Mormon Mother with Cerebral Palsy Looses, Newborn To Grandmother
Ottawa Canada Citizen 13Jun00 D2
By Peter Hum: The Ottawa Citizen
OTTAWA, CANADA -- An Ottawa judge ruled Monday that the newborn son of a Mormon couple is safer in the hands of his maternal grandmother. The case caught media attention in Canada because the son was taken from his mother just five days after birth, and because the mother has Cerebral Palsy. The parents claimed that Ottawa's Children's Aid Society took the child because of his mother's disability.
The parents challenged CAS' seizure of their child, arguing in court last week that the mother was capable of caring for the child, and that the father was up to any additional burden. They also noted that their Mormon church would aid them in caring for the child. But the Children's Aid Society argued that the father was "overwhelmed" just caring for his wife, and that the couple's apartment showed hygiene problems at a recent inspection.
Justice Jennifer Blishen ruled yesterday that the child be placed in the custody of the grandmother for three months. She emphasized that the order was temporary, and not a ruling that the mother's cerebral palsy, which confines her to a motorized wheel chair, keeps her from being a good parent.
But the justice said that the child is at a short-term risk of harm. She ruled that the services now in place in the couple's home are inadequate to assure the health of the child. The couple is on a waiting list for attendant care, but care isn't expected to be available until January, 2001.
The decision left both the child's mother and grandmother in tears, as the grandmother comforted her daughter, saying, "At least he's with family." Outside the court, the grandmother blamed the government in part for the situation, "She's in desperate need. Our tax dollars are supposed to go for services like this."
The father's lawyer, Danielle Dworsky, told the Ottawa Citizen that poverty was part of the problem. If the parents had the resources, they would have paid for the services they need.
Justice Blishen will review the decision periodically, and she says it is open to amendment. She will meet with the parties and lawyers on June 29th to review the situation.
But the parents say they will also pursue other ways of getting the resources they need. They say they will ask the Mormon church for assistance, and that they may ask the assistance of Church lawyers to fight for the return of their child.
The identity of the couple is protected under Canadian law.