A Young Father’s Request

Mario* was 17 when he and his girlfriend learned she was pregnant. After the birth of their daughter, Mario and his girlfriend broke up. She refused to let Mario see his daughter and he became fearful for her safety and well-being. With the help of the Harriett Buhai Center and its Pro Bono Panel, Mario was fought for custody and won. Here is Mario’s story in his own words:

“I am very happy to be able to share my story because thanks to the Buhai Center — I have my daughter at home with me.

When my ex-girlfriend and I learned she was pregnant, we started seeing a counselor to help us be good parents. We knew it wouldn’t be easy to be parents, because I was in school and working.  But I wanted to be a good parent and thought she did too.

After our baby was born my Ex wouldn’t see the counselor anymore and she started to change. She became really mean and would throw things at me. She told me she didn’t want to be a parent and that I had ruined her life.

We broke up. And after we broke up she wouldn’t let me see our daughter. She stopped answering my phone calls and changed her number. But I never stopped trying. One of the few times my Ex let me see my daughter; she drove over to my house with our daughter. She didn’t have a driver’s license, and drove with our daughter on the floor of the car, not in a car seat. She wouldn’t listen to me when I told her it was dangerous to drive that way. I was really worried for my daughter.

The next time I saw my daughter I noticed she had burns on her arm and infected bites. I was so scared that I took her straight to a hospital. The hospital contacted social services who went to meet with my daughter’s mom. The day after the social worker visited I dropped off our daughter with her mom. My Ex’s new boyfriend and his cousin were waiting for me outside and broke the windows of my car with a bat and tried to attack me with a knife. I wasn’t hurt but I was afraid to have my daughter around them.

I didn’t know what to do or how to get help. I had continued seeing the counselor without my ex-girlfriend and she told me about the Harriett Buhai Center. I couldn’t wait to go. I never wanted to have to go to Court but I knew it was the only way to protect my daughter

The staff was great from the day I walked in through the doors until the day I walked out. They were with me step by step and were really caring and understood where I was coming from. Everything was going so great but when the Center appointed Melissa as my lawyer, it was awesome. I was so lucky and fortunate to have her.

The Center helped me get full legal and physical custody of my daughter. Things are great now; she is 3 years old and in preschool and I am working full time and going to school to become an electrician. I am doing all I can do to be the best dad and take care of my daughter. I wish I could say the same for her mom but I haven’t seen or heard from her since our final hearing.

To those who work at the Center, I want to say thank you for everything and I will never forget all that you did for me and my daughter. Please keep doing the great work you’re doing because you make a real difference. To all of the Center’s supporters reading this, thank you too for all the help you are giving to the Center with your donations. Hopefully you can see that by helping the Center, the Center is able to help people like me and my daughter. I don’t know where we would be today without the Center.”