We have a custody agreement with the father of our youngest boys (ages 5 and almost 11) where they are with him in Texas for school and with us for summer and holidays on a regular schedule. We agreed to this for a number of reasons: the stability of staying in the same place/schools, both sets of grandparents and family support available in Texas...but more than anything else, we agreed so that Wren could move here to Washington for her own safety and physical/emotional health. It was the most difficult decision we have made. Since the abuse Wren suffered in her former relationship was primarily directed at her, we believed that the boys' father would provide them with a safe, healthy, stable home - we were wrong.
Over the last two years we have begun to suspect that things were not safe for our boys in Texas. They both show signs of stress in their sleep patterns, behavior, and lack of resilience. A little over a year ago, after a tough battle trying to get the youngest to sleep in his own bed, our older son told us that their father left the youngest home alone while he took our son to school. So this baby, who was only 3 at the time, was waking up in an empty and locked house. We were concerned and frightened by this and immediately filed a CPS report. It turns out that leaving a young child home alone is not abuse in Texas, only "inadvisable," and so they closed the case as unfounded and asked the boys' father not to leave the youngest home alone. At spring break this year, we found out that their father was still leaving our child home alone and filed another CPS report. That report was also closed as "unfounded," though the CPS worker who interviewed their father and his new wife made them promise not to leave our child alone anymore as it wasn't safe.
About a month after the boys showed up for summer this year, our older son told us that the abuse was escalating and now included physical and emotional abuse. His father screams and swears at him, has left scars on his arm from digging his fingernails into him, has punched and pushed him, and that his father grounded him for telling us about leaving the youngest alone. The youngest has told us, quite matter-of-fact, that his father is physical with him when he is "naughty."
We have both boys in therapy both here and in Texas and the older boy told his therapist about the abuse, who immediately made a CPS report in Texas. We also filed a report, as did our daycare provider (all mandatory reporters). In addition, we have taken the children to the Dawson Center in Everett, WA for interviews and physical exams. The Dawson Center found enough evidence to turn the case over to the Snohomish County Sherrif's Department, who has opened an investigation.
Because of the abuse, we were granted a two week protection order for the boys, giving them a little respite from communicating with their father and giving us some time to explore our options for amending the custody agreement. That protection order was cancelled 7/28/17 because of jurisdictional issues. We have gotten some legal advice here in Washington, but it comes down to having to hire an attorney in Texas, as well has having counsel here in Washington.
We have found attorneys willing to take our case. Unfortunately, money buys not only justice, but just a voice in the process. We do not have money, but their father has parents and a congregation with very deep pockets. Without help, we have no hope of even bringing an action to court, little hope of saving our boys, and face a very real possibility that their father will retaliate through the legal system.
Unless you've been in this situation, you cannot imagine our pain, heartache, and fear. We cannot protect our boys from this. The oldest is terrified to return to Texas, terrified of the retaliation he knows is coming. Their father has evidently filed a motion to have our visitation limited to supervised visits only and has called our CPS reports "harassment." We have until 8/6 to return the boys to Texas or be subject to federal custodial interference charges.
WE NEED HELP. Frankly, we need money. We have found an attorney who will work with us in Texas but she has a $5,000 retainer. She will allow us to pay $2,750 up front and the rest in payments, but we can't even get that amount in the short time we have. We are exploring options like dipping into retirement accounts, but the rules are such that they may not allow us to do that. We can try to get a loan, but even with my recent generous raise, I doubt we can get the money in time, if at all.
We find ourselves in a place where we have to do something we would normally never do: ask for money. We are normally very independent, even fiercely so. This is an emergency. We risk losing these boys forever if we cannot secure legal help. If we lose these boys, the abuse will only escalate and then the world will lose them. We're desperate. We're terrified. We're lost. We need help.
- Sarah Mowell
- Michael Heavener
- Charles Tucker
- Allison Marie
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