It all started with a referral from Pike County Children & Youth Services in regards to three boys who were homeless with their mother. After a court hearing, the three boys became dependents of CYS and placed in foster care as their mother could not safely support them.
At the court hearing, mom testified that she did not know where the natural father resided. She also testified that she did not know where the paternal grandparents lived. During the questioning, she testified that the last known location of the boy’s father or grandparents was in Levittown, Puerto Rico.
Deciding to do ‘whatever it takes’, Theresa Fonalledas, JusticeWorks Pike County Program Director contacted her cousin who lives in Puerto Rico to see if he could find any contact information on the father or grandparents. The next day, Theresa’s cousin provided the father’s phone number, as well as the phone number for the paternal grandparents. Theresa’s plan was to go to CYS in the morning and provide the information to the Caseworkers.
First thing Monday morning, there were 5 messages on JusticeWorks’ answering machine from the family in Puerto Rico. Theresa’s cousin in Puerto Rico had contacted the family and provided them with her name and company in Pennsylvania. The family googled JusticeWorks and found our website and contact information for our Pike County office!
In addition to trying to contact Theresa, the father contacted Pike County Children and Youth Services. Theresa was able to get in touch with the father that morning. He explained that he had not seen his children for two years. He stated that their mother took them, without proper authorization from Puerto Rico and he had not known where or how they were. The father was alternatively concerned, excited, anxious, and happy. He was clearly happy to know that his boys were ok, and glad to know where they were. He was very scared and did not want the boys or the mother to know that he knew where they were as he was afraid that she would take the boys and run again. It was explained to him that the boys were in foster care, safe, and doing well in school. Still, he did not want the boys to know as a precaution.
The father indicated that he would petition the courts in San Juan to obtain the legal documents proving that the mother had improperly taken the boys from Puerto Rico. As soon as he obtained the court order, he took the first flight to Pennsylvania.
We learned that this case had been going on since 2003, when the mother first kidnapped the kids. In 2004, the dad was granted custody due to her drug use, her domestic battery of him and for beating their eldest son with a stick.
The father’s sister and mother contacted Theresa and gave details of a tortured past filled with the boys being repeatedly pulled away from their father and the maternal grandmother enabling the mother in deception and manipulation. The mother moved the boys from place to place, sometimes homeless, putting them in shelters and finally in foster care. Since their kidnapping from Puerto Rico the father, and his family, never gave up their efforts to find his sons.
One day after the father was notified of his son’s whereabouts; he and his father flew to Pike County and showed up at the office of Pike County Children and Youth Services. A reunion was arranged for the father, grandfather, and sons after school at the CYS office.
At the reunion, not a dry eye could be found. Tears of joy flowed; hugs and kisses were constant and no one could stop smiling. The father and grandfather had made arrangements to stay in Pennsylvania until legal decisions could be made regarding the children’s future.
Pike County CYS was understanding and empathic to the facts of this dramatic case. They supported the father’s efforts to have an expedited court hearing. The hearing was scheduled in two weeks and occurred Friday, May 6, 2011. After an hour and a half of testimony and discussion, the judge was ready to rule. The attorneys argued that there had been a ready, willing, and able parent, ready to care for the children back at the first dependency hearing, if it were not for the mother’s dishonesty with the court, the boys would have never been dependent.
The judge granted temporary legal custody to the natural father, who would return to Puerto Rico with the boys immediately following the hearing! (he had to be at work at Homeland Security the next day!). Tears once again flowed, everyone was smiling and hugging. This long tormented story had a happy ending!
Our profound gratitude goes to Theresa Fonalledas for her creativity and willingness to involve her own family to achieve this happy result and to Pike County CYS for their understanding and support. (The photo appears with express written permission of the family)