Judge rules DSHS did not follow the law in case of Enumclaw child
In a happy twist, a judge ruled today that AnneMarie and Doug Stuth may get custody of their three-year-old granddaughter after all. The Stuths had been granted emergency custody of the Enumclaw child two years ago when their teenage daughter was unable to properly care for the infant. While in the care of the Stuths, the child thrived and was happy, which was noted by her child advocate in paperwork filed with the court at that time. After the child’s mother tried, and failed, to get her life back on track in transitional housing for young mothers, the child was again removed from the mother’s care and placed in foster care instead of back with the Stuths. With no warning, the Department of Social and Health Services changed their opinions of the Stuths.
The allegations raised against the Stuths by DSHS stated that the grandparents were hyper-critical and did not support their daughter’s parenting. The example given to the court was that the Stuths had given the child a pacifier, which was against the mother’s wishes. Other allegations that were proven false by King 5 Investigators and Northwest Cable News stated that the Stuths were not financially supporting their daughter or driving the child to visit her mother. Cancelled checks and mileage reimbursement forms from the state were found that showed the Stuths were sending money to their daughter and taking the child to her for visits. DSHS did not work towards placing the child with biological family, as is the law in Washington state, and were trying to have the mother’s parental rights terminated so the child could be adopted by the foster mother. This scenario likely would have ended all contact the Stuths had with their granddaughter.
Today, King County Superior Court Judge Ronald Kessler ruled that DSHS did not properly follow state law. “The department and the dependency court in attempt to get (the mother) on track to parent failed to adequately to consider the legal obligation to consider relative placement. I understand the reason for it but I think it was in error,” said Kessler. The state’s request to terminate the mother’s parental rights was denied and the Stuths were given one week to file paperwork requesting custody of their granddaughter. The Stuths and their daughter are elated by the ruling.
It will be interesting to see what, if anything, DSHS has to say about this case. There had been no previous comment due to it being an active case. Will there be an investigation into how and why this case was mishandled to the extent that the law was not followed? Don’t bet on it.