What is a Heroic Mom? According to domestic violence expert, advocate and author, Lundy Bancroft, ““We all need to recognize, and admire, the bravery, the survival skills, and the deep concern for her children that an abused woman has to have in order to go up against the abuser in court, month after month and year after year. These women deserve our support, admiration, advocacy, and activism to help them keep their children safe..” Lundy Bancroft, “Heroic Moms”.
Alaina Giordano is an inspiration to me, her story gives me hope when fighting my own battles in family court. Rest in Peace<3 x ❤
Note: This article was written based on publicly released information, some of which you can find below. I have also researched the publicly released court documents (but am not posting that to protect the privacy of this family).
I am posting this story to demonstrate the struggles of mothers (often victims of domestic abuse) losing custody in family court due to injustice, and how those rulings hurt families…
Peter Kaufmann , childhood friend and Alaina’s spokesman wrote on her Facebook wall: “She realized that she had become the voice for those who were in similar situations — with cancer, with custody battles, with insurmountable struggles. Because she faced her mortality on a regular basis she looked at her life as one that gave strength to those who were less fortunate than she — those whose stories did NOT get public attention…” (Time Health & Family)
Alaina Giordano, of Durham, North Carolina, lost custody of her two children in April 2011 to her ex husband, Kane Snyder, because the judge ruled that her diagnosis of breast cancer made her an unfit parent. The divorce proceedings began in 2010, it was a tense courtroom battle, with Alaina accusing Kane of physical abuse (she claims that during at least one incident her son witnessed dad hit mom). But there was no question that Alaina loved her children, and was the primary caregiver, a stay at home mom, of the children for all of their lives. The Court did consider that Kane was a strong financial provider—which was only because Alaina was a stay at home mom. Alaina had sole custody of the children since August 2010, when Kane relocated to Chicago–which means that for over a year, the children were being well cared for, and had a stable home until being abruptly cut off from their mother and moved across the country.
Judge Nancy Gordon ruled that the children’s father, Kane Snyder, should win sole custody because there was “no telling how long she’ll live”. Judge Gordon also ruled that the children should live in “close proximity to both parents” and share a 2-2-5 schedule but if that was not possible, then the children should relocate to Chicago live with their father. The order strongly suggests that Alaina should move to Chicago, where she could get more visitation with her children.
The Judge also stated in her ruling (this is in the court documents), that she relied heavily on the testimony of Dr. Brantley who did research with children whose parents have cancer. Dr. Brantley testified, “Children who have a parent with cancer need more contact with the non-ill parent. The more contact with the non-ill parent, the better they do… Children want a normal childhood and normal is not with an ill parent.”
Alaina was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer and was undergoing intensive cancer treatment to save her life; she was also accepted into a clinical trial program that would require her to remain in North Carolina. It was not advisable for Alaina to travel extensively due to her declining health but she could not be away from the children she loved. Against all odds, Alaina fought to remain an active part of her children’s lives, even if it meant travelling across the country to see them. Alaina started fundraising to gather donations to help with the costs of travel. Family, friends and even strangers stepped in to lend support, financial donations and offer places for her to stay while on the road. Alaina’s life then was described as “transitory” by those closest to her. She continued to get sicker, but felt the struggle was worth it to see her children.
Alaina’s fundraiser generated a lot of publicity, a petition was signed to urge Judge Gordon to reunite her with her children. Doctors were amazed at Alaina’s ability to do all of this while coping with an aggressive form of cancer.
In her final weeks of life, Alaina begged her ex husband, Kane, to be allow the children to stay with her in her final weeks of life. The plan was for Alaina to enter a hospice in Pennsylvania, with her parents stepping in to help with the care of the children. When Kane refused, an emergency motion was filed in an Illinois family. The Judge granted Alaina’s motion, and her two children were allowed to come to Pennsylvania, to be with their mom—who was staying at her parent’s home—for one month. Alaina did not make it that long, she died with her children at her side. It was her last wish that her children would remember her.
The maternal Grandparents may have to fight to gain visitation with the two children.
“Alaina Giordano: Lost Cancer Battle, but Won Right to See her Kids Before her Death” by Bonnie Rochman, 07/05/2012. Time Health & Family: http://healthland.time.com/2012/07/05/alaina-giordano-lost-cancer-battle-but-won-the-right-to-see-her-kids-before-death/
Alaina Giordano, Mom Who Lost Custody of Her Kids Because of Breast Cancer Diagnosis, Has Died by Meredith Carroll, 7/01/2012: http://www.babble.com/mom/alaina-giordano-mom-who-lost-custody-of-her-kids-because-of-breast-cancer-diagnosis-has-died/
“Heroic Moms” by Lundy Bancroft, 06/14/2009: http://lundybancroft.blogspot.com/2009/06/heroic-moms.html
Judge in Alaina Giordano Case Rejects Appeal, Says Jail and Infidelity on Both Sides Are at Issue by Merdith Carroll, 06/10/2012: http://www.babble.com/mom/judge-in-alaina-giordano-case-rejects-appeal-says-jail-and-infidelity-on-both-sides-are-at-issue/
“Mom Alaina Giordano, 38, dies of breast cancer, comforted by the kids she lost custody of in part because of her illness” by Meghan Neal, 06/30/2012. New York Daily News”: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/mom-alaina-giordano-38-dies-breast-cancer-comforted-kids-lost-custody-part-illness-article-1.1105572#ixzz2h4w9Set9
Protective Mothers Alliance Guardian of Truth Blog (An international organization raising awareness of systematic failures in family court that endanger protective mothers and thier children and working for family court reform. Co-founded by Lundy Bancroft and Janice Levinson) http://protectivemothersalliance.wordpress.com/