|Articles below are just a few of many related to trial.
Miramar father fights yearslong campaign to free daughter from foster care
By SHANA GRUSKIN Sun-Sentinel
Web-posted: 10:43 p.m. Aug. 27, 2000
Paul Scott Abbott is a zealot.
Every legal motion he files in dependency court, every caustic lawsuit he throws at the state's child welfare department, every fax and electronic mail message he sends to his supporters bespeaks his mission: to get his daughter out of state custody.
But whether the towheaded 5-year-old, taken by child abuse investigators more than two years ago, will be returned to him soon remains to be seen.
A case hearing this morning in Broward Circuit Court could draw as many as 50 to 100 onlookers, said Eleanor Mendlein, a member of Broward County's Court Watch, a voluntary advocacy group that monitors court cases. That's due in part to Abbott's efforts to publicize the case.
Abbott, 43, of Miramar, hopes his latest motion, filed Thursday, will be addressed at the hearing and force the Department of Children & Families to release his daughter.
The girl's case is as much a look at parental determination as it is a study in legal maneuverings of the foster care system.
A trial over whether the girl should be permanently placed in foster care has yet to be held, although state law requires one to take place within 30 days after a child is removed from home.
That has outraged legal experts, who say such a delay can create havoc in a young child's mind.
"I just think it's absolutely tragic they didn't have a hearing a long time ago and get it over with once and for all," said Chris Zawisza, director of Nova Southeastern University Law School's Children First project.
"Young children cannot tolerate long periods of indefiniteness," she said. "We know from brain research, that kind of lack of structure and nurturing permanently affects the child physiologically and emotionally."
Abbott said that spending the past two years in Children's Home Society's emergency shelter has taken its toll on his daughter.
"She had been always just an extremely sweet and well-mannered child," he said. "Now, as much as you can think of it for a 5-year-old, she's got a hard edge on her."
The girl was taken by child abuse investigators and placed in the emergency shelter in April 1998, following a Children & Families order filed in the courtroom of then-Broward Circuit Judge Kathleen Kearney.
Kearney is now head of Children & Families, the state's social services department.
State child abuse investigators at first alleged the child's mother had given her a swollen lip and her father had failed to protect her, according to a Children & Families petition filed in dependency court.
Such petitions are used as the basis for placing a child in foster care.
Since then, state investigators have altered the allegations three times in more than a year.
The state's last petition, which was filed in court September 1999 in front of Judge John Luzzo, highlights more serious allegations.
Abbott told investigators his ex-wife gave the girl hormones when she was 18 months old, causing her to grow breasts and pubic hair. The child also sustained first-degree burns on her fingertips as well as the swollen lip.
Meanwhile, the petition alleges, Abbott repeatedly disrupted his daughter's visits with her mother, harassed people involved in those visits and has an explosive temper. The petition also raises the question of who actually gave the girl the swollen lip.
Lastly, the petition states the child is "at substantial risk of imminent sexual abuse" by her father and that "most recently, the child has been exhibiting sexually acting out behavior."
New reports from the Department of Children & Families allege the girl has been sexually aggressive with other children in the shelter.
"There were several incidents between 1998 and 2000 where (my daughter) was a victim of sexual molestation," Abbott said. That, he said, may have led her to become sexually aggressive, a reaction child welfare experts say is not unusual for young victims of child abuse.
The latest development in the case, namely the girl's sexual behavior, has only added fuel to Abbott's fire.
"It's gotten to the point now, I literally send out hundreds of faxes and e-mails to local media, national media, people who have been following the case, people with various advocacy groups and religious organizations," said Abbott, a lay pastor and freelance journalist who has worked for the Sun-Sentinel.
"We've got prayer chains going literally around the world," Abbott said. He sent one of his motions to the 4th District Court of Appeal, which responded by telling the lower court to settle the matter. He has sued the state and Children & Families' Kearney. He even has subpoenaed the governor for deposition.
Abbott is motivated by his belief that the state holds his daughter to punish him for speaking out against the department.
Children & Families officials have declined to comment on the case.
Monday's hearing, which is supposed to prepare the court for a trial in early September, will be before Judge Daniel True Andrews from Polk County, Abbott said. He is one of nearly a dozen judges who has handled this case.
"You will see judges from other circuits when there is, for example, a criminal prosecution going on of a public official," said Bernard Perlmutter of the University of Miami's Children & Youth Law Clinic. "In the context of a juvenile dependency proceeding, this is very, very unusual."
Whether today's hearing will address Abbott's latest motion to return his daughter or bring closure to this painful, public case no one can say. But Abbott says, "I'll continue to fight, I'll just keep on fighting until the day she is brought home."
Shana Gruskin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6537.