In this child advocacy hearing, the child is represented by their own attorney. The parents have their own representation, and Clinton County Department of Social Services is also represented. Lastly, the child’s great aunt who wants to get custody of him is represented. The child’s great aunt has filed a petition stating that his parents are incapable of caring for him and that she wants to have full custody. His great Aunt contends that the child was born with a disease called gastroschisis. Gastroschisis is a life threatening condition wherein he must be monitored intensely and daily medical care is a necessity. The great aunt maintains that she has the time and resources to provide this care and his parents do not. Further, she maintains that because of domestic violence inside the home between the parents, that the child would be better served if he was in her care.
The great aunt filed her petition on November 9, 2010. On November 10, 2010 the Court directed the Clinton County Department of Social Services to conduct an investigation into the parental care of this child. The report was turned in on November 16, 2010 and was seven pages.
The report conducted by the Clinton County Department of Social Services shows that on December 26, 2008 there was a report of domestic violence concerning the parents of the child. The reported stated that they did not find any reason to believe that the parents were not adequately providing for the needs of the child.
The attorney for the child in support of the great aunt’s motion for custody presented an affidavit that showed the child was recently released from the hospital. It would appear that the child was released to his parents after a month long hospitalization due to life threatening complications from his illness. The child’s attorney stated that the child’s father has abused his mother under domestic violence statutes both before and after the birth of the child. This attorney provided reasonable basis for the domestic violence claims against the parents in her motion.
Clinton County Department of Social Services argues that the attorney for the child’s written request is broad and not well thought out. It seems to be an attempt to gain more information rather than a source of information on its own. Clinton County Department of Social Services maintains that the information that the child’s attorney is “fishing” for does not exist.
Secondly, the Clinton County Department of Social Services states that they have conducted a thorough investigation into the circumstances of this family and find that the child is being adequately cared for by his mother. The Court maintains that while the report created by the Clinton County Department of Social Services was thorough, and that they have the right to make the determination that he is well cared for, the attorney for the child is entitled to disagree with their presumption of adequate care. In fact the Court stated, “. . . the fact that the Clinton County Department of Social Services concludes something is true does not require the rest of the world to accept their conclusion.”
Thirdly, the Clinton County Department of Social Services argues that the attorney for the child has enough information and that this motion should be denied. The Court rules that the Clinton County Department of Social Services does not have the authority to decide when any attorney for the child has all of the information that they would or should deem necessary. The Court states that it is the attorney for the child’s responsibility to always seek more information in behalf of their client. The Clinton County Department of Social Services does not have the authority to set limits on an attorney preparing the best case that they can for their client.
In accordance with these findings, the Court orders that the child shall be turned over to his great aunt for care. On December 29, 2010 the Clinton County Department of Social Services must provide the court with certified copies of the indicated report dated December 26, 2008 which found that the parents were not providing adequate guardianship. This is in light of the fact that this report was mentioned in the Clinton County Department of Social Services investigation report dated November 16, 2010, but not produced into evidence at this hearing. The Court requests that all other reports, photographs, or other information that the Clinton County Department of Social Services possesses in support of the November 16, 2010 report, should also be produced for review by this court.
Any and all appeals to this finding must be made within thirty days of receipt of this order in court by the person who decides to appeal. An appeal can also be made thirty-five days from the mailing of the order to the person who desires an appeal, (if it has been mailed by the clerk of the court.) or thirty days after the person has been served (in an official capacity, by an officer of the court) or a party involved. A law guardian is considered an officer of the court for the purposes of providing service of a judge.
It is always difficult for a court to decide that circumstances exist which would necessitate the placing of a child into the custody of a non-parent over the objection of the parents. This is especially true if the child has special needs that need to be met. In this case, the domestic violence in the home added increased stress to the already stressful situation of caring for a child who has a debilitating illness.
The Court was called upon to examine two main arguments. First was whether or not extraordinary circumstances exist which make it reasonable to award custody of this child to a non-parent guardian over the objection of the parent.
Secondly, if the extraordinary circumstances do exist, is the great aunt the best option of persons to take custody of the child? The Court took in to account the domestic violence issues as they are relevant to both issues. The Court also found it relevant that neither parent objected to the Court giving custody of their son to the great aunt.
It is therefore granted that custody is turned over to the great aunt pending any future appeals to this hearing.
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