A trial involving a request by the founder of FaithBuilders to adopt a 2-year-old girl that has been in her custody since nearly birth will resume Wednesday – several months earlier than scheduled.
Andrea Dixon, executive director of the Wichita nonprofit that works with children, is challenging a November recommendation by the Kansas Department for Children and Families that the girl’s great-grandmother be allowed to adopt the child.
The bench trial began Jan. 7 and was continued until April 14 because of scheduling conflicts with attorneys and the court.
But that date was moved up to Wednesday by Sedgwick County Juvenile Court Judge Robb Rumsey on Tuesday after a hearing that dealt with DCF’s intent to move the child immediately to the paternal great-grandmother in South Carolina.
Dixon and her husband have been foster parents to the girl since she was 2 days old, according to testimony at the earlier hearing. She testified that the child has bonded with her family and that it would harm the girl to place her with the great-grandmother.
Last week, the DCF notified the court that it was going to act upon its November decision and put the child with her biological family at least for now. Leah Gagne, Dixon’s attorney, objected to the plan and filed a motion to stop the move, prompting Tuesday’s hearing.
In that same November decision, DCF recommended that the girl’s 3-year-old brother be allowed to be adopted by the great-grandmother. She took custody of the boy in December.
The two children also have three older sisters – 4, 5 and 6 – who were in foster care in Wichita but were adopted in July by a great-uncle in North Carolina.
The children’s mother and father gave up their parental rights in July 2012, according to court testimony. Dixon testified on Jan. 7 that the 2-year-old had drugs in her system when she was born.
Only evidence on Dixon’s side of the case was presented during that hearing. As many as a dozen witnesses may still be called, according to attorneys involved in the case.
In Tuesday’s hearing, Lynnette Herrman, attorney for the 67-year-old great-grandmother, told Rumsey that state law allowed DCF to move a child to a different placement now because the great-grandmother had been preselected as the adoptive family.
“All I’m asking the court to do is follow the law set by the Legislature,” she said.
In making his decision to continue the trial this week, Rumsey said, “I’m concerned about the child leaving the jurisdiction of the court until a decision is made.”
Gagne told Rumsey, “Yanking this child from this home is wrong, just wrong.”
Among the issues in the case is why DCF didn’t act on the state law in December and send the 2-year-old to the great-grandmother at the time the agency allowed her to adopt the boy.
Dixon and FaithBuilders were the subject of a three-month investigation by DCF that was made public Jan. 13.
The probe concluded that staff members of DCF’s regional office in Wichita provided Dixon with information on children that should have been kept confidential. It also said the office gave her preferential treatment in child placement decisions.
Diane Bidwell resigned as director of the Wichita office in October.
In October, DCF also suspended placement of children in FaithBuilders’ homes until the investigation was completed. The state agency has lifted that ban. FaithBuilders has 30 respite and foster care homes in Wichita.