How far would you go to keep your children? Would you hire an attorney? Would you appeal any decision that separated you from your kids?
The answer is obvious, right? Every parent would do whatever it took to keep their children with them.
What happens to the children who don't receive proper care or enough food and who don't have winter coats or parents who care if they attend school? Should those parents be allowed to keep their children?
These were the issues presented in the case of a couple, Larry M. and Sonia M., who tried to keep their six- and eight-year-old children from ending up in foster care, or even worse, being adopted by another couple.
Children Removed from Home amid Negligence and Domestic Violence Allegations
In April of 2011, the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) initiated proceedings in the circuit court against the couple for allegedly neglecting their children by failing to provide a safe and sanitary home and exposing the children to household domestic violence.
The county specifically alleged that the parents failed to provide adequate food and clothing and subjected their children to unsanitary living conditions.
While the case was being adjudicated, the court granted temporary custody to the couple and appointed counsel for each parent.
At a hearing two months later, the court decided that the children should remain in the legal custody of DYCF and established parameters the parents would need to meet to regain custody of their children.
Parents Appeal Decision to Place Children in Foster Care
The parents appealed this decision but before the hearing, the law mandating their right to free counsel changed. The parents chose not to hire counsel and when they arrived in court, they suffered a defeat. They filed an appeal.
During its review of the case, the Superior Court for their jurisdiction found that Larry and Sonia had neglected their children. In addition, the couple missed scheduled meetings with counselors assigned to their case to help the two adults develop better parenting skills.
Furthermore, there was evidence that Larry was physically violent with his wife while in his children's presence. In fact, there was evidence that he had tried to choke his wife.
In addition, investigators discovered that the household was chaotic and wreaked of garbage and cigarette smoke. The parents routinely left the children unattended and didn't ensure that the older child attended school. The eight-year-old child accumulated twenty unexcused absences and Head Start dropped the younger child from its program due to a high number of absences as well.
The court learned that there was little to no food in the house, the children's personal hygiene was amiss and the parents failed to furnish the children with adequate clothing for winter. Moreover, neither parent had a job.
In February 2013, the Superior Court upheld remedial prerequisites as ordered by the circuit court in order for the children to return to their parents' home.
DCYF Takes the Children
The next month, the DCYF filed termination petitions. The father filed a motion to exclude findings and asserted that because he initially was assigned an attorney who was later removed, that his right to counsel had been breached. And he asked that the order for termination of child custody be dismissed.
A Happy Ending ... for The Children
In this case, there was a happy ending for the children. Although his parents lost their final appeal to the Supreme Court, according to the Department for Children the two kids did well in foster care and there were plans for the children to be adopted.