Highland County Juvenile Court Judge Kevin Greer held a hearing Monday after issuing a temporary order Friday to remove four children — ages 9, 8, 8 and 6 — from their parents and place them in the custody of Highland County Children Services.
Greer made the decision to issue the order Friday after receiving paperwork for the case that alleged the children appear to be abused and neglected.
According to the complaint, the 9-year-old male child disclosed a number of instances of sexual contact between himself and his 8-year-old sister. Also in the complaint, the children reported that they are often responsible for preparing their own meals, and they stay home alone while the parents go to the gym early in the morning.
The complaint said that in November, the 9-year-old male child threatened to stab someone with a pencil, had been pulling out his own hair, refused to go to recess and does not like other kids. The complaint also reported that his 8-year-old sister carries a “barf bag” at school and makes herself throw up several times a day.
Additional concerns were reported that the children often appear at school unkempt, with dirty, unfixed hair and shoes on the wrong feet.
Caseworkers from Highland County Children Services visited the family’s residence the evening of Jan. 5 and reported the home conditions to be poor, with toys, trash and dirt piled up on the floor with one pathway through the home. Two of the children were observed cooking ramen noodles.
The caseworkers were told by the children’s mother that as parents they were aware of the reports of the children sexually touching each other and they were trying to work through it as parents.
“I received all the paperwork for this case, and I made the decision to issue an order about this without having a hearing, and when I do that I must have a hearing either that day or the next business day, so that’s the reason for the short notice,” said Greer.
Through their attorney, the parents did not contest the judge’s order to have the children removed during the hearing, and Greer continued the temporary orders issued before the weekend.
“Had these parents wanted to contest my order to have these kids removed, they could have done that here today, and I would have heard evidence to decide whether those orders should continue or not,” Greer said.
During the hearing, a pretrial hearing was tentatively scheduled for 8 a.m. on Feb. 13. If the case goes to trial, two hearing dates of 1 p.m. on Feb. 21 and 10 a.m. on March 1 have been tentatively scheduled.
Greer said there were about 20 cases in Highland County last year in which parents rights were permanently terminated and kids were put up for adoption.
Reach John Hackley at 937-402-2571.