Son (S) was seven years old when his mother (M) died and he began living
with his father (F). However, it wasn’t until four years later that
an anonymous phone caller informed Social Services that S was being beaten by F.
Social Services contacted S who informed them that F had been beating him
for the last five years. According to S, F would “whoop” him
for no reason at all, including the time that S locked F’s keys
in his car, and F punched S 20 times and hit him with a belt. F would
beat S if S’s homework was not correct or he coughed during the
night. F also told S that he was “slow and retarded and stupid.”
During the interview, the social worker noted that S was very nervous about
F finding out S had reported him to social services. According to the
social worker, S was shaking and his voice was trembling. That night,
S went to spend the night at F’s mother’s home, but F appeared
during the night and demanded S be returned to him. The police were contacted,
and they were so concerned by F’s belligerent behavior and out-of-control
anger that they handcuffed him in a police car for almost four hours.
Eventually, the police released F and returned S to him.
While at school the next day, S spoke with a social service worker again
and stated he couldn’t go back to living with F. He was afraid of
F, and didn’t want to be beaten any more. The social worker told
S that he would be placed with his uncle (M’s brother) and that
F would only be able to visit with him. Again, S begged the social worker
not to let F see him at all because he was afraid of him.
In November of 2015, Social Services filed a petition in juvenile court
requesting S remain with his uncle and that F not be allowed to visit
with S, based on F’s behavior toward S. (Social Services also noted
that F had been convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence abuse against
S’s stepmother.) Further, Social Services requested both F and S
receive individual therapy to re-establish their parental/child relationship.
F, however, stated for the court that he would not participate in any
program, because he was a good father, only “whooping” S three
times that year, and that he (F) was not going to change his behavior.
Based on Social Services’ petition and F’s refusal to participate
in any reunification plan, the juvenile court placed S with his maternal
uncle with no visitation by F.
The Appellate Court agreed with the juvenile court, stating, “If
visitation is not consistent with the well-being of the child, the juvenile
court has the discretion to deny such contact. As courts have explained,
‘well-being’ includes the minor’s emotional and physical
“While visitation is a key element of reunification, the court must
focus on the best interests of the children and on the elimination of
conditions which led to the juvenile court’s finding that the child
has suffered, or is at risk of suffering, harm.”