Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Chester County foster family denied custody A white couple's civil rights were not violated when county officials refused to let them adopt a black child, a judge ruled. By Kathleen Brady Shea and Benjamin Y. Lowe Inquirer Staff Writers In a hushed Philadelphia courtroom, a federal judge last night denied a Chester County family's final effort to regain custody of their beloved 3-year-old foster child. U.S. District Judge James T. Giles ruled that Randall and Susan Borelly, a white couple from Uwchlan Township, had failed to prove that Chester County officials violated their civil rights when they refused the family's request to adopt Kevin, their black foster child of nearly two years. The decision ended an emotional battle for the Borellys, who filed a lawsuit on April 11, arguing that the county Department of Children, Youth and Families' reason for denying them consideration - an unwritten policy limiting families to one adoption per year - was a pretext for racial discrimination. "We love Kevin," Randall Borelly said, "but we don't want to fight for him and move him two years from now. This has to be it." The family had been seeking a temporary restraining order to have Kevin returned. "If we've made it easier for someone else to adopt, then we did the right thing," Susan Borelly said. "There is going to be a lot more focus on that agency." Gertrude King, Kevin's biological great-grandmother, cried as Giles announced his decision. "I don't think it's fair," she said. "They should have never removed him from the Borellys' home." The judge - who distilled more than 15 hours of testimony - said he was bound to conclude that the county's asserted rule or practice was not "applied discriminatorily" to the Borellys. The Multiethnic Placement Act, a federal statute that governs adoption procedures, makes it illegal for agencies that receive federal funds to deny or delay adoptions based on race. But the law does allow for exceptions in individual cases. Race can be a factor in placement if an agency can prove that it is in the best interest of a child. "It's a shame the court's jurisdiction is so limited that it could not make the determination as to the best interests of the child," said Michael Churchill, an attorney for Jean Speiser, Kevin's court-appointed guardian. "Any agency that moves a child... in order to uphold a policy is not acting in the best interest of that child." Giles was reluctant to reopen a December decision by Chester County Court Judge Jacqueline C. Cody that enabled the Department of Children, Youth and Families to place Kevin with a new family. "This court is bound to conclude the state has adjudicated the question of whether the asserted practice or rule existed and whether it was applied in the best interest of Kevin," Giles said. Guy A. Donatelli, the agency's solicitor, said the county would not ask the Borellys to pay its legal fees, which can be a typical practice for those who sue and fail. "The county has always been confident that its actions would withstand this kind of judicial scrutiny," he said. "It's still a little bit too early to predict what the department will do according to policy issues. But every time you go through one of these things, you learn you may find ways to do it better." During the two-day hearing, the Borellys testified that they sought to adopt Kevin, an affectionate youngster with a penchant for high-performance machines, at the urging of a county caseworker, Speiser, and King. County officials deemed them ineligible because they had already expressed their intent to adopt their 11-year-old niece, who had been living with them for several years. Although the Borellys asked whether they could postpone their niece's proceeding to avoid losing Kevin, county officials suggested that the niece's adoption could be jeopardized. Officials said a policy limiting families to one adoption per year - put into writing months after the Borellys' request - served the adoptive children's best interests. "The evidence is very, very clear: There was no policy," Samuel C. Stretton, who represented the Borellys, said in his closing argument. Stretton said no valid explanation existed for the county's actions except racial bias. Churchill added that the county had a duty to "consider the best interests of this child"; instead, it argued an iron-clad policy "contrary to basic social work principles." Donatelli said he agreed that the Borellys are "good people," but he defended the agency's actions. "It did what it did because it thought it was doing what was best for this child," he said. Kevin's adoptive mother also attended the hearing on Friday and Saturday; her husband was present for last night's decision but left the courthouse without comment. The couple, who live in Pennsylvania, gained custody of Kevin on April 5 after county officials abruptly removed him from the Borelly home. County officials said they made a last-minute decision to relocate Kevin two days ahead of schedule because they feared a media onslaught, an assumption the Borellys denied. The Borellys are not the first couple to accuse the county of illegally basing adoption decisions on race. In 1995, B. William and Debra Fell sued unsuccessfully to retain custody of a 4-year-old girl who had lived with them since she was 3 months old. The Fells, a white couple from Downingtown, said the county used "racial matching" when it sent the child, who was black, to live with a Maryland social worker, who was also black. In a 1991 case, a white couple from Royersford, Victor and Mary DeWees, alleged discrimination after being told they could not adopt a 2-year-old mixed-race child from Chester County. Although U.S. District Judge Jay C. Waldman denied the couple permission to adopt the child on the basis of discrimination, he criticized expert testimony that only whites with specialized training can best address the needs of a minority child. The county subsequently reconsidered the DeWeeses' application and granted the adoption. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Contact staff writer Kathleen Brady Shea at 610-701-7625 or firstname.lastname@example.org. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Adoptive parents respond to court ruling By Kathleen Brady Shea and Lini S. Kadaba INQUIRER STAFF WRITERS In an exclusive telephone interview today, the adoptive parents of Kevin, the foster child at the center of an emotional custody dispute, said they wanted the public to know that Kevin is thriving. "He's healthy, and he's happy," said Lisa Blanton, 40, of Hershey, promising that the family will pursue Kevin's best interest far beyond expectations. "The fire is under us now." Lisa and her husband, Martin, 42, talked about their first meeting with Kevin, his quick adjustment to his new parents and 8-year-old sister, and the role of race in adoptions.. On Tuesday evening, a federal court judge cleared the way for the Blantons to adopt the youngster, who will turn 4 next week. U.S. District Judge James T. Giles ruled that Randall and Susan Borelly, a white couple from Uwchlan Township, had failed to prove that Chester County officials violated the Borelleys' civil rights when they refused the couple's request to adopt Kevin, their black foster child of nearly two years. After the ruling, the Blantons emailed the following statement to the media: 4/25/06 STATEMENT FOR THE PRESS While we are not directly a part of today's and other court proceedings, this issue touches us intimately and deeply saddens our family as African Americans. If we collectively speak to the issue of race and its relativity in the adoption process, thousands of potentially needy African American children will disparagingly linger in social systems. Yet, to negate the issue of race as an African American denounces the sacrifice and pride found in our race; that we as a people... thousands of our ancestors, for centuries have fought to reclaim. We would be in essence denouncing all that we aspire to see is real and achievable every time we look in the mirror and as we raise our children. Some will contend this is akin to the phrase "having one's cake and eating it too" but is not that what we all ultimately would like to have? We want race to matter and yet we do not! Ultimately, what we want to give to our son who was caught in this battle is the best chance possible. With our daughter, we want to provide for our son a secure sense of self and love that will sustain him for a lifetime of short- and long-term goals. We do not perceive the adoption process to be one that is based on - he who raises their hand first gets the child - but one that is based on one who patiently awaits to be called. We firmly believe the Chester County Children and Youth called upon us to rise and meet the needs, because they were confident we could do so; we are doing just that. Ultimately, we believe, God made the call and Kevin heard it as well. He has embraced us lovingly from the day we first met and his love has not looked back. Our eyes have never been taken off the true focus of what this is all about, the best interest of a child. No grandstanding, blame shifting, public debate, or emotional rhetoric has deterred us from our first obligation as parents. The courts have spoken multiple times to this matter and the best interests of our child have been committed to record. Living up to these requirements will result in our treating people... no matter the race... as Christ would, looking out for others' interests before our own, and speaking up for those who cannot speak up for themselves for justice. In all this, we now want to assure the birth parents that their son Kevin has endured and is thriving, he will receive the best care as our son, forever. God has spoken, Kevin is home! Lisa & Martin Blanton -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Contact staff writer Kathy Brady Shea at 610-701-7625 or email@example.com.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
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."
This morning Dylan and I took the train to work. We scored a seat in the front of the train which Dylan loves. He was flashing his smile to all of those around us including the conductor of the train. "How old?" the conductor asked. "9 1/2 months" I tell him. "He's absolutely beautiful" said the conductor. "Thank you" I respond. "Where's he from?" I pause. I had decided the next person to ask me this question I would say "from (insert home state here)". Instead I just said "Guatemala". Let's be honest here. Dylan looks absolutely nothing like me. People are going to assume that he's adopted. It doesn't happen when we are with Marc because he's darker and Dylan does resemble him but I have red hair and fair skin. I really don't know how to feel about this. I am proud that my son is from Guatemala. I think it's a beautiful country with beautiful people. Should I be offended that a complete stranger would assume that my son is adopted? How do families with parents of different races cope? What if their child resembles one more than the other - do they get these questions? How do they handle it? So tell me readers.... should I be offended by these personal questions?
Monday, April 24, 2006
On Saturday, Marc and I had a dentist appointment. Now, we normally take turns (one goes in for the cleaning - the other one hangs out in the waiting room). We took Dylan with us to meet everyone and figured we'd take turns watching him. Well, turns out they had two technicians to do the cleaning and we were scheduled at the same time. No worries, the dentist's wife graciously offered to watch Dylan. She wanted around the office with him and he was fine until she took him to see Daddy. As soon as he saw the mask on the technician, he flipped out. I couldn't understand why he was getting so upset. Marc figured that it must be from being in the hospital - associating the masks with getting needles and such. Poor kid.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Hi Philly people and welcome to our blog. We are a nice couple with the world's most amazing and beautiful baby who would love to spend the day visiting the Camden Waterfront and showing our beautiful boy all of the fun and exciting attractions you have to offer. So.... Pick Us! Pick Us! For my lovely readers, the above mentioned website is selecting 200 bloggers to take part in a blogging day where you get to check out the neat attractions at the Camden Waterfront for free and then blog about them. Marc and I have been to the USS New Jersey and many many years ago, I did visit the aquarium. We haven't yet been there as a family and it's on our list of cool things to do this summer with Dylan.
Friday, April 21, 2006
When Marc and I started the process of adopting Dylan, we had heard some stories about people who have gone to get their children and were murdered by villagers who thought that they were there to steal children and sell them for "parts" in the US and other countries. Part of me didn't want to believe it but the other part of me knew that it probably had happened. I didn't know that it was still going on but apparently it is still happening. Now, these people may have been kidnappers. I have not been able to find the full story on this (if it exists).
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
It all started on Friday night. My Mom had Dylan for the day. I got out early and was heading home w/my sister when Mom called. Dylan felt warm and could bring a thermometer with me to check his temp. No problem, I figured she should have one in the house anyway so I bought a thermometer and headed over. Well, Bubbie was right... 103.8 temp. Gave him some tylenol and headed home. I called his doctor's office who got us in on Saturday morning at 9:15 a.m. The doctor checked him out - his ears were clear, boogies in the nose - little congestion in the chest. Doc says it's a cold w/fever and to just give him tylenol and/or motrin and he'll be fine. Well, since Dylan seemed to be feeling better, we stopped for breakfast and then went over to the park and let Dylan play on the swings. Marc took him down the slide. We stopped off to say hi to a friend who hadn't met Dylan and then took him home. Around 5:30 or so, Marc was playing in the living room with Dylan. Dylan was just laughing and having a good old time. All of a sudden he starts to wail. I told Marc that wasn't a normal cry and took his temp. It was 104.something. I called the pediatrician's office and they said a nurse would call us back. Marc said he didn't want to wait - he wanted to go to the ER. We grabbed our stuff and ran to the car. I jumped in the back w/Dylan and we started going before he was even fully in the car seat. Luckily we live off a major highway and it took no time to get him to the children's hospital. On the way there, Dylan's eyes were doing some strange tick thing and he wasn't focusing on anything. His neck was twisted and he just started straight up. I was (somewhat) ok until we got to the ER. I lost it. I ran into Emergency and broke down in tears. They took us straight back and the nurse asked how she could help us and I held out Dylan and said "fix him!". She took him temp and it was 105.5. They immediately took us into an exam room and the doctor's came right away. He was burning up in my arms. His neck was very stiff and all I could think was meningitis. They did a spinal tap on him. This time went a lot faster (and better) than the last time. While they were doing it - a nurse walked past the table and it brushed the curtain out of the way. Dylan was just staring at me crying. It shattered my heart. They pulled the curtain closed again and I just wanted to die. I wanted to change places with him. The doctor came out of the exam room w/the spinal fluid and held it up for Marc and I to see. He said that the fluid is perfectly clear which is a very good sign. They took blood, snot and put an IV in his hand and got us a room. This experience was much different from the last time we were there. Last time Dylan was in ICU so he had a private room - this time he had a roommate. Beautiful little 2 year old boy with a very inconsiderate Mom. She had visitors till after 10 and it got to the point where I had to ask the nurse to see about moving us. Luckily she just kicked out the visitors instead. Well, yesterday they discharged us with a diagnosis of Adenovirus - basically a cold that has really high fevers. He got up this a.m. and had no fever (Thank Gd!) Oh, did I mention throughout this I also had in the back of my mind that my period was 3 days late. Got it yesterday after I sent Marc to the store for an EPT. Nothing brings on a period like spending good money on a pregnancy test. I'm so tired.
Monday, April 17, 2006
A big fat turkey breast that is :) Marc had a lovely turkey breast sitting in a brine since Saturday. He just fired up the gas grill (just one burner), removed the cover from the burner, filled a pie tin full of mesquite wood placed it gently on the burner and the turkey on the grills next to it and closed the door. A few hours from now (refilling the wood every so often) we will have ourselves a nice smoked turkey breast.
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Marc and I are having a strange problem with out computer. Usually, when we want to get to a website we either type website.com or www.website.com and poof... we are there. Now, all of a sudden, you have to add in the "http://" before the website otherwise it will just sit there. Any idea of why this is happening and how to fix it?
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Sunday, April 09, 2006
When you mix a 9 month old baby who has taken to pulling himself up on furniture and a coffee table with sharp edges??? An ugy scratch & bruise on a very beautiful face :( Just put Marc and I in the "Parents who suck" category this weekend. Firt I let him pull himself up on the table from which he fell and zonked his eye on the table. Big lump over his eye (in his eyebrow so you really couldn't see it). Pull out the boo boo bunny (thanks Aunt Jodi!) and make all better. Later Marc is watching him crawl around. He pulls himelf up at the same point but managed to hit the corner and scratch & bruise himself. Needless to say, we took a ride over to Target and got some padding for the table.
Friday, April 07, 2006
Ire over boy's removal from foster By Benjamin Y. Lowe and Kathleen Brady Shea Inquirer Staff Writers Two days ahead of schedule, Chester County officials removed a tearful, 3-year-old child yesterday from his Downingtown-area foster home so he could be placed with a family who is adopting him in central Pennsylvania. The county's original plan was for the child to meet his new family yesterday and then leave his current Uwchlan Township home for good tomorrow, said his foster parents, Randall and Susan Borelly. They cared for the child for nearly two years but were prevented from adopting him. Instead, according to the family, two caseworkers from the Department of Children, Youth and Families arrived at 10 a.m. yesterday - an hour ahead of schedule - and said that "plans have changed" and that they were removing the child then. Randall Borelly was at work and Susan Borelly and her sister, who was visiting, asked for more time. After being told the sister wanted to take the child, named Kevin, on a quick errand, the two caseworkers returned to their car and called police. Two officers arrived 30 minutes later. Susan Borelly let one of the officers into the house as she and her husband, who had since returned, packed Kevin's things. Susan Borelly said later that she told Kevin that the county "wanted him to meet his new mom and dad. He said, 'I'll be scared. Mommy and Daddy are here'." They said they bid their final good-byes to Kevin as Susan Borelly fastened him into a carseat in a county vehicle. He was gone by 11 a.m. Randall Borelly said that Kevin's foster siblings did not get a chance to say good-bye. "They expected to see him when they came home [from school]," he said. James L. Forsythe, director of the county's Department of Children, Youth and Families, said confidentiality requirements prevented him from explaining why the child was removed ahead of schedule. He did say, however, that children to be adopted almost always meet with their new families prior to moving in with them. In addition, Forsythe would not say why the two caseworkers called police. Uwchlan Township Police Chief J. Patrick Davis said his department was contacted because the two social workers said they were "meeting resistance." The Borellys denied that. The sister, Beth Sweeney of Wisconsin, said she told the case workers that they were early and to come back at 11 o'clock. In addition, she said she wanted to take Kevin to the store before returning at that time. Davis said two officers were dispatched to ensure that the handoff went smoothly, which it did. Last year, the Borellys sought to adopt a niece, Danielle. But the county told the department that they could adopt only one because the county restricts families from adopting more than one child per year, unless the children are related. The Borellys adopted the girl, with the hope of reapplying to adopt Kevin in a year. But last week, the Borellys were told that Kevin was being adopted by a family in Central Pennsylvania and that the new family would visit yesterday before returning to collect him tomorrow. Adoption experts deplored the decision to remove Kevin from his home two days before promised. Transitions from foster to permanent care are already traumatic, they said, let alone trying to accomplish it in one day. "The child needs to be prepared because, psychologically, he has bonded with the family," said Gloria Hochman, a spokeswoman for the National Adoption Center in Philadelphia. "To him, those are his parents. A child that age doesn't know the difference between foster and adopt." A spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare said it reviewed the Borelly family's case but is powerless to intervene. Adoption policies are set at the county level. "We understand from the county this was a difficult decision to make," said Stacey Ward, the spokeswoman. "After reviewing their policies and procedures, we were able to determine that they followed everything correctly. There is no action we at this level can take to overturn their decision." A psychologist who examined Kevin and the Borelly family in December at the family's request said it was unnecessary to move Kevin, who is black, from the white family because he had become acclimated. Not only had Kevin bonded to the parents, Bruce E. Mapes, of Exton, said in a written report, but he bonded to Danielle, 11, and the father's stepchildren, David, 15 and Emily, 12. But the Borellys said that they believe the county preferred to put Kevin, who is black, with a black family. It is illegal to guide adoptions according to race. Michael Churchill, chief counsel for the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, said the county's "outrageous" actions at removing the child yesterday suggested that race was a factor. "It is certainly hard to understand what else would lead them to do what is so harmful to the child," said Churchill, who represented a Downingtown couple in a similar case. In 1995, B. William and Debra Fell sued unsuccessfully to retain custody of a 4-year-old girl who had lived with them since she was 3-months-old. In a civil rights filing, the Fells, who are white, charged that the county used "racial matching" when it sent the child, who was black, to live with a Maryland social worker, who was also black. Churchill said he doubted that any child-welfare expert would recommend uprooting a young child from a longtime, loving environment. "Once again, it appears that adult concerns are preventing them from seeing what this child really needs: staying with a loving, caring family." --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
The Tylenol seems to be working. He hasn't been banging his head, hitting his head, pulling his hair, etc. He's still fighting me on making eye contact w/me - but I think he's just being a brat because he makes eye contact w/Marc. He's definately Daddy's little boy.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
I heard back from the mutherfucker, I mean doctor. Actually, he was very nice and apologized for not getting back to me. He said he never got the message so I politely told him that the processes in place in that office are horrible and that he really needs to work on it. He agreed and said he would. We have him a bit confused - he's not quite sure why Dylan is doing this. He said that babies will bang their heads when they are in pain. I'm wondering if this could be from teething. He asked me to give him tylenol for the next 24 hours to see if that makes a difference. I ran down to the day care and gave him some tylenol and got me some baby lovin. I feel a little better but I'm still on edge.
Over the weekend, Dylan started acting a little strange. He was banging his head against my chest and pulling his hair. Then, yesterday, he was slamming his head on the side of the crib. Of course, with his medical history, I called his neurologist. The message I left was "my son, who has a history of seizures, is behaving strangely". Now, if you were a physician and got that message would you not call back? I left the message at 9:00 a.m. By 4:00 p.m. I was pissed! I called the office and was told that my physician was out this week and that his back up was in clinic all day and would call me back. Did any of you hear my phone ring??? Yeah, neither did I. I had a meeting first thing this morning. I came out to find a message from the day care center. I had told them about his behavior and asked them to keep an eye on him. Well, he was crawling on the floor and began to slam his head against the rocking chair. He didn't draw blood but it definitely left a mark. I again called the neurologist but now I'm hot. I left a scathing message. That was at 10:00. Oh, wait, it's 11:00 - time to call again. Be right back... It's 11:13 and I just left another message. Oh, they will be getting calls every hour on the hour - then every half hour and then every 15 minutes. I'm so upset and I'm trying very hard not to start crying at work. I feel like I've done something wrong. I want to quit my job and be a stay at home Mom. Of course, I can't do that. Do these people know who they are fucking with??? Don't they realize that if they don't call back today my next step will be a message for the president of the hospital and tomorrow morning I will be in their waiting room with my child. I hate when doctor's do this shit. They have nurses - they can call me back.