Thursday, November 24, 2005

Court Rules Girl Will Not Be Returned To Her Parents...Huh?

When Anna Mae He was born in Tennesee back in 1999, her parents, immigrants from China, were facing financial and legal problems.

Shaoquiang "Jack" He and Qin Luo "Casey" He did not feel that they could provide stable care for their first-born child until these matters had been resolved. Accordingly, they arranged for Jerry & Louise Baker to have what they believed was temporary custody of her.

When, some months later, the Hes returned to get their daughter, the Bakers said, "No."

At issue was the fact that the girl's parents had not visited her in over four months. The Bakers declared something to the effect that this constituted legal abandonment.

When the courts became involved, they ruled on behalf of the Bakers.

Yesterday, a state appeals court upheld that ruling.

Shaoqiang He, who now works as manager of a Chinese restaurant in Memphis, responded by saying, "We don't understand why it is so difficult for our family to be reunitied."

The Hes, who still hold Chinese citizenship, are still wondering, after five years of legal battles, what they did wrong?

I also wonder about this.

Anyone who has ever worked with the child welfare system, the child protective services or the foster care programs know how hard it is to permanently take a child away from their natural parent or parents.

Parents must be proven to be unfit in a court of law.

Before the legal ties that naturally bind child to parents can be broken, the parent/s are given repeated opportunities to "get their act together." They may go through drug rehabilitation programs...even serve out a jail term. The child, in the meantime, is placed in foster care only if there are no other family members or close friends willing and able to care for them.

Even when the decision has been made, a process that often take years, the parents are given numerous rights to appeal that decision.

In every case the legal responsibility rests with the county or state to prove that the parents are unfit.

When there is any uncertainty at all, courts will almost always err on the side of the child's parents.

Even when a newborn child has been legally released for adoption, the birth-parent has a relatively long period of time to reconsider their decision and to revoke the legal declaration that they had signed earlier.

What is it about this case in Tennessee that makes it so different?

The He family is now stable. They have regular income. They have two other children that they are providing for. There is no record that they have ever abused any of their children and there is no evidence that they have ever acted out of anything short of having their children's best interests in mind.

Why, I wonder, are the Bakers so defiant? Why do they demand to keep someone else's child as their own? Is "possession" 9/10 of the law in Tennessee?

The Chinese Embassy has publicly supported the He's attempts to regain custody of their daughter and has led Chinese community groups to complain of cultural bias in Tennessee courts.

The He's are already planning their next appeal which will be to the State Supreme Court. It is unlikely, I think, that it will go beyond there as I cannot see any Constitutional matter at issue. I'm sure that route will be pursued, however, if the He's should lose again at the state level.

Pray for Anna May. Pray for her parents. Pray for the Bakers. Pray for the Tennessee Supreme Court justices who will hear this case. Pray that God will "works for the good" in this sad, sad and seemingly unnecessary impasse.