Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Update on the Chester Adoption Case....

Judge expected to rule in Chesco adoption case By Kathleen Brady Shea Inquirer Staff Writer A federal court judge is expected to decide the fate tonight of a 3-year-old boy at the center of an emotionally and racially charged adoption dispute. Randall and Susan Borelly of Upper Uwchlan Township filed a lawsuit April 11 seeking to regain custody of Kevin, their African American foster child of nearly two years. The Borellys, who are white, contend that the county's reason for denying their application - an unwritten policy limiting families to one adoption per year - was a pretext for racial discrimination. For about 15 hours over two days, U.S. District Judge James T. Giles heard testimony from 16 witnesses, including the Borellys and Kevin's adoptive mother, who gained custody of the boy April 5 after county officials removed him from the Borelly home. The Borellys testified that Jessica Moon, a caseworker for Chester County's Department of Children, Youth and Families, was the first to suggest that the Borellys adopt Kevin, described as a lovable, mechanically inclined youngster who will turn 4 next week. Gertrude King, the boy's biological great-grandmother, and Jean Speiser, his court-appointed attorney, also supported the idea. After the Borellys expressed interest, county officials deemed them ineligible because they had already voiced their intent to adopt their 11-year-old niece, who had been living with them for several years. The Borellys then asked whether they could postpone their niece's proceeding to avoid losing Kevin. "We were threatened with losing our niece," Randy Borelly said. Mary Lou Beck, the manager of adoption services, testified that she felt the niece should be the Borellys' priority and that the policy helps adoptive families avoid distractions. She said that she did not view her comment about finding "other placement" for the niece as threatening. The Borellys said their efforts to obtain a copy of the one-per-year policy were unsuccessful. According to testimony from other agency employees, the policy did not exist in written form until November 2005, eight months after the Borellys submitted their application. "When I agreed to put the policy in writing, I had no idea who the Borellys were," James L. Forsythe, director of the county department, testified. The Borellys said they sought an evaluation from Bruce Mapes, a respected forensic psychologist, hoping to persuade the county to make an exception. Mapes' report, which called moving Kevin from the Borelly home "an unnecessary experiment," prompted a county judge to request the county to review its stance, according to testimony. Eve Large, the county manager of foster-care services, downplayed Mapes' assessment, suggesting that it showed the boy "can bond with another family." James John LeVan, the county's foster/adopt home finder, testified that a colleague told him that Diane Horsey, the county placement manager, "did not want to place black children with white families." Horsey denied making that statement. Asked about several previous lawsuits alleging racial discrimination by the county agency, Horsey said: "I think parents have presented that when they weren't selected for a child." Giles, who reminded the parties that he is not a family court judge, said his role was solely to determine whether a rule was applied so arbitrarily that it led to an abuse of power and "misuse of race." The judge, who took an active role in the proceeding, questioned county workers about why they ignored Chester County Court Judge Jacqueline C. Cody's order for a gradual transition from the Borelly residence to the adoptive home, opting instead for an "extraction." Carla London, the agency's deputy director, said she and Forsythe made a last-minute decision to remove Kevin from the home two days ahead of schedule. She said they feared the Borellys would be uncooperative and would involve the media, assumptions the Borellys denied. Kevin's adoptive mother told the judge that she and her family would be "devastated" if the child were taken from them. After the proceeding, Susan Borelly said her family hoped that Kevin would be returned to them, but that even if he is not, they were glad they exposed the county's actions. "It's supposed to be about the kids and that's what has been so frustrating," she said. "I think it came out in court that it's not - you don't treat Kevin the way you treated him and tell me that was in his best interest."

8 comments:

  1. I was *thisclose* to asking you if you'd seen that, I saw an article about the case over the weekend and thought of you.

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  2. Debimck233:52 PM

    I work in West Chester where all of this is taking place. and in alot of the media they are saying the Chester County rule is one adoption per year of a child that is not a blood relation. I can't understand how a neice wouldn't be considered a blood relative... my cousin is a deptuty sherrif and works closely with YCF and I am dying to ask him what he thinks about the whole thing, but at the same time, I am almost afraid his answer will be racist in nature...

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  3. Deb - if you ask him - please let me know what he says. Marc said that the situation is horrible for all involved and I have to agree. I feel the most for this poor child in the middle of this tug-o-war.

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  4. Dylan's Daddy5:06 PM

    Its pretty clear when you read between the lines in this case. The article says there is no written policy concerning the number of adoptions and when the family offered to postpone the adoption of their neice so they could adopt Kevin first there was an implied threat that the neice would be removed from the home! So, basically this (white) family was good enough to foster a (black) child for 2 years, love him and earn his love, but the moment they expressed their intent to permanently adopt him a (black) family became available in another part of the state?

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  5. I'm a former foster child and current child advocate...

    There are two issues here:

    1.) MEPA: Federal law prohibits denying adoption based on race.

    Title 42 USC 1996b
    Public Health and Welfare
    Chapter 21: Civil Rights
    Sec. 1996b. Interethnic adoption
    (1) Prohibited conduct - A person or government that is involved in adoption or foster care
    placements may not--

    (A) deny to any individual the opportunity to become an adoptive or a foster parent, on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the individual, or of the child, involved;

    or

    (B) delay or deny the placement of a child for adoption or into foster care, on the basis of the race, color, or national origin of the adoptive or foster parent, or the child, involved.

    2.) Why didn't the judge know that? Because judicial training has been cut and judges need to know more about foster care.

    Please see my blog for the recommendations of the PEW Commission regarding judicial leadership and foster care.

    Please also be aware that noncompliance with paragraph (1) is deemed a violation of title VI
    of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 [42 U.S.C. 2000d et seq.].

    Reference:
    (Pub. L. 104-188, title I, Sec. 1808(c), Aug. 20, 1996, 110 Stat. 1904.)

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  6. Lisa,

    Thank you so much for the informative post. Unfortunately, the judge ruled again the Borelly family.

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  7. The outcome of the Borelly case is very frustrating to me. It seems a clear example of beaurocracy triumphing over the best interests of a child.

    I am going to find something proactive to do about it.

    Here are the things that come to mind:
    1.) Send the judge information about the PEW Commission.

    2.) Remind the social workers about MEPA.

    3.) Contact that reporter to share this information with her.

    There was an article recently Regina Louise ended up living in 30 foster homes and placements -- because the woman who wanted to adopt her was white.

    There are two happy endings to this story:

    1.) Regina Louise is now a foster care advocate and keynote speaker. She's changing the world...

    2.) Regina was finally adopted at age 40 -- by the woman who had been disallowed from adopting her in the first place!

    Orphan finally adopted at age 40 May 2, 2004
    "Regina Louise Ollison was 40 years old with a 17-year-old son of her own when she became, after a lifetime as an orphan, somebody's child ... The two had fallen in love with each other when Regina Louise was a headstrong 11-year-old bouncing from one foster home to another ... Regina changed her name legally to Regina Louise Kerr-Taylor."
    -Houston Chronicle -- Nation

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  8. Progress on intiatives:

    1.) I emailed both reporters (Kathleen Brady Shea apparently co-wrote the article with her colleague Benjamin Y. Lowe). I will let you know if I hear back from them.

    2.) Judge Giles is virtually incommudicado. I visited the web site of the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. www.paed.uscourts.gov

    I acquired his mailing address, but when I read his "Procedures," it looks like the man is out-to-lunch permanently when it comes to communication.

    I was left with the impression that if I write him, maybe his law clerks will find time to read it... and maybe he will find time to talk to his law clerks. But don't count on it.

    I think news articles might carry more weight than a letter.

    But, since I have his mailing address, I do plan to send him information about the PEW Commission. If it doesn't come with an angry letter, it might construed as less threatening to him and he might actually read it.

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