By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
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When New Times asked Auslander and Linda Wells, DCF's chief legal counsel, if Benge had complied with his case plan, they declined to answer. “Often times it's not possible to make a parent the perfect person,” Auslander says. “He's nothing but a leech,” Janet Chaulklin counters. “The state's turning him into their poster boy.” During the dependency proceedings involving his children, Benge tested positive for benzodiazepines, an illegal tranquilizer, and the child-welfare agency investigated allegations that he slapped his son in the face during an unsupervised visit in February. “They need to rehabilitate him to show that he's a great guy, so they can say, “Hey, he's had his mishaps but he's been rehabilitated,'” McGillis asserts.
The oldest of Wendolyn's children, now sixteen years old, has been through three shelters, three foster homes, and three group homes. She's now residing in a shelter for troubled girls in Homestead. Her second oldest, the only one not in the dependency proceeding, remained with his father until recently, when he moved into an aunt's house. Wendolyn's three remaining children are split between Milwaukee and Las Vegas. One of the girls lives with the Chaulklins. The other two are each with a paternal grandmother.
Darrin McGillis is going forward with his termination of parental rights case against Benge. He plans on deposing witnesses soon and is glad that Judge Cohen has at least recused herself from the TPR case. Meanwhile he has high hopes that Karen Gievers, a child-advocacy lawyer who specializes in suing DCF, wins for him the biggest battle he has ever waged. “I'm just one little guy going against a bureaucracy,” McGillis says. “When this is all over, no one is going to write me a check. I get nothing out of this except knowing those kids are safe and that they don't see the horrors my sister lived through.”