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Eye On Boise

Idaho Supreme Court: Send child to dad in Mexico

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― The Idaho Supreme Court ordered a 3-year-old girl in state custody be delivered to her father, a Mexican citizen who has never met his daughter because he's legally barred from entering the United States. The justices ruled Thursday a lower court erred when severing the man's parental rights last December. The man married an Idaho woman in 2007 while living illegally in the U.S. He returned to Mexico under court order, with his wife, in 2008 but she soon went back to Idaho, giving birth. The state took custody of the baby months later, citing neglect. Both parents' rights were terminated at the state Department of Health and Welfare's request. When reinstating the father's rights, the high court questioned the department's motives, noting an employee wanted to adopt the girl.

You can read the full court decision here; click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.

Court: Idaho girl should live with dad in Mexico
By JESSIE L. BONNER, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Supreme Court has ordered a 3-year-old girl in state custody be delivered to her father, a Mexican citizen who has never met her and is legally barred from entering the United States.

In a ruling Thursday, justices said a lower court erred when it severed the man's parental rights in December. Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare had requested the move, claiming the man abandoned his daughter and it was in her best interests to remain in the U.S.

The high court rejected those arguments and questioned the department's motives, noting that an employee at the agency wanted to adopt the toddler.

“It makes one wonder whether the real reason for seeking termination of (the) father's parental rights is the fact that a department employee wanted to adopt (the) daughter,” said Justice Daniel Eismann, who authored the court's unanimous opinion.

The department was reviewing the decision and didn't immediately comment.

The man, who is not identified in court documents because it is a child custody case, is elated with the ruling, said his Nampa attorney, Jayme Beaber. The man has only seen photographs of his daughter and has spoken to her a handful of times by phone, Beaber said.

“He has never met her, he has never seen her,” Beaber told The Associated Press.

The man married an Idaho woman in 2007 after illegally entering the country years earlier, court records show. He then returned to Mexico under court order in 2008 with his new wife, who soon became pregnant and went back to Idaho.

The woman gave birth to a baby girl named Maria in November 2008. The father tried to come back to the U.S. to reunite with his family in March 2009 but was caught in Arizona and sent back to Mexico, according to court documents.

That same month, his daughter was removed from the mother's Idaho home amid allegations of abuse and neglect. The baby, Maria, was placed in protective custody after state officials found the mother wasn't providing adequate care.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare developed a case plan for the woman so she could regain custody of her daughter. Back in Mexico, the father was seeking information and contacted the Department of Health and Welfare. He told the caseworker that if his wife could not care for the child, he wanted her to live with him in Mexico, court records show.

The man also had the Mexican health and welfare officials determine whether he was fit to raise a child. Their report found the man was “financially, emotionally, physically and mentally able to provide” for his daughter, the high court said.

By early 2010, the mother hadn't made sufficient progress, and the Department of Health and Welfare moved to terminate her rights. The agency also sought to terminate the father's parental rights, saying he abandoned the child, who had been placed with a foster family.

The department's report noted the foster mother was an employee with the agency and willing to provide baby a permanent home.

The father fought the move, but a magistrate court sided with the state, finding the man didn't support the child financially, or send any letters or gifts.

“This finding by the magistrate is clearly erroneous. In fact, it is absurd,” said Eismann, who noted that the man's daughter was 7 months old when she was placed in state custody. “Having someone read letters to her from (her) father would not in any way create a parental relationship of any kind.”

Justices also lambasted the lower court's finding that it was in the child's best interests to remain in state custody because she had no relationship with her father or ties to Mexico. The man couldn't legally enter the United States to form a relationship with his daughter, Eismann wrote.

“In fact, neither the department nor the foster parents even told her who her father was,” he said, noting that at the time, the girl called her foster father “daddy.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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