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In 1979 Stephen Fagan was an Instructor at Harvard Law School and Supervising Attorney at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau where he had been since 1974. Mr. Fagan also had a small private practice where he mostly helped people that couldn't afford standard legal fees. He owned a home and was seeing a woman he cared about. Yet when he left he gave up his profession, friends, family and identity and security to raise two infants. This was almost two years after he separated from his former wife who had since remarried and had moved away some 100 miles.
When Mr. Fagan was contacted by neighbors of his ex wife alleging her abuse and neglect of the children he immediately petitioned the court for custody. (See the neighbors' affidavits in the Documents section.) In spite of two of the mothers who had witnessed this abuse taking place for months testifying in court the system whose responsibility it was to protect the children returned them to the birth mother. At the hearing Mr. Fagan made allegations of drug abuse and alcoholism which Barbara Kurth Waugh denied. It turned out that within the last nine months before the hearing she had been convicted at least three times for driving under the influence and plead guilty to all three. She had a blood alcohol level of .23 in one instance, and a .25 blood alcohol level (over three times today's legal limit) when she was arrested for DUI with the children, ages one and four, present in the car. She also failed a field sobriety test in that arrest. She told the court under oath that she did not have a drinking problem and never revealed her convictions in spite of three DUI's and to date does not appear to accept responsibility for the danger she put the children in. Reading the arrest reports you will see that all of the drunk driving incidents involved hitting another motor vehicle. This is just part of the case. Barbara Kurth also had three prior recent Psychiatric hospitilizations that were brought to the court's attention, yet the court refused to consider or admit evidence on her mental condition. How any responsible system could return the children to such a home and not allow her psychiatric record to be considered in evaluating her ability to parent, and in not conducting an independent psychiatric evaluation, illustrates again the failure of the system to protect children. This was the l970's and men were generally not considered capable parents.
When circumstances got to a point Stephen could no longer look away or rationalize the conditions the children were living in, he acted. The minimum circumstances necessary to sustain such action had long been exceeded and he became fiercely determined to give his children their birthright: the ability to prosper and stability. The children were guiltless victims of numerous misdeeds and a child's attachments and health do not rest on a biological connection alone but on the ultimate caretakers stability, ability and desire to do what is in the best interest of the children. Children deserve a high quality of life and it is essential they get that quality of care and cognitive stimulation. The natural response of a parent is to nurture and protect. A parent unwilling to seek voluntary help for a problem or even admit to such dysfunction where lives are put at risk should not be allowed to continue at the expense of the children if there is danger of immediate harm and a competent alternative. Children, especially in their early years, are desperately in need of caretaking skills and protection. These qualities must not be negotiated or bartered away.