June 2016 will mark 10 years involved in the Hennepin County family court system. Many of those years involved the Guardian ad Litem program, Ms. Jamie L. Manning was assigned to my case.
I am sharing my story of horrific failures and injustice that have occurred in the Hennepin County family court system and the GAL program in the efforts to raise awareness of family court and GAL failures, and the need for reform. Please be patient, 10 years of documentation is alot to go through.. I am determined that my story will be told; piece by piece.
Notes Taken from Documentation Log December 2009, Phone Conversation with Jamie L. Manning (Guardian ad Litem)
Note: I would highly suggest recording all phone calls and meetings with a GAL or court officer, and bring a witness to any meetings. At the time I did not have this technology, this was recorded on paper, and I was taking notes as Jamie spoke.
Jamie Manning calls my home phone on Saturday morning, wanting information because there is a court hearing on Monday. It is common for Jamie to hand in her reports at the last minute, when the rule is that the GAL report should be given to both parties at least 10 days prior to any hearing.
I inform Jamie that my (special needs) son, DJ’s, behavior concerns (tantrums) are escalating and pose a safety risk. DJ told me that he got in a fight with his father that turned physical.
DJ has some difficultues and has been recommended an assessment. Progress on getting DJ assessed and diagnosed has been ground to a halt because of refusal from his father, Mr. X, and Jamie Manning has challenged the need for any assessment.
Jamie Manning is not a licensed medical professional, and does not have any medical or mental health credentials, yet she has asserted, using her position as GAL as if she is an medical expert, that my children’s emotional and behavioral problems are all related to something I am doing as a mother, and that abuse, trauma and homelessness related to abuse is not a factor. Jamie has reported to the court that the “cure” for my children is to remove their mother from their lives and severely limit visitation, and limit my involvement in their lives. This amounts to court ordered parental alienation, and is its extremely harmful to both children and the targeted parent.
When DJ was in my care he had services to meet all of his medical needs. I was also getting support, and taking classes, to learn how to parent a special needs child, and learn skills so I can work with DJ in a way that met his needs. When Mr. X won custody all of those services were terminated, except for minimal therapy. Mr. X refuses to communicate at all about how my children are doing, will not share medical information and is refusing to get DJ the recommended assessment. Mr. X’s way of dealing with DJ largely involves threats, rage and physical punishment or alternately, bribes of gifts.
I told Jamie that I was concerned for my child’s safety ad that I felt DJ need an assessment to determine if other interventions were needed, as recommended by a medical provider.
(I remember this very clearly) Jamie told me that I am “just calling her to make Mr. X look like an unfit parent”, and she is “unclear of my motives”. As a GAL, Jamie is a “neutral fact finder” tasked with obtaining and reviewing pertinent records and documentation regarding the children, she should have known an assessment was requested by a qualified professional.
I responded that I think it is serious that DJ is disclosing that he had an incident which involved an altercation with dad that became physical. (It was common for Mr. X to forcibly restrain DJ by sitting on him, holding him down hog tied, and putting a hand on his neck and pressing him to the floor. Often DJ would become frightened and try to fight back which would lead to Mr. X increasing the threats and use of physical force).
I also told Jamie that I am just a parent, it is not my job to be a therapist or a crisis counselor but it is concerning to me. I have no other choice but to get another opinion on what is happening, and seek help, because Mr. X is refusing to communicate with me and refusing to work with me on addressing the needs of my child.
Jamie suggested I call Mr. X to discuss my concerns (even though he is refusing to communicate or share information, and this follows a long and well-documented pattern of behavior).
Jamie then tells me that “maybe Mr. X is afraid to get help because he feels that I will say that he is an unfit parent and I need to reassure him that I won’t do that.”
At this point there have been over a dozen documented reports of child abuse against Mr. X that have included direct allegations from the children, reports from concerned professionals, medical reports, pictures of injuries and substantial emotional and behavioral problems exhibited in the children to include anxiety, PTSD, and acting out abuse behaviors. The children were also involved in various therapy programs, in which the therapists had also witnessed signs of possible abuse and trauma.
I tell Jamie that I feel that we need an outside person to look at the concerns and to assess any risks to the children. If Mr. X was communicating with me, I would not have to be making calls to other people (Jamie is telling me that something is wrong with me for seeking professional intervention or asking for professional opinion).
I then gave Jamie some examples of how my child was struggling lately, including in school. Jamie tells me that “if it was so bad then the school could make a phone call”. The school actually has reported concerns, and on at least one occasion, made a report to CPS.
It is obvious that Jamie is not concerned for the safety of my children, and anything I say will just make her more hostile towards me. I apologize to Jamie for bothering her with a phone call – just like I would apologize, and become submissive, when my abuser became angry with me. I am at a stronger place in my life now, and there will be no apologies to abusive or dysfunctional people.
Jamie says that I can “call anytime” and that her “observations of Mr. X are positive”. And went on to say that she will recommend to the court that the children remain in the care of Mr. X . And that is exactly what Jamie has done, and even after being placed in the care of their father, both children have continued to report abuse, and have continued to exhibit emotional and behavioral problems that have deeply impacted their life.
I was once a stay at home mom, who devoted my life to caring for my children, and nurturing their growth and potential… the alleged abuser has won sole custody and I only get one visit a month. I have a squeaky clean background, and never have been accused of any crime, this is injustice.
My children still ask to come home.
- Emily Court, 2016