In Need of Care

Mother on path to get four children back from state custody, judge says

Sedgwick County Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Henderson’s courtroom.
Sedgwick County Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Henderson’s courtroom. The Wichita Eagle

A Wichita mother is closer to getting her four children back from state custody after a judge agreed Friday that she had made progress toward being a better parent.

“I think mom’s done everything we’ve asked her to do,” Sedgwick County District Judge Patrick Walters said.

The Eagle has been following the child-in-need-of-care case filed on behalf of the children since February as part of its “In Need of Care” series about child abuse and neglect in the Wichita area.

Police placed the children in protective custody Feb. 7 after allegations that the mother’s boyfriend had abused them. The children also said the boyfriend beat their mother, and one of them said his mother and her boyfriend smoked marijuana every day.

The mother was told by a social worker earlier this year that if she was not willing to make her boyfriend leave, the children would go into protective custody, according to the child-in-need-of-care petition that prosecutors filed.

The mother said she wouldn’t ask her boyfriend to leave, a social worker testified in court earlier this year. The mother later told The Eagle that social workers never suggested she could keep her children if she moved her boyfriend out. She later did.

Assistant District Attorney Tricia Knoll grilled the mother in June about a weeklong vacation she had taken with the man accused of choking her and hurting her children.

On Friday, lawyers, including one appointed to represent the children’s best interests, seemed convinced the mother was making better decisions. The mother has said the man, who lost parental rights to his own children, no longer lives with her.

The children’s father, from whom the mother is divorced, also appeared in court and reported he was living in a motel on South Broadway. He waived his temporary-custody hearing earlier this year and did not contest the allegation that his children should be deemed in need of care.

The children are in foster care “scattered across the state in three different places,” the mother’s lawyer, Judy Fowler, said Friday, urging that they return to their mother.

“She’s turned herself around, your honor, and it’s time for her kids to come home,” she said.

Knoll expressed concern that the mother “did not see herself as having a substance abuse issue,” but Fowler said her client “remains clean” from drugs.

“She may not have said what they wanted her to say, but she is clean, and that’s what’s important,” Fowler said.

Walters told the mother he thought the children were “60 days out from reintegration.”

He scheduled a hearing for 8:30 a.m. Dec. 12.

“In my mind, sobriety and stability are the only things I’m really focusing on right now,” he said.

Reach Deb Gruver at 316-268-6400 or dgruver@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SGCountyDeb.

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