Last month the world learned the tragic story of a severely malnourished 5-year-old boy from Spring, Texas. Police have since arrested the boy's father and his step-mother for child endangerment. A recent emergency custody hearing in Harris County court became the venue where we learned even more details about his ordeal. Also included at the hearing were a wide range of family law issues ranging from custody, paternity and conservatorship to name a few.
According to the testimony of a Child Protective Services worker, the boy's siblings said that his 33-year-old stepmother withheld food from the boy and kept him locked in a closet underneath a stairwell. Medical personnel who treated the boy testified that he was close to death and weighed only 29 pounds when they examined him. They also described the boy as being preoccupied with food and exhibiting difficulty with standing and walking.
CPS asked for, and was granted, conservatorship of the woman's six other children as well; an uncle will continue to care for them. Two of the woman's ex-husbands appeared at the hearing and submitted to DNA swab testing to determine the paternity of the children. The judge ordered that they will be allowed access to their children once the test results identify which children are theirs. The court ordered that the woman not have any contact with any of the children. The woman is currently free on bail.
The boy has gained at least four pounds since his rescue and has been released from the hospital. He has been placed with his maternal aunt for 45-day period, but his biological mother has been granted full access to him.
As horrible as this story is there are also some valuable lessons in it. If you suspect you might be a father you should get a paternity test so that you can intervene legally if you notice your child being mistreated. Also, having a firm child custody agreement in place is critical to ensuring that your child is receiving adequate care. Children are precious and certainly worthy of at least a modicum of legal protection.
Source: Houston Chronicle, "Stepsiblings of emaciated boy stay under CPS care" Cindy George, Apr. 15, 2014