Last month, Dr. Inga James of Heartly House was appointed by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to the Workgroup to Study Child Custody Court Proceedings Involving Child Abuse or Domestic Violence Allegations. The term of this appointment is set to last until November 30, 2020.
According to research, approximately 58,000 children are court-ordered to custody or unsupervised visitation by abusive fathers. Further, child sexual abuse is rarely a sufficient reason for courts to deny custody or unsupervised visitation to an abusive parent.
As President and Executive Director of Heartly House, Dr. James has been recognized by the Governor’s Office for her strong personal and professional commitment in serving the best interest of Maryland citizens. Dr. James has worked with victims and survivors of crime for over 30 years, including serving on the board of Child Justice, Inc., which provides pro bono attorney services for protective parents in custody and visitation hearings. As a member of this Workgroup, Dr. James will assist with making a positive difference regarding child custody court proceedings.
The Governor’s Workgroup was established as a result of Maryland Senate Bill 567, passed during the 2019 legislative session. Senate Bill 567 is Maryland’s response to federal House Resolution 72, which passed in the U.S. House of Representatives in September 2018. HR 72 urged states to examine their family court systems and ensure that custody and visitation decisions are made are objective, fair, and unbiased. The goal of the Workgroup is to develop legislation for the Maryland General Assembly.
“I am honored to be able to participate in this Workgroup to help create safe courts and judicial systems for children. There is no reason a child should be required to spend any time alone with an abuser, regardless of the relationship to the child,” said Dr. James.
About Heartly House:
Since 1979, Heartly House is the only organization in Frederick County, MD, that provides comprehensive services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, human tracking, and child abuse. Through a “trauma informed” service model, staff provide education, supportive services, referrals to other resources, and empower victims to make the best choices for themselves. The goal of services is to increase safety and wellbeing.