Friday, November 13, 2015

Utah Judge Removes Baby from Pre-Adoptive Foster Family Because They Are Lesbians // Updated: Judge Amends Order. Baby Can Stay With Foster Moms Until New Hearing

(Originally written on 11/11/15): A lesbian couple in Carbon County, UT, had been foster parenting an infant for the first three months of the child's life. The birth mother couldn't raise the child and decided that she wanted to women to adopt her child. The baby's court-appointed attorney supported this adoption plan, as did the baby's DCFS caseworker.

Unfortunately, Judge Scott Johansen did not support this permanency plan and ordered the child removed from her foster home and placed in a heterosexual foster home. The DCFS has seven days to place the baby in a new home:
The women, who are legally married and were approved as foster parents in Utah earlier this year after passing home inspections, background checks and interviews from DCFS, said the judge told them there was a lot of research that indicated children who are raised in same-sex parent homes do not do as well as children who are raised by heterosexual parents...

Attorney Mandie Torgerson, who represents the baby's biological mother, said Johansen did not cite the research he referenced in court saying only that there are "a myriad" of studies that support his order. Torgerson said her client is upset. She will appeal the judge's order at a hearing has been set for early December. 

Brent Platt, Director of the state's Division of Child and Family Services, said he had not seen the judge's order - but his caseworkers must comply. At the same time, he wants to make sure his caseworkers don't break the law by removing the child. He will have his division's attorneys look at the judge's order...

The mothers said they will look for any attorney who will help them fight for their foster child.
There are currently 2600 children in Utah's foster care system -- including this infant, who will remain in the system even though a permanent adoptive home was willing and available.

I used to work with foster parents, many of whom eventually adopted their foster child(ren) when reunification was not an option. I told them to always remember the following mantra when planning to adopt a foster child: "It's not final until the judge signs off on the paperwork." Husband Mark and I frequently repeated this mantra when we went through our own foster care journey.

Sadly, these women learned that lesson the hard way!

Updated on 11/15/15:  Earlier today, Judge Scott Johansen amended the order that would have removed this baby from this lesbian couple's foster home on the 17th and placed with any other foster home -- as long as it's not a gay foster home! Instead, Judge Johansen scheduled a hearing to review the matter:
Documents released Friday show the judge's original order — issued on Tuesday — included statements about the problems he believes children suffer when raised by same-sex parents. Those statements were crossed out in the amended order signed Thursday, when the judge also set a Dec. 4 hearing to determine what will be best for the girl. 

Until that hearing, the child will remain with Hoagland and Peirce, who became licensed as foster parents in March, the document states...

The state Division of Child and Family Services and attorneys for the two women had filed motions Thursday, seeking to block the removal of the child, who has been with Hoagland and Peirce since August. "Essentially we've bought some time," Utah Division of Child and Family Services spokeswoman Ashley Sumner said Friday. "We'll have to see at the permanency hearing on Dec. 4 what the next steps will be..." 

Court papers say the child is "happy" in the couple's home and that DCFS and her mother support the planned adoption. 

In his original order, Johansen said he didn't believe that would be best for the girl, saying it was his "belief that research has shown children are more emotionally and mentally stable" when raised by heterosexual parents, and that same sex unions have "double" the rate of instability. The order also says "the emotional problems suffered by children in same sex relationships increase by a factor of four compared to children raised by heterosexual couples..." 

In the amended document, however, Johansen has scratched out most of that language, including the word "belief," which he has replaced with "concern."
It is still possible that the baby will be removed from this foster family's home. But it's promising that Utah's DCFS and the birth mother are all fighting hard to prevent the child's removal. It makes it much more difficult for Judge Johansen to justify the child's removal.

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