Single Black Dad: You Can’t Take My Child

After his daughter's mother died, a father struggled to win a custody fight with her parents.

Cydney and Chad Milner 
Cydney and Chad Milner  SABRINA THOMPSON/KUU PHOTOGRAPHY

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Brown’s three-day maternity stay turned into a six-week stint because of the cancer discovery, and Milner moved into the hospital to care for his daughter. “He changed the baby’s diapers in the nursery when they would bring the baby in the intensive care unit because Cydney was a preemie,” says Cathy Mumford, Milner’s mother.

The couple was told that she had a 20 percent chance of surviving; she began to receive treatment at a cancer center in Buffalo, N.Y. Daddy day care was in full swing. “Chad would get off of work, play with Cydney, feed her, change her diapers. He would be up at nights,” says Kim Thompson, Brown’s cousin, who lives in Buffalo. “Timile was going through the cancer and could hardly do anything at the time.”

In a post on her Facebook page during that time, Brown wrote, “Feeling better today. A little more energy today. Mommy put Cydney to bed last night and was very proud. Bonding time!! This has usually been Daddy’s job. And he’s so good with her!”

“By mid-March [the cancer] had spread throughout her abdomen. By April the doctor said it was all over up to her neck,” Milner said. Brown, who was 5 feet 5 inches, was down to 88 pounds.

In October they moved to Virginia to be near Brown’s mother — Brown had began to repair that relationship — but that’s when things went south, both with Brown’s health and with Milner’s ability to see his fiancée and daughter. Although the couple had initially planned to stay in an apartment about 30 minutes from Brown’s mother, Brown began to stay with her mother much more frequently as she got sicker and was in and out of the hospital.

However, Milner said that a feeling began to gnaw away at him. He believed that a plan was being put into action to make it appear as if Brown did not have a fiancée or a partner in the picture. He was encouraged to visit Brown in the hospital for small periods of time and during specific hours, when “a lot of people weren’t around,” he said.

Brown became too sedated to communicate with Milner after a while, and he received updates about Brown’s condition only from her mother. He allowed his daughter to stay in the house with Brown’s mother with the hope that Cydney would give Brown “a reason to live.”

The last time Milner saw Brown alive, he told her that he would take Cydney up to New York for a week after he had a dispute with her mother over his access to his fiancée and daughter.

“No, two weeks,” she whispered.

 

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