Judge Critical of State Human Services Agency
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ A judge has ordered the state Department of Human Services to return a 1- year-old girl to her parents, saying the agency wrongly took the infant while the mother was stranded in Memphis.
Circuit Judge James Swearingen issued the order to return Tanika Glover to her mother, Marie Ewing, 20, and father, Willie Glover, 23, both of Chicago.
The child has been in the agency’s custody for about a month.
″I just thank the good Lord I’ve got my baby back,″ said Miss Ewing.
The mother said she was traveling by bus from Macon, Ga., to Chicago in August when she was robbed during a stopover in Memphis. She was forced to seek shelter at the Salvation Army until relatives could get money to her.
Three weeks later, after Miss Ewing had already purchased a train ticket home, a state caseworker took Tanika away, contending the child was being neglected because the mother had no permanent address.
″I showed them my train ticket, certified mail to home ... and still they took my baby away from me,″ the mother said.
Carolyn Hays, the department’s assistant general counsel, said Miss Ewing told officials she did not know who her child’s father was and she refused assistance in obtaining an apartment in Memphis.
″Of course she was going to refuse to get an apartment in Memphis,″ said William Shepard, the couple’s attorney. ″Why should she get an apartment in Memphis when she’s got one in Chicago?″
Shepard said Miss Ewing was told that a Juvenile Court referee had signed a protective custody order placing the child in the state’s care. But the attorney said the state had no jurisdiction over a child whose residence was in Illinois.
″There was no proof at any time that the child was in any immediate danger and was being neglected, nor was there any existence of any danger or neglect,″ the lawyer said.
Miss Ewing returned to Chicago without the child. State officials said she left town without requesting a hearing in the case.
During a hearing before Swearingen on Friday, attorneys for the state department said two Juvenile Court hearings were conducted - one at which the mother was present and one from which she was absent.
Swearingen said, however, that department files did not show a preliminary hearing had been held. He said there was no evidence a Juvenile Court order was ever issued to extend the agency’s jurisdiction beyond the three days of protective custody.
″Not only does it appear there has been no hearing on the matter ... but the matter has been continued indefinitely,″ the judge said.