegraph.com to post your comments,or e-mail mark. young@nptelegraph com.


Here is part two:

Court battle ensues over custody of adoptive son

Published: Saturday, October 11, 2008 4:33 AM CDT
n Editor's note: This is Part Two of a series about the struggle of a mother to keep her adoptive son away from his biological father, a convicted sex offender. Only the boy's name has been changed, to protect his privacy. Part One of the story was presented in Friday's edition of The Telegraph; the final installment will be published Sunday.

By Mark Young

The North Platte Telegraph

When a young woman realized that her addiction to methamphetamine would likely destroy her life - much as it did the life of her mother, who died from an overdose - she still chose the drug, but made one final sacrifice to save her young son.

The young woman had been raised in a drug environment. Her mother had a boyfriend named Henry Watson Rubens, who at 35 years of age began raping the young girl when she was just 13. She eventually became pregnant and gave birth to "Tyler," who became the center of a court battle that pitted the wishes of two mothers against a convicted sex offender and an agency who was supposed to protect the child.

With the mother's life spiraling out of control, certified foster parent Missy Black came into Tyler's life, and his mother's life, as well.

The mother managed to finish rehab through the encouragement of Black and the two had become friends through to a common cause of providing Tyler with a chance for a good life. But the young mother's efforts to stay clean began to fail.

"By then, I had a feeling that something was going to happen to make this permanent," said Black. "I knew he would always be with us."

The mother gave up her parental rights, knowing that Tyler had the best chance with the Black family. However, neither mother could have foreseen their acts of love would turn into a battle to keep the young boy away from the sex offender who created him through sexual assault.

Documents were taken to Rubens to relinquish his rights, but he refused to do so. His rights as Tyler's biological father were secure under state law, even though Rubens was convicted of raping Tyler's mother and refused to participate in any sexual offender treatment program while in prison.

"I took it to court, of course," said Black. "But I had no idea it would take this many years to get it done and that DHHS would do so much to oppose us and support a man who was in prison for raping Tyler's mother when she was only 13."

Black said that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) began to develop case plans to help Tyler unite with his father, who was still in prison at the time the process first started. The DHHS caseworker for Tyler was told to develop the transitional plan, but Black was left to ponder the irony of it all.

"What's ironic is that the only reason he was proven to be the paternal parent of Tyler is when they had to prove his paternity in the rape case," she said. "They should have terminated his parental rights while he was still in prison. He has never even seen Tyler."

Black believes Rubens' sudden interest in his son was nothing more than an opportunity to victimize everyone involved even further - and he was handed the powers to victimize again on a state-supplied silver platter.

Tyler was soon forced to see his father every time the matter had to go back to court, which was about every six weeks over the course of a two-year period. Every time the Black family and Tyler went to court, Rubens was present and, most of the time, the convicted sex offender was representing himself. It only took a time or two before Tyler refused to participate in the court proceedings, not wishing to face his biological father.

DHHS continued forward with the case plan where Rubens would begin the unification process with Tyler by writing him simple letters and asking him simple questions like, "I like puppies. What do you like?"

Despite Rubens' past criminal history, the system designed to protect children from abusive parents and sexual predators continued to allow the process to move forward. The state laws pertaining to authority to take away parental rights are complex, but protect convicted felons, including sex offenders as long as the crime they committed were not perpetrated against the child in question.

But there is one simple guideline in the state laws that give the state and judicial officials leeway. It allows the state to strip away parental rights under "the child's best interest." And yet, the process to reunite Tyler with his father continued.

"I was supposed to start making appointments so Tyler could read those ridiculous letters," said Black. "I never did it. DHHS kept asking me and told me they would get a court order to make me do it. I told them to arrest me because there was no way I was going to do it."

A DHHS representative said they were just as much a victim in this case and were under a court order themselves to move forward with the plans to reunite Tyler with Rubens. Black said that DHHS began the unification process before a court order was ever issued.

Click on this story at nptelegraph.com to post your comments, or e-mail mark.young@nptelegraph.com.




Here is part three:

DHHS defends actions in battle for custody of boy

Published: Sunday, October 12, 2008 4:26 AM CDT
n Editor's note: This is Part Three of a series about the struggle of a mother to keep her adoptive son away from his biological father, a convicted sex offender. Only the boy's name has been changed, to protect his privacy. Part One of the story was presented in Friday's edition of The Telegraph; Part Two was published on Saturday.

By Mark Young

The North Platte Telegraph

When "Tyler" arrived at the door of foster parent Missy Black, a frightened 3-year-old boy who had been taken out of a home environment filled with illicit drug use, no one could have predicted the events that would change the lives of everyone involved.

No one assumes that the Department of Health and Human Services is a perfect entity or that our judicial system always runs smoothly. But what was in store for Black in her efforts to keep an innocent boy out of the hands of his predatory father was, she says, a faith-rattling experience.

The battle in store for Tyler and the Black family, to fulfilling the wishes of both Black and the biological mother of Tyler, was a crusade in the name of justice and common sense. What government agency would defend the rights of a convicted sex offender as the legal parent of a child he created by raping a 13-year-old girl?

Those questions might seem unthinkable, but they were questions the Black family was forced to answer.

DHHS's Division of Children and Family Services was the agency that placed Tyler into the Black family, but became the agency trying to not only take Tyler away, but place him into the care and custody of a convicted sex offender, his biological father, Henry Watson Rubens. Black, in the midst of the adoption process, was told that Rubens had parental rights and could fight for custody.

DHHS began supporting Rubens' claim to his legal rights as the father to the boy, and developed a parental case plan, with the goal of uniting the boy with the man who victimized his mother.

DHHS says that it's not their fault.

Kathie Osterman, from DHHS's Communications and Legislative Services did not work the case, but commented on the case on behalf of DHHS. Osterman said the department's hands were tied once a court order was issued on behalf of Rubens, and DHHS officials were forced to follow that court order.

"I know this was an emotional case, but I don't think it's understood what we are required to do," said Osterman. "What I've come to gather from this case, if a child can be safely unified with a biological parent, that's usually good."

In this case, the biological father served 2 years and 7 months in prison on a 6-year sentence for raping Tyler's mother. She was 13, and Rubens 35, when Rubens began assaulting her. After reviewing the case files, Osterman said the initial goal was to ensure custody to the boy's mother.

"In this case, our original goal was with the mother and the father was not in the case plan," she said. "She eventually relinquished her rights and it was determined by the court that the father should be included in the plan. After that, he had to be included. We were then required by state law to make reasonable efforts to include him and we made those efforts, but he was not able to meet those requirements."

Osterman added, "Thank God it all resulted in the termination of his parental rights and [Black] has her little boy now, so fortunately it all worked out."

It "worked out" after local officials realized who Tyler's biological father really was, and were provided with a more detailed summary of Rubens' criminal background and his sexual assaults on the minor mother of Tyler.

Some local officials involved in this case say they are "furious" over the incidents that drew this adoption case out over the course of two long and painful years. Black told The Telegraph that DHHS didn't even reveal to her the whole story of Rubens until very late in the process and revealed nothing to her of Rubens' connections to other family members who were in prison and linked to organized crime.

Black still worries that the lack of information provided to her by DHHS has put her and her family in danger.

Click on this story at nptelegraph.com to post your comments, or e-mail mark.young@nptelegraph.com.



Here is part four:

Court documents reveal mistake in adoption case

Published: Wednesday, October 15, 2008 4:36 AM CDT
n Editor's note: This is Part Four of an investigative series about the struggle of a mother to keep her adoptive son away from his biological father, a convicted sex offender. Only the boy's name has been changed, to protect his privacy.

By Mark Young

The North Platte Telegraph

Did the Department of Health and Human Services intentionally try to deceive a Lincoln County court judge in a local child-custody case, or was it a case of trying to sidestep a law that protected the parental rights of a sexual predator?

Lincoln County Attorney Rebecca Harling said she does not believe that anyone from DHHS intentionally lied or meant to deceive the court in the case, which stretched from 2005 to September 2008. Rather, DHHS officials working on the case made a conscious choice not to initially include convicted sex offender Henry Watson Rubens in a plan to gain custody of a boy, "Tyler," he created by raping an underage female.

"It created a big problem for us," said Harling. "Under state statutes there is an obligation to notify the parent and involve them in the case plan. We were not aware that a DHHS caseworker and her supervisor did not do what they were supposed to do."

Harling said the matter did not come up until the caseworker was testifying at Watson's initial custody termination hearing in 2006.

"We found out when she was on the stand testifying," said Harling.

Harling said it forced the state, which she was representing, to start the case over from scratch to avoid any chance of success on appeal.

"I filed a brand new case and made sure Henry was notified every step of the way," she said. "I basically had to make sure that a wrong was righted to make sure that there was no question that this adoption was valid."

Harling acknowledged the Black family's frustrations and understands that public perception of a court trying to protect the rights of a sex offender over that of a child's welfare may invoke further frustration.

"I understand Missy's frustration," Harling said. "I also understand that terminating a parent's rights is a very big deal. With everyone in the system, I would prefer there to be a protection in place and that protection needs to be there even for one Henry Watson Rubens. I can say that absolutely, without reservation, that Henry Watson Rubens should not have that child, but there is a process set up and it's there for a reason."

Harling said she realizes that won't be a popular answer and noted that while Rubens' case is an exception to the rule, strengthening the laws pertaining to parental rights of a child created through sexual assault would be prudent to avoid this kind of problem in the future.

"The statutes do not allow or specifically state that you can terminate the rights of a father who sexually assaulted the mother," she said. "It's common sense for those of us who work in the juvenile system on a daily basis. These juvenile cases are time-consuming and charged with emotion. I believe that our local DHHS workers do as good as they can, but like any government agency, they have their problems."

Harling said she believes the DHHS failure to follow state statutes cost an additional 6-8 months in court time, but that the process would have been lengthy anyway due to the appeals that were filed by Rubens.

Ultimately, in September of this year, Lincoln County Judge Kent Turnbull was able to give the same ruling that would have likely been concluded two years earlier had DHHS followed protocol.

Due to Rubens' criminal history, his refusal to participate in a sexual offender treatment program while in prison, and clear abandonment, Turnbull wrote, "The court cannot believe as a good policy matter by which to allow a person who commits a sexual assault to then benefit to have parental rights."

Mother says common sense is needed

Black obviously agrees with the final ruling, saying that to protect a sex offender's rights as a parent would be the same as allowing a "robber to keep their loot or a murderer to access the insurance proceeds," she said.

Black said more accountability and oversight is needed within DHHS to ensure that full accountability is given on cases like hers.

"DHHS is responsible for full disclosure with potential foster parents," she said. "We had no idea about the extent of the drug use and abuse, the drug sales, the criminal acts, and the extent of criminal relationships."

Ultimately, "Tyler" has a loving family who is intent on shielding him from further harm.

"We, as a family, fell in love with Tyler the day he walked in the door - a 3-year-old boy with a lifetime of problems," she said. "We spent two years in weekly counseling with him, trying to forget the past and trying to make his future different. We gave him everything we would have given our own children. He was our son from the day he got here and we have never regretted our choice."

Black continues to be understandably frustrated, but believes that everything happens for a reason, which is why she has chosen to tell her story.

"Tyler came into our lives so we could make a difference in his life," she said. "And make a difference in the lives of all of the other children in similar situations. I want there to be a law in Nebraska specifically designed to protect kids from this situation. His adoption in September provided a sense of finality for us - a stepping stone to the next chapter of our lives. We will not rest until each child born into this situation is protected from harm."

How it all began

It took more than two years to finalize the transition of young Tyler into the home of his adoptive family, two years in which the system designed to protect him took the young boy and his family through a minefield of government bureaucracy and a legal system required to follow questionable laws.

Henry Watson Rubens, 35 at the time, sexually assaulted the 13-year-old daughter of his girlfriend "10-20 times," according to court documents. The result of these assaults was the birth of Tyler.

An extensive adoption battle ensued when the young mother relinquished her parental rights so Missy Black and her family could adopt Tyler, who had been in the care of the Black family since he was 3.

DHHS' Kathie Osterman, from the department's legislative and communications division, told The Telegraph that DHHS was obliged to follow a Lincoln County court order to pursue Ruben's rights.

According to court documents, Osterman is partially right. Under state statutes, a parent's rights must be initially protected until such a time a court can consider cause for the termination of parental rights. This is true even in a case such as this one, where the father is a convicted sex offender whose child exists solely because of his assault of an underage girl.

Osterman did not previously reveal that DHHS made a mistake that prolonged the adoption case for an estimated 8 months, according to Harling, causing further grief for the Black family and costing county taxpayers thousands of dollars in additional court costs.

DHHS officials claimed that they were following a court order issued by Judge Turnbull, who presided over the case from its beginning in 2005 until its end in September 2008. Harling felt it was necessary to set the record straight based on those claims.

The court order mandated that DHHS make every reasonable attempt to establish that Rubens' rights were protected as the biological father, but it was something that was required from DHHS from the very beginning and that procedure was not followed. That crucial misstep halted the case in its tracks on the day the case could have ended in 2006.

Click on this story at nptelegraph.com to post your comments, or e-mail mark.young@nptelegraph.com.

4 comments:

heatherrainbow said...

Instead of using common sense, it is so much easier to use these types of cases to justify why NO natural parent should get custody or have rights to go to court etc.

Common Sense people, Common Sense. If a man rapes a woman, he should not get custody of any child. He is an abuser. People who don't understand that should be the people picking up our garbage, not in the court system.

Elizabeth Jurenovich said...

In Texas, the rights of a father whose child was conceived of rape can only be legally severed if it is proven that he was convicted of that rape in court (barring any other grounds for involuntary termination, ie, abandonment, endangerment, etc.) There is no "automatic" forfeiture of parental rights or responsibilities, otherwise.

Missy Black said...

I am Missy Black. Nebraska has no such law. We are determined to make sure that Nebraska enacts a law similar to the law in Texas. This entire case could have been avoided if just one person had the common sense to sever the rights of this rapist at the time of his conviction. The State of Nebraska had to prove he was the father to prove that he was guilty of the rape - they just forgot to do something about the rights that they just gave him.

Thank you for your comments and support. I hope that you will take a look at our web site - www.projecthunter.org

KITE KAMP GIRL said...

Thank you Missy for stopping by. I am sorry that this is happening to all of you. Most of all Hunter. There is a little boy on the ranch that I live. The mother was a chronic drug abuser. Meth was her drug of choice. The mother first accused the adoptive father of being the natural father. The child was placed with him and his wife. DNA testing proved otherwise but they both fell in love with him. He is now five years old. Every time the boy went for a visit with his mother, he came home with Meth in his veins. The numbers put that meth at an adult dose. I could not figure out why they continue to allow her in his life. Let alone not terminate her rights. They finally terminated the rights this past September. These types of situations are horrible for the children.

Heather you are right. It can be a foster care adoption but the mothers and fathers are the ones most hurt by the situation.