ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled Friday that a jailed man’s efforts to turn his life around to keep custody of his two sons was “too little and too late.”
It upheld the decision by Baltimore officials to put the children up for adoption, noting that the father did not support the boys or perform “parental duties” before or after he was jailed.
But attorneys for the father, identified only as Mark M., said it was the city Department of Social Services that did too little, too late, to keep the father and sons together.
“It did not provide him with parenting classes, job opportunities or any of the other services mentioned by the social worker … which would have been provided had the department wanted to pursue reunification,” they said in court documents.
In fact, even though Mark M. had earned his high school degree, weaned himself off drugs, taken parenting classes and worked as a clerk while in jail, Social Services officials said they never planned to reunite him with his sons.
Marques, 8, and Marcus, 7, were the two youngest of four children born to Mark M. and Sonya B., who apparently never married, the court said. The boys lived with their mother after the parents separated in 1989.
Soon thereafter, social workers found the boys poorly fed and not immunized. They contacted Mark M., who promised to provide financial help once he got a job and who encouraged Sonya B. to care for the children in the meantime.
But Mark M. was jailed in October 1992 for drug possession and assault. The couple’s two older children were taken in by a relative, but Marques and Marcus were put in foster care after their mother abandoned them in May 1993.
From prison, Mark M. challenged the adoption process that city officials proposed for the boys, saying his children “have always been the most important thing in my life.”
In visits at the jail in 1994 and early 1995, social workers said the boys seemed “glad to see their father.” They said Mark M. could get the boys if, after getting out of jail, he found housing and provided financial support for them.
But the city offered Mark M. little in the way of help after he was released from jail in December 1995, his attorneys said. When he failed to live up to his end of the deal, the city stripped him of his parental rights.
A three-judge panel of the appeals court Friday agreed with that decision, noting that Mark M. expressed interest in his sons only after he learned they would be placed in foster care. The court said Mark M. “did not use his skills to benefit or reunite with Marques or Marcus” after he got out of jail and that adoption would be in their best interest.
“It is clear that the appellant did not provide food, clothing, shelter, or education to his children,” the decision said. “Appellant’s efforts were too little and too late.”
“I think that the court in its opinion was exactly right,” said Assistant Attorney General C.J. Messerschmidt. “The appellants efforts were `too little, too late.'”
Social workers report that the boys, who have lived with their foster family since September 1993, now call their foster parents “mommy” and “daddy.”