Saturday, December 8, 2007

A mother and child reunion

By Matt Loveless

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LEWISTON - A mother and daughter are reunited after more than a decade apart.

The story gets it's start around 1996. According to court documents, Amy Lucas was abused by her husband, became addicted to pain medication, and ended up in jail.

Then, Child Protective Services came in to take away her four kids.

"These kids were (taken) everywhere," said Amy, now a Lewiston resident.

Amy said she got cleaned up, received counseling, a college education, and some time later, got her oldest three children back. But she says the word from Washington CPS was that they didn't know where the youngest, Danielle, then two and a half, ended up.

"Months went by where, no matter what I did for them, it wasn't good enough," said Amy. "I wasn't going to get my daughter back."

Karen Lee, a spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, said they talked with Amy in 2002, and decided that contact wasn't in the best interests of the child.

Then, the years went by, until a phone call from CPS on March 7 of this year."She said, 'Do you have a daughter named Danielle?' and I said, 'Oh, my God, yes,'" said Amy. "And, the first thing I thought was that they found her body somewhere."

Danielle was found, alive. She had been locked up for the previous three months in juvenile detention. Danielle said she had been living with her great aunt, who avoided questions about Amy.

"She was like, 'Your mom's dead, stop talking about her," said Danielle, now 14-years-old. "'Why do you need to talk about somebody that's not here?"

"Danielle was in detention as a runaway. She says she ran away to find her mom. It wasn't until March 9, 2007, after 11 years apart, that Amy got to hold her daughter again.

"I just walked up to her and grabbed her, held her, told her while I was holding her that I was her mom," said Amy.

"She told me she loved me, and I was just holding her, and we all started crying," said Danielle.

How does a mother not know the whereabouts of her daughter for 11 years?

The Washington Department of Social and Health Services says the foster family had legal guardianship, and was raising Danielle in "critical stages of her life." And, once again, they said it was in the best interests of the child to stay.

"To be honest with you, I didn't believe it," said Amy's attorney Clinton J. Henderson.Henderson says the foster family's guardianship was easier to get than you might think.

"It's easy to mislead judges if you want to take the time to do it," said Henderson. "The dependency proceedings are just pro forma, they just go through the proceedings."

Not until mid-September did a judge's ruling dismiss pending charges and state guardianship of Danielle. DSHS say they still disagree with the ruling to this day.

As a result of the litigation, Amy lost the license to the daycare she's owned for six years. She says she's now jobless, scared, but happy that she has her daughter back.

"Every time I look at her, I get tears in my eyes," said Amy. "She's so beautiful. She's so smart."

"I actually feel like I'm where I should be," said Danielle. "I don't feel empty-hearted and I don't feel like there's a hole in my heart."

"She's awesome," said Amy.

Original Article - A mother and child reunion KLEW CBS 3 - News, Weather and Sports - Lewiston, ID - Lewiston, Idaho Local & Regional

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