Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Queens judge refuses to return 6-year-old girl to parents



A Queens judge has once again denied granting custody of a 6-year-old girl to her parents, ruling that their obsessive concern for her health actually placed her life in danger.

Outside the courthouse, the parents of Amber James slammed the judge's decision, saying it put their daughter at risk, and brandished bottles of the child's medication and hospital records as tangible proof of her ailments.

"Our daughter is constantly being hurt. She's been hospitalized and she's being deteriorated," wailed Vanessa James, 40, following Monday's ruling. "And they keep saying it's us."
The Daily News reported on Nov. 8 that investigators were looking into charges Amber was sexually abused while in city care.

Queens Family Court Judge Marybeth Richroath dismissed all testimony given by James and her husband, Marvin James, 48, and denied the South Ozone Park couple custody of Amber, who was taken from them on Aug. 23.

The "constant efforts to prove their daughter is not a well child," by bringing her to doctors' offices put the girl "at imminent risk if returned to the home," the judge said.

Richroath still urged the city's Administration for Children's Services to immediately decide whether a family friend was fit for custody.

Today the court will rule whether a godmother can take guardianship of Amber.

Richroath backed a diagnosis that Amber is healthy, but according to St. Vincent's Services, the foster agency with which she was placed, the girl was hospitalized on Nov. 16.

The foster parent who called 911 said she "collapsed." When she came to, Amber indicated via sign language that she had chest pains.

Family health records show that immediately after birth, Amber suffered a stroke and a seizure.

"Blood tests showed several abnormalities that have not been identified," said Diana Kelly, attorney for Vanessa James, in a bid to discredit testimony by Dr. Julia Garber of Queens Health Center, who called ACS.

Garber said she feared the mother suffered from Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a rare disease in which the sufferer believes their child is sick - or makes him or her sick - to get attention.

Deborah Williams, a Legal Aid attorney who is representing Amber separately from ACS, agreed with Richroath's ruling but urged that ACS provide regular parental visits and support services, which she said so far they have not done.
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