Parental rights of a 2 and a half year old boy were terminated Friday following a hearing in Highland County Juvenile Court, a hearing that neither parent showed up for.
Judge Kevin Greer heard testimony from Clinton County agencies, caseworkers with the Highland County Children Services and a foster parent before granting a motion for permanent custody filed by the county’s Children Services agency.
Greer noted that neither parent appeared even though both had been “properly served notice” of the hearing by various avenues.
Of all the testimony given, no agency personnel had been provided any proof by the child’s parents that either one had followed through with counseling and treatment recommendations or either of their case plans as constructed by Children Services.
According to testimony, the child went into the temporary custody of the county last year, and since then each parent has had 53 available opportunities to visit with their child at the Family Advocacy Center (FAC). The mother has visited with the toddler six times, the FAC worker said, and went from Sept. 6, 2013 to July 1, 2013 without any contact with the child.
The father, she said, also had 53 available opportunities to visit the boy, and did so on 11 occasions. The father, she said, had no contact with his son from November of last year to March 25, 2014.
The father’s probation officer in Clinton County testified that she has had no contact with the father since April 1 and that he was no longer at his last known address due to having been evicted.
Those who testified Friday also said that any attempts to contact either parent have been unsuccessful.
The boy’s foster mother testified that in July when the toddler was brought to FAC to visit with his mother, he hid behind her as his mother approached him and “he wouldn’t calm down,” she said.
She said after the visit the boy “for several days was not himself.”
The March visit with the father, the foster mother said, “was uneventful.” She said the child wasn’t scared, but he didn’t acknowledge his dad.
When the toddler came to the foster home 10 months ago, the foster mother said the boy at first was “not very affectionate” and didn’t like to be touched. She said he was defiant, he didn’t sleep well, threw temper tantrums, was covered in scars, had “food issues” that she characterized as the child being unable to walk away from food and eating until he would throw up, and he would smack himself in the face and head during a tantrum.
But she said over the last 10 months the child has come to be “much better.” She said he is affectionate and where at one time he would have “self-soothed,” he now comes to her and her husband for comfort.
“He hugs and kisses,” she said, adding that his tantrums are fewer and less intense. Also, she said, he is now able to walk away from food and eats like he should be eating.
“He’s come a long way,” she said, but still “has a long way to go.”
The child lives with the foster parents, their biological children and two foster children, the foster mother said. He calls his foster parents “Mom and Dad,” she said.
“He’s just part of the family,” she said.
And there has been nothing from the parents, she said.
In December when they celebrated the child’s second birthday he was amid “a roomful of strangers,” she said, adding that they had presents for the child. But, she said, it was “sad” that neither parent acknowledged his birthday. “We made sure it was a good one,” she said.
Assistant prosecutor Molly Bolek recommended that permanent custody be granted to Children Services, adding that it “speaks volumes” that neither parent showed up for the hearing, which she said “further demonstrated” their abandonment of the child.
The boy’s guardian ad litem, who is appointed by the court to protect the interests of the child, made the same recommendation.
Greer, after noting all the points he must consider before severing parental rights, granted the motion for permanent custody, finding that it was in the best interest of the child.
To the foster parents, Greer said the court appreciated what they were doing, not only for the toddler, but for the other foster children in their care.
“It’s a labor of love, but it’s very, very tough work,” Greer said.
The judge said that except for appeal purposes, the biological parents were no longer a party to the case.
Angela Shepherd can be reached at 937-402-2572 or on Twitter @ashepherdTG.