UPDATE 8/10/10: Here is a scan of the affidavits filed in this case for those who are looking for official proof.
UPDATE 8/11/10: I granted Hollis the space to share this story to hopefully generate some media attention. It worked. It also brought over a lot of people who aren’t very good at playing nicely, and as I have a life to maintain I’m now moderating comments rather than allowing y’all free rein to spew all over my site.
UPDATE 9/11/10: Mandy has regained custody of baby Madison! April Brown tested positive for illegal drug use three times in the last month before the hearing. Justice was finally served, albeit at the expense of seven months lost between mother and child.
And now for something completely different: The piece that follows was penned by no other than the mistress of shocking real life herself, Hollis Gillespie. If you are unfamiliar with Hollis’ work, let’s just say that I would have to hate her a whole lot if she wasn’t also so freaking warm and kind on top of being hilarious and successful. Not only that, she’s a fellow divorced mama, and you KNOW we have a club for that. (Although of course now those of you who aren’t members will have to die because I told you. Sorry.)
Anyway, Hollis is trying to get the word out about this story, and I am trying to help. Please read, share, and do what you can. Without further ado, here’s Hollis:
As a divorced parent, I sometimes think I’ve seen it all. For one, I thought there were only two worlds when it came to child-custody; the regular one in which we operate daily, and this other total toilet spin of rules and bureaucratic turd pellets referred to as family law. But at least in that second world the rules are fairly followed. But recently I discovered this whole other third world. Consider it a dwarf planet of pure courtroom nuttiness, where all the rules exist but they’re ignored. This is where the Ohio court case Brown vs. Elliot resides, and you’re not gonna believe this*:
It began one day last March when a young mother named Amanda Elliot, 27, went to retrieve her three-month-old from her babysitter, April Brown, 46. Only instead of giving the baby back to her mother, Ms. Brown informed Mandy that she had gone to court that morning and petitioned for emergency custody of the baby. “Wow,” you may think, “what a crazy squirrel that babysitter is.”
But it appears as though even a crazy squirrel can find a crazy nut every once in a while. And it turns out that the Ohio Miami County magistrate actually granted the petition for custody, based, it seems, mainly on Ms. Brown’s contention that the child had too much pet hair on her clothes. So, in short, there actually exists among us the possibility that your babysitter can just decide one day to take your kid to family court, concoct a story that isn’t even that compelling (since when is pet hair grounds to have your child removed from your custody?) and walk away with a court order that literally gives her your baby. [Click here for more details of Mandy's case.]
It would be one thing if Mandy was a bad mother. But at this time there is no evidence that Mandy Elliot has never had a complaint levied against her at DFACS or by the police or by any other Child Protective Service or, for that matter, by any party whatsoever, let alone Ms. Brown. The mother has never been convicted or even accused of any drug-related activity. She has two other children and has no criminal record. I’m told that Ms. Brown, on the other hand, does have a police record, and her husband who shares the same address with her has been convicted of criminal child abuse.
Seriously, if you were the extremely forgiving type, you could almost forgive this magistrate and figure it’ll all be dropped the minute Mandy gets a lawyer to point out that the mother is an upstanding citizen, right? But Mandy did get an attorney, a non-profit victim’s advocate named Kimberly Kislig**, who immediately filed an appeal to return custody of the child to its rightful parent. But get this, appeals like this traditionally go before the same magistrate who made the original decision, and this magistrate – based on no legal reason (again, pet hair?), and with the competent albeit very distraught mother standing right there before her — upheld her decision. So presently, this newborn has been separated from its mother going on four months now. The babysitter, Ms. Brown, often doesn’t even allow the mother her court-allotted visitation. This mother, Mandy, has done nothing to merit the removal of her child into the custody of another. The case, Brown vs. Elliot, is slated to go before a higher court in mid-September.
Again, and I apologize for repeating this, but there is no legal reason for Ms. Brown to have custody of this baby over its mother. It is not legal for the court to give your baby to someone else just because that person showed up there and said she thought the baby had too much pet hair*** on her clothes. Remember, this is not a custody battle between a mother and a father, or even one between a parent and a relative. This is a custody battle between a mother and some person who is not related to the baby in any way. Unlike Ms. Brown, though, Mandy is poor. Unlike Mandy, Ms. Brown has a high-priced attorney. Mandy is battling an established bias against her, as mystifying and without merit as that may be, and it takes time, dedication and money for court fees to fight that. So please help Mandy by contributing to her cause or by linking to this story and to Mandy’s donation page. Hopefully it will bring this absurdity to light so it might never happen again. Thank you. I mean it. Seriously. Thank you for doing what you can to help keep the world from devolving into a big awful wad of rubber stamps, bureaucrats, their bad decisions and the children damaged by them.
*All of the accounts in this story are true so long as the truth can be trusted to my own personal recollection and not that of anyone else’s.
** Full disclosure, this is my little sister, otherwise known as “The Good Sister” in my books.
*** Mandy does not even own a pet.