Unfit Father?

"No mother on Earth would want a guy like Earl to marry their daughter," says Kelly. Her 25-year-old daughter, Heather, is married to Earl, who's 41. "He's a deadbeat. I don't think he has any ambition. They live with no electricity." She also notes that Earl and Heather have been evicted at least 12 times. "Earl is no good for my daughter. He's always putting her down."


"My parents despise Earl. They say he's a loser and abuser, not a fit parent and fit husband," says Heather. "My parents have told me that Earl was only with me for a free ride, because Earl decided to quit his job and stay home."


Earl says that Kelly and her husband, Clift, don't like him because he doesn't have money. "It's all about money," he says. "My in-laws will try anything. They had me charged with cruelty to animals. They told the police that I had threatened to kill Heather and the kids. They even t

ried telling Heather that I was going to sell our children."


Six months ago, Heather and Earl were both arrested for child abuse and child neglect. Their 4-year-old son was allegedly playing with lighter fluid in the middle of the night, and caught on fire. He screamed out, and Earl woke up and smothered the fire with a blanket. The boy had first-, second- and third-degree burns. "I don't feel the burns were that bad. They were just like a sunburn," Earl recalls.


Kelly says that wasn't the case. "His burns were horrific," she says, tearing up. "Earl and Heather did not get him medical help. Ryan's burns were discovered at school." Kelly and Clift were awarded full permanent custody of all three of their grandchildren. Heather and Earl do not have any visitation rights. "It is devastating for us to start all over with children again. The diapers, the bottles, the schools, but we know that the kids are being well taken care of."

"It's killing me. It's not fair at all. I miss my kids," Earl says through tears.


Kelly says that she wants Earl out of the picture and out of the kids' lives. "Heather is a very smart person and d

eserves way better than this. I don't really know what caused Heather to get to this point to where she didn't take care of her children and her household. It breaks my heart because I know she's not happy. I'm afraid for Heather that she'll never get out of this," she says, crying. "It breaks my heart that Heather would sink this low and stay with Earl."


Heather says she has no intention of divorcing Earl. "We are in love, and I want that to stand for something," she shares. "I believe my parents are fighting so hard not to give the children back because they are receiving a disability check and child support from both of us."


Dr. Phil addresses Kelly. "You stepped in because of the children," he says.

Kelly agrees. "We were asked if we would take the children and harbor them until other things had come out in court," she says. Once more was revealed in court, Kelly and her husband, Clift, were granted permanent custody of the children, which they maintain today. Heather and Earl were granted one last visit with their kids and now have no rights to their children.

"How do you feel about the fact that your own daughter can't see her own children that you're now raising?" Dr. Phil asks Kelly.

"It's very hard. I feel that we need to protect the kids from them," she says.

"At some point she just stopped taking care of the house, stopped taking care of the kids," Dr. Phil says, and Kelly agrees. "The house was filthy. Is that true?"

"The house has been filthy," Heather admits, but she denies that her son's bottle had curdled milk in it.

Dr. Phil asks her why her mother would lie about this.

"Because she doesn't like the man I'm with," she says. "All my life, they have done nothing but trying to control my life."

"Did you get the children their shots?" Dr. Phil asks.


Heather says yes, but Kelly disagrees. "The baby was 3 months old when we got her, and she hadn't had any immunizations," Ke

lly says. She and Heather bicker about the facts.

"How many times have you left Earl?" Dr. Phil asks Heather.

"I have left him a couple of times, probably three or four," she says.

"You're mother says that you have come home with the kids 14 times," Dr. Phil says.

Heather says that's not true.

"You think Earl is a good guy," Dr. Phil says to Heather.

"Yes, he is," she says.

Dr. Phil introduces Earl, who joins the women onstage. He addresses Earl's question of how he can get his children back. "You understand that terminating biological parental rights is a huge deal," Dr. Phil says. "Why did they do that?"

"I believe because Kelly and Clift have said so many things that most of them are just totally ludicrous. And they don't want me in the picture," Earl says. "Since she decided that she wasn't going to leave me, they just pushed really hard with the system to take the kids from us."

Dr. Phil lists Earl's unfavorable behaviors. "You've had your driver's license suspended, and that's because you weren't paying child support," he says. "You pled guilty to c
hild abuse and child neglect." Earl was sentenced to 60 days but only served 44, and now is on three years probation. He also pled guilty to animal cruelty and the negligent mistreatment of animals. He had a permanent restraining order filed against him. He's had eviction notice cases filed against him five times and has had a fugitive for justice charge filed against him. "I've got to tell you, it just doesn't look like a good resume to me," Dr. Phil says, noting that he also has a list of things that Kelly and Clift have alleged about Earl.

Dr. Phil addresses Heather. "Do you really mean to sit here and suggest that your mother and father have perpetrated this to get a disability check?" he asks.

"I believe so," she says. "For as long as I can remember, they have always been just about money, and how can they get more and where they can get it."

"How much money is this check?" Dr. Phil asks.

"It's $246 a month," Kelly says.

"If you get the child support plus the $246, do you think that comes even close [to raising kids]?" Dr. Phil asks Heather in disbelief.

"No, it's doesn't come close," she says.

"So, this is a net negative for your parents," Dr. Phil says, noting that Kelly and Clift are going to be 70 years old when the children graduate high school. "I just have to tell you, that is offensive to my sensibilities that you would suggest that your mother would perpetrate all of this for $246."

When Dr. Phil brings up the incident when Earl and Heather's 4-year-old son was playing with lighter fluid on the floor and set himself on fire, Earl says, "That's why the children were taken


"You said it was just a sunburn and didn't need medical care, correct?" Dr. Phil asks Earl.

"At the time that the burn happened, yeah," he says.

Dr. Phil shows pictures of the 4-year-old's legs. "What was the finding?" he asks.

"It was first-, second- and third-degree burns," Kelly says.

"You had to pat the flames out on the boy," Dr. Phil says to Earl.

"I wrapped a blanket around him," Earl says.

"So he was on fire!" Dr. Phil says.

"His leg was, yes," Earl says.

Dr. Phil points out that they never took their son to the doctor.

Earl admits that he made a mistake.

"So we know that your judgment is not good," Dr. Phil says. Referring the animal cruelty charges against Earl, Dr. Phil asks, "If you can't take care of animals, and you can't take care of a cat, and we've seen your judgment with these children, with this precious little boy getting burned, and you don't take him for medical treatment, why in the world would anybody turn these kids over to you?"

Dr. Phil suggests that Earl ask himself, "What is wrong with me? What do I need to fix? What priorities do I need to establish? What do I need to do to get myself in a position where I can be a fit father?"

"That's why I'm here," Earl says.

"But you show absolutely no insight. You show no remorse, because both of you just deny everything," Dr. Phil says. "At no time do you ever look me in the eye and say, ‘I did it. It was wrong. I need to change it.' That's the first step." To Heather he says, "You're the children's mother, and you're defending him. There's no room for divided loyalty here. You have one responsibility and that's to your children, and you blew it."


Dr. Phil addresses Earl. "You get to where you're ready to come back here and look me in the eye, man to man, and tell me, ‘I realize the stupid stuff I've done. I realize the bad judgment I've had,' and I will extend a hand to try and help you. At this point, you're not ready for that," he says. He asks Earl to watch a tape of the show 10 times and then share his reaction with Dr. Phil.

"I'll do it," he says. "I'm here to get help."

Dr. Phil asks, "If they would turn those children over to you today, would you take them?"

"Yes, I would," Earl says. "I'm trying to change, and nobody seems to want to see that."

"Because it's an illusion," Dr. Phil says. "If you had a bit of insight in this situation, you would be able to say, ‘I am not ready for those children yet. I am not responsible enough for those children yet. I don't have the judgment for those children yet. They deserve better than what I can bring right now. I am going to quit bad-mouthing the woman who has sacrificed in her life to raise my children, and I'm going to work on me.' When you say that, that's the first step. You want help from me, that's the first step."