Vigil promotes shared parent visitation rights
Richard Thomas had sole custody of his two teenage sons for two years until the day in 2007 when they visited their mother and never returned.
Today, Thomas’ sons are in foster care while he fights to regain custody. His battle began when his boys were visiting their mother and she decided to drop them off at a police station with instructions to say they had run away from home. The police believed their story and contacted the Department of Children and Family Services, Thomas said.
“This was a trick to steal custody from me,” Thomas said Thursday night during a candlelight vigil at the Markham courthouse. “She gets to see them every week. I don’t.”
Thomas was one of several individuals at the vigil, which was designed to promote shared parenting after divorce.
Participants held candles, glow sticks, posters and banners and encouraged drivers on Kedzie Avenue to honk their horns in support of parental rights.
“We would love not to be here tonight,” said Kerry Sandusky, of Kankakee. “We would love to be with our kids tonight.”
Sandusky hasn’t seen his son in more than a year.
“The day (his mother) told me she was pregnant, she walked out,” Sandusky said. “I just want to see him – equal time.”
The protesters’ anger was directed in several directions, including family court officials, who they say discriminates against fathers, state agencies that divide families and lawyers who are motivated by money rather than successful outcomes for their clients.
Specifically, participants lashed out at various state agencies for intentionally alienating one parent – often the father – from his children. They added that prolonged custody battles not only harm the children involved, but provide job security to government workers and enhance the government collections business.
State governments receive federal reimbursement based on the amount of child support they collect, so it’s to their advantage to keep families apart, protesters said.
“Everyone has a story. Everyone has something in common,” said vigil organizer Carrie Adams, of Palos Heights.
Adams divorced in 1999 after 19 years of marriage. She had full visitation rights while living Downstate, but was prevented from seeing her children when she moved to the Southland.
“I got close and that’s when the separation began,” she said. “There’s no fairness.”