Campaign to Reunite Solomon Metalwala with His Daughter Maile
Update, 12/16/11: After nearly a year, 4-year-old Maile Metalwala has at last been reunited with her dad, Solomon Metalwala. Maile was kept from Solomon by a combination of a restraining order based on discredited domestic violence charges and the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, who seized Maile away from her unfit mother six weeks ago and put her in foster care.
Fathers and Families’ highly-publicized Campaign to Reunite Solomon Metalwala with His Daughter Maile sought to push WA DSHS and King County Superior Court to reunite Maile and Solomon as soon as possible. We thank all of our members and supporters who wrote and/or called the relevant authorities. Special thanks goes to Clay Terry, Esq., Solomon’s attorney, for his determined work towards reuniting Maile with Solomon.
As Fathers and Families members and supporters are painfully aware, many children will be denied their fathers this holiday season. Thanks in part to your efforts, Maile will not be one of them.
Update, 12/6/11: As the Seattle Times explains, “A judge on Tuesday lifted the protection order against Solomon Metalwala, father of missing a 2-year-old boy, clearing the way for him to regain custody of his 4-year-old daughter.”
We thank all of the Fathers and Families members and supporters who wrote and called DSHS and the relevant court officials. We’ll never know to what degree your calls and letters and the widespread media coverage our protest garnered impacted the authorities. What we do know is that, within a week of your calls and letters to DSHS and the King County court, both agreed that Solomon should have custody of Maile.
We will continue to monitor the situation and keep our members informed of new developments. We commend DSHS for its position and salute Clay Terry, Esq., Solomon’s attorney, for his determined work towards reuniting Maile with Solomon. Terry told KIRO TV in Seattle on Friday that he “appreciates” Fathers and Families’ efforts.
We thank the Seattle TV stations KIRO, KING 5 and NWCN 2, KOMO News Radio, and the numerous other Seattle media outlets who covered our campaign for helping to highlight this important child custody issue. We also thank the Washington Domestic Violence Commission for their assistance.
Together with you in the love of our children,
Glenn Sacks, MA Executive Director, Fathers and Families
Ned Holstein, M.D., M.S. Founder, Chairman of the Board, Fathers and Families
Update, 12/5/11: A week ago Fathers and Families launched our Campaign to Reunite Solomon Metalwala with His Daughter Maile. Our goal has been to push WA DSHS and King County Superior Court to reunite Maile and Solomon as soon as possible. Many of our members and supporters wrote and/or called the relevant authorities, and our campaign has been covered by much of the Seattle media. DSHS issued a statement in response to our campaign on Friday.
We are now pleased to report that, in part because Washington Department of Social and Health Services is now supportive of Solomon’s custody bid, Solomon has won custody of Maile, and will likely be reunited with her soon. From Seattle KING 5 News’ Solomon
A King County Court Commissioner on Monday granted custody of Sky Metalwala’s 4-year-old sister to her father, Solomon Metalwala, pending the removal of a protection order in another court.
The decision was made at a hearing in Kent, where Solomon petitioned in person for full custody of his daughter, Maile, citing Sky’s disappearance…
A court advocate and an assistant state attorney arguing for DSHS agreed with Metalwala. The commissioner granted Biryukova visitation rights, under strict guidelines. Metalwala will gain custody once a restraining order that previously kept him away from the children is vacated…
“In the custody, the wrong parent might have won, and I’m not sure based on the record I’ve seen, we can’t establi
sh domestic violence in the relationship. The mother has very profound mental health issues,” said Tony Masco, assistant state attorney.
Metalwala’s attorney will ask a judge Monday or Tuesday to drop the existing restraining order, clearing the way for Maile to be home for Christmas.
Short version: Washington Department of Social and Health Services seized Maile Metalwala, the 4-year-old daughter of Solomon Metalwala, away from her unfit mother, Julia Biryukova, and put Maile in foster care. It is a common but unjust practice for child welfare agencies to put children in foster care instead of giving them to their fathers. Moreover, the Washington court separated Maile from Solomon based on spurious abuse allegations from a now thoroughly discredited accuser. We want you to contact all relevant Washington authorities and demand that Solomon and little Maile be reunited–to email and fax them a letter, click here.
Full version: Solomon Metalwala has had almost no contact with Maile Metalwala, his 4-year-old daughter, for the past year.
First, Family Law Commissioner Jacqueline Jeske, a former domestic violence prosecutor with a reputation for rubber-stamping domestic violence protection orders, approved a restraining order against Solomon. This was done despite the fact that his accuser, estranged wife Julia Biryukova, had previously made false abuse charges, and Child Protective Services had concluded that these new abuse charges also were false. As is explained below, Biryukova has a clear history of mental illness, and on several occasions has made charges and claims that investigating authorities found to be baseless or outright lies.
On November 6, CPS took Maile from Biryukova and, instead of giving Maile to her father, put her in foster care. Clay Terry, Esq., one of Metalwala’s attorneys, has told reporters that he is optimistic that Washington DSHS will reunite Solomon and Maile, and we hope that he is correct. However, we have often seen such cases drag on for months or even years, even to the point where a judge decides that the child has bonded with the foster parents and should not be disrupted by returning to his or her father.
We want to push WA DSHS and King County Superior Court to resolve this case as soon as possible. We want you to contact all relevant Washington authorities and demand that Solomon and little Maile be reunited–to email and fax them a letter, click here. To call them, click here.
Why This Campaign?
On November 6, Julia Biryukova told police that she ran out of gas with her 2-year-old son Sky and 4-year-old daughter Maile in the car. Julia alleges that she and Maile left Sky to go get gas, but when she returned, Sky was gone. However, the Bellevue police investigated and discredited her story.
Currently everyone’s focus is on the disappearance of two-year-old Sky Metalwala, as it should be. Like everyone else, Fathers and Families can only speculate as to Sky’s whereabouts or if he’s still alive. The evidence suggests that Biryukova has stashed him with a friend or relative, or moved him out of the state. We hope that Sky is safe and that he will be reunited with his father as soon as possible.
This case is complicated, with many legal issues. But it is outrageous that Solomon and Maile have been kept apart for nearly a year, particularly now that Biryukova has been completely discredited. What we seek to do is to apply public pressure to the relevant authorities to reunite Solomon and Maile.
In this campaign we are working with the Washington Domestic Violence Commission, a nonprofit organization whose goals are to ensure equal protection under the law and to fight against both domestic violence and abuses of the domestic violence system. The WADVC’s Chris Hupy says:
“It is unfortunate, but Domestic Violence Protection Orders are issued in King County like passing out candy. Fighting one is very difficult, even in a case such as this, where the evidence is overwhelming that the children should have been in the father’s care and custody.”
Brief Chronology of the Metalwala Case
Below is a brief chronology of the major events in the Metalwala/Biryukova case:
- 2/10/03: Solomon Metalwala and Julia Biryukova marry.
- 2006: Maile Metalwala is born.
- 2009: Sky Metalwala is born.
- 12/09: Police cite Julia Biryukova and Solomon Metalwala for reckless endangerment for leaving their baby sleeping in a car in a Target parking lot for 55 minutes. The case is dismissed after both complete courts requirements, including parenting classes.
- 3/10/10: Julia Biryukova is involuntarily confined to mental hospital. The Renton police report indicates that Biryukova was suicidal, quoting Biryukova as saying, “I tell my husband everyday I think about killing myself.”
- 3/15/10: Julia Biryukova is discharged.
- 6/4/10: Metalwala files for divorce, and a domestic violence protective order is issued against Julia Biryukova.
- 6/30/10: DVPO is issued against Solomon Metalwala.
- 9/27/10: DVPO issued against both Julia Biryukova and Solomon Metalwala.
- 12/14/10: DVPO issued against Solomon Metalwala, allowing no contact with his children.
- 3/3/11: Family Law Commissioner Jacqueline Jeske issues full 12 month DVPO, and includes the children in it.
- 3/3/11: Jeske issues order mandating that Solomon Metalwala pay Julia Biryukova both child support and spousal support.
- 11/2/11: Metalwala and Biryukova have 11 hour mediation session, ending in signed agreement that awards custody of the children to Biryukova but allows visits with Metalwala.
- 11/4/11: Biryukova calls Clay Terry, one of Metalwala’s attorneys, and tells him she wants to void the new agreement.
- 11/6/11: Biryukova tells police she, 2-year-old Sky and 4-year-old Maile ran out of gas, and that she left Sky in the car to go get gas. When she returned, she claims, Sky was gone.
- 11/6/11: Washington Department of Social and Health Services takes custody of Maile Metalwala and places her in foster care.
- 11/11: Police discredit Biryukova’s story. Bellevue Police Major Mike Johnson tells the media, “The story doesn’t add up…the mother’s story is falling apart, day to day.”
- 11/11: Solomon Metalwala distributes flyers about the boy to churn up new leads, and the search expands to include 140 personnel from various agencies.
- 11/11: Solomon Metalwala takes and passes polygraph test. Julia Biryukova refuses to take polygraph.
Discredited Allegations Used to Separate Solomon Metalwala from His Children
Many legal experts have noted, as have we, that false accusations of abuse are often used in family court to separate fathers (and sometimes mothers) from their children. The Metalwala/Biryukova dispute is no exception.
Because of suicidal ideation, Biryukova was involuntarily taken by the police to a mental hospital for assessment in March of 2010. Her assessment on admission shows that she scored 15 out of a possible 100 on the General Assessment of Functioning. That means that she was considered a danger to herself and/or others.
Psychiatrists diagnosed her with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder and bi-polar disorder. One mental health professional was troubled by the fact that Biryukova was in denial regarding all of her diagnoses. Eventually, she was placed on psychotropic medication and released.
Solomon Metalwala gained temporary custody of his two children, but after Biryukova’s release she sought to regain custody by claiming to the family court that Metalwala was physically and possibly sexually abusive of both children. She had never previously made such a claim, and the only evidence of abuse came from minor bruising to Maile that apparently had occurred during her time with her mother.
As Clay Terry, Esq. explained in this interview (begins at 5:24), after the allegations, Metalwala went to the police, took and passed a polygraph test, and Child Protective Services investigated and decided that the allegations were “unfounded and did not happen.”
However, Family Law Commissioner Jacqueline Jeske, a former domestic violence prosecutor with a reputation for rubber-stamping domestic violence protection orders, approved a restraining order against Solomon, and laid numerous onerous conditions on him. These conditions were expensive and time-consuming, and Metalwala was already strained, paying child support, alimony, and Biryukova’s attorneys fees on his modest earnings. He was unable to meet all the conditions. When in early November it did finally became likely that Metalwala was going to have a role in his children’s lives again, Biryukova staged the November 6 incident and the 2-year-old boy disappeared.
The Urban Institute: Child Welfare Agencies Demean, Disregard Fathers
In our column Foster Care System Disregards Fathers (Boston Globe, 6/8/06) we explained:
When a mother and father are divorced or separated, and a child welfare agency removes the children from the mother’s home for abuse or neglect, an offer of placement to the father, barring unfitness, should be automatic. Yet according to a new report by the Urban Institute, few fathers are able to reunite with their children, who are instead pushed into the foster care system.
The new report, What About the Dads? Child Welfare Agencies’ Efforts to Identify, Locate, and Involve Nonresident Fathers…contains a shocking finding: when fathers inform child welfare officials that they would like their children to live with them, the agencies seek to place the children with their fathers in only 15% of cases…
[E]ven when a caseworker had been in contact with a child’s father, the caseworker was still five times less likely to know basic information about the father than about the mother. And 20% of the fathers whose identity and location were known by the child welfare agencies from the opening of the case were never even contacted.
The Elian Gonzalez II Case: Fathers and Families Helps Reunite Father & Child
The “Elian Gonzalez II” case in Miami was a battle over a 5-year-old Cuban immigrant girl which pitted her Cuban father, Rafael Izquierdo, against the Florida Department of Children & Families. Just as Elian’s father Juan Gonzalez faced numerous unfair hurdles to get his son Elian back in 2000, Izquierdo was manhandled by the child welfare system, in part because of the system’s anti-father bias.
In 2005, the Izquierdo’s daughter’s mother brought the girl to Miami from Cuba. DCF removed the girl from her mother’s custody in 2006, after an investigation found that the woman’s mental illness rendered her an unfit parent. She was placed with a foster family, and Izquierdo came to the US to bring his daughter home. Yet Florida DCF refused to give Izquierdo his daughter back.
Fathers and Families intervened in the case, and our Board Chairman Ned Holstein, MD, MS met with DCF officials. The officials had brought in “stacks and stacks” of letters and faxes they had received from our members and supporters, and faxes were coming in continuously during their meeting.
A settlement was reached in the case which gave Izquierdo sole custody of his young daughter. Renowned immigration attorney Ira Kurzban, who represented Izquierdo, thanked us for our efforts on Izquierdo’s behalf, saying that the campaign and media attention “played an important role in the case.” To learn more, see our campaign page.
How Child Welfare Agencies Mistreat Fathers: The Melinda Smith Case
The outrageous, heartbreaking Melinda Smith is one of many examples of how child welfare agencies manhandle children and the fathers they love and need. In our column Choosing Foster Parents over Fathers (San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/11/07), we detailed that case:
Melinda Smith was born to an unwed couple in 1988. Her father, Thomas Marion Smith, a former Marine and a decorated Vietnam War veteran, saw Melinda often and paid child support. When the girl was four, her mother abruptly moved without leaving a forwarding address. Two years later, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services found that Melinda’s mother was abusing her. Though the social worker for the case noted in the file that Thomas was the father, he was never contacted, and his then 6-year-old daughter was placed in the foster care system.
Thomas–whose fitness as a father was never impugned nor legally questioned–continued to receive and pay his child support bills. Authorities refused to disclose his daughter’s whereabouts, and didn’t even inform him that his daughter had been taken by the County. Smith employed private investigators and attorneys to try to find Melinda and secure visitation rights, but he eventually ran out of money.
Rather than allowing Smith to raise his own daughter, the system shuttled Melinda through seven different foster care placements. An understandably angry child, her outbursts led authorities to house her in a residential treatment center alongside older children convicted of criminal activity—when she was only seven years old.
Melinda says that during this period she was told that her father was a “deadbeat dad” who had abandoned her. When Melinda was 16, she told an investigating social worker that the “most important thing” for her was to find her dad. Moved by her story, the social worker began searching for Melinda’s father–and found him in one day. In 2005, Thomas and Melinda were finally reunited.
False Abuse Allegations: A Common Tactic in Family Court
False abuse allegations are a major problem in family court, and the Metalwala case is a good example. In our column Restraining Orders Can Be Straitjackets On Justice (Newark Star-Ledger, 7/28/08), we explained:
There is a large body of evidence which shows that restraining orders are frequently misused. For example, in the Family Law News, the official publication of the State Bar of California Family Law Section, two prominent attorneys recently explained:
“Protective orders are increasingly being used in family law cases to help one side jockey for an advantage in child custody…[they are] almost routinely issued by the court in family law proceedings even when there is relatively meager evidence and usually without notice to the restrained person….it is troubling that they appear to be sought more and more frequently for retaliation and litigation purposes.”
An article in the November, 2007 issue of the Illinois Bar Journal explains, “If a parent is willing to abuse the system, it is unlikely the trial court could discover (his or her) improper motives in an Order of Protection hearing.” These orders have become so commonplace that the Illinois Bar Journal calls them “part of the gamesmanship of divorce.”
Newark family law attorney Bruce Pitman says, “Anybody who practices family law sees people who abuse the restraining order process. Some create false allegations or take minor or insignificant acts and use them to remove their spouse or partner from the home for advantage in litigation. Such abuses undermine victims of real abuse and violence who seek protection.”
Below are the phone numbers, fax numbers, and email addresses for Washington State Department of Social and Health Services officials and King County Superior Court officials. We suggest campaign supporters call all of the officials listed below.
If the intended party is not available, which will often be the case, please leave a short, clear message telling them that you want officials to unite Solomon Metalwala and his daughter Maile as soon as possible. We suggest you leave your name, phone # and email address. Please remember to always be polite, respectful, and to the point.
Washington State Department of Social and Health Services Executive Leadership Team
Susan N. Dreyfus, Secretary of DSHS
Phone: (360) 902-7781 (Executive Assistant Denise Ertman)
Fax: (360) 902-7848
Tracy Guerin, Chief of Staff
Phone: (360) 902-2298
Fax: (360) 902-7848
Denise Revels Robinson, Assistant Secretary, DSHS Children’s Administration
Phone: (360) 902-7821
Fax: (360) 902-7821
Thomas Shapley, Senior Director, Public Affairs DSHS
Phone: (360) 902-8007
Fax: (360) 902-7669
Sherry Hill, DSHS Public Affairs, Children’s Administration
Phone: (360) 902-7892
Fax: (360) 902-7669
DSHS Child Protective Services, East King County Office
Dr. Joel Odimba, Regional Administrator DSHS CPS
Phone: (206) 691-2513
Stephanie Allison-Noone, East King County Area Director
Phone: (425) 590-3030
Fax: (425) 649-4251
Naomi Dillon, East King County Program Manager
Phone: (425) 590-3026
King County Superior Court Officials
Chief Presiding Judge Richard (Dick) McDermott
Phone: (206) 296-9115 (Courtroom)
Phone: (425) 444-2039 (Personal/County Paid Cell Phone)
Fax: (206) 296-0986
Assistant Presiding Judge James (Jim) Doerty
Phone: (206) 296-9250 (Courtroom)
Phone: (206) 225-0148 (Personal/County Paid Cell Phone)
Fax: (206) 296-0986
Paul Sherfy, King County Superior Court Office of Judicial Administration, Chief Administrative Officer
Phone: (206) 296-9327
Fax: (206) 205-1360
Joerene Reiber, King County Superior Court Office of Judicial Administration, Family Court Operations Director
Phone: (206) 296-9309
Fax: (206) 296-0986
Unified Family Court Commissioner Jacqueline Jeske
Phone: (206) 296-9335
Fax: (206) 296-0986
Email and Fax the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and King County Superior Court Officials
Re: Reunite Solomon Metalwala and His Daughter Maile
Dear WA DSHS and King County Superior Court Officials:
We are writing to you concerning the Solomon Metalwala case. We are concerned over the obstacles the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services and King County Superior Court Commissioner Jacqueline Jeske have placed between Maile Metalwala and the father she loves and needs.
Unfortunately, the Metalwala case is not unique. When a mother and father are divorced or separated, and a child welfare agency removes the children from the mother’s home for abuse or neglect, an offer of placement to the father, barring unfitness, should be automatic. Yet, according to a report by the Urban Institute, when fathers inform child welfare officials that they would like their children to live with them, the agencies seek to place the children with their fathers in only 15% of cases. The children are instead pushed into the foster care system.
Moreover, false abuse allegations are often used by divorce litigants to gain custodial and/or financial advantage. Solomon Metalwala’s accuser has been completely discredited, and there is no reason any order based on her accusations should stand.
We call on WA DSHS and Commissioner Jeske to reunite Solomon and Maile as quickly as possible.