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Posted July 22, 2007 by publisher in Cuban Americans

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Unusual issues define custody battle

The custody battle over a 4-year-old Cuban girl is filled with unusual circumstances.


His 4-year-old daughter needs to go to the bathroom. In a public park. He doesn’t want to let her go alone. But he doesn’t want to go into a women’s restroom, or take the girl into the men’s room.

Fathers face such predicaments every day. But to this man, it’s more like a test, and he can’t afford to fail. A child welfare caseworker, who will help decide whether he’s fit to rear the girl, is watching. The entire visit is being videotaped.

To complicate matters, he’s a Cuban national whose country has spent almost a half-century telling tales about the evils of American life. He’s been in Miami six weeks. His daughter barely knows him.

‘‘Of course I know what to do with my child,’’ he said in Spanish at a court hearing this week, ``but in my country.’‘

The case, which held its first public hearing Wednesday after a year of closed-door sessions, is filled with cultural nuances and political overtones.

At the center of the dispute: a girl whose caseworker says cries at night, gnashes her teeth, and sneaks into her Cuban-American foster parents’ bed out of fear she will be taken from them. At age 4, her only memories are those of the well-heeled Coral Gables family that has raised her for more than a year.

The names of the girl, her father, and her caregivers are not being revealed in this article to protect her privacy.

The picture of the girl emerging in court is that of a happy, even precocious child who has never doubted that her caregivers, and their children, are her real family.

She goes bike riding with them. She attends summer camp. She is petrified her life will be upended.

‘‘She does not want to go to Cuba,’’ said psychologist Miguel Firpi, who is working with the girl. ``She becomes very, very hyper. She grinds her teeth at night. She wakes up with nightmares.’‘

Said Julio Vigil, another psychologist in the case: ``When [her birth father] tries to give her a kiss, most of the time she rejects it.’‘

Anita Bock, who oversaw Miami-Dade’s child welfare programs in the 1990s, said heart-wrenching custody battles are not rare, though they are seldom easy.

This dispute, however, includes some real curveballs:


  1. Follow up post #1 added on July 22, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    If this story matters to you, take your time to read it and read between the lines for the deeper meaning of the actions taken by the DCF in Miami.

    They should be ashamed of themselves, especially for commenting on the little girl’s actions. Four year old girls should be left to be innocent four year old girls, not used as pawns in a selfish Cuban American community.

    Now I’m not saying everyone in the community is in favor of stealing this little girl away from her Cuban father but the behavior of the community during the Elian case is still fresh in my mind.

    The girl should be with her father. He is the sold decision maker for her life. Whether she’ll enjoy a higher standard of living in the US is irrelevant and I hope the Miami court resolves this case in the father’s favor quickly and without more harm to the little girl.

    So far, SHAME on all the court, lawyers and community for dragging it out this long. This girl is now permanently scarred for life.

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on July 22, 2007 by Ed

    Yes, these kind’s of cases are very difficult for everyone concerned. It would be perhaps useful to establish more backround to the case. Why for example did the mother and two children leave without her father in the first place?

    The absolute worst thing would be to use the girl as a pawn. Emotions will be running at near boiling point, almost to the level of hysteria. The important thing is that everyone remains calm, the welfare of the girl and that of the girl’s father are of paramount importance here, everything else is secondary.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on July 22, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    So far the court is doing a terrible job of respecting the father and daughter. They appear to be victims of the Cuban American legal system, one that is biased to their own selfish interests.

    Cuba consulting services

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