Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Confusing new reports about Rifqa's legal situation

Evidently some sort of plan for Rifqa was filed in Ohio court yesterday by FCCS. See here and here. I'm sure Pamela Geller is working to try to get a copy of the actual plan (I hope she is, anyway), but so far, we have only these two news stories to go by, and they present confusing and conflicting information. This is doubtless a result of the fact that newspaper writers can't write clear stories anymore, but that's a complaint for another day.

The Fox news article uses the phrase "when she goes home" but then later says that the plan also envisages the possibility that Rifqa may never go back to live with her parents. So which is it?

The Columbus Dispatch article implies that the kumbaya pow-wow the plan insists on between Rifqa and her parents will occur before a decision is made as to whether she is to be returned to them and as part of the attempt to reunite her with them. Rifqa herself has said that she doesn't want to meet with her parents.

One thing is pretty clear: She is almost certainly going to be forced to have a meeting with them, though the circumstances of that meeting are unclear. The Franklin County social worker who presented the plan has decided that what is needed is greater "understanding" between Rifqa and her parents. The Dispatch article quotes the plan as saying that Rifqa's concern is that her parents don't "understand" her Christianity. Uh, no. She's afraid she'll be killed or dragged back to Sri Lanka and there imprisoned, forced into a marriage, etc. I gather that the plan does later use the word "fear" for Rifqa's feelings. But "understanding" is the word of the day. She and her parents must get together--either before or after she is returned to them--and "hear each other out."

The plan evidently considers relatives with whom Rifqa might live if not returned to her parents. Bad move, of course, as if she has any other relatives (I hadn't heard of any before this) they will just be part of the same Muslim community and could easily be involved in returning her to Sri Lanka or in other plans against her well-being. The plan also asks what other non-relatives she might stay with. But since she is now staying with non-relatives in foster care, what is the point of that? It appears to be to get her off the hands of Franklin County Children's Services.

I haven't read the plan, but I'll bet dollars to donuts it says nothing whatsoever about preventing her from being taken out of the country if she is taken out of foster care. The clueless Dispatch writer says confidently that she will "be on her own" after she turns 18. Not if she's in Sri Lanka! But we're not talking about that, right?

The Dispatch article says that the goal is to reunite her with her parents before her birthday next August 10. Great. Statutorily, my understanding is the FCCS is bound to consider it to be their goal to reunite children with their parents. I gather this is boilerplate in most states. But children's services also have a great deal of latitude in interpreting their duties relative to this goal and are permitted to decide that it can't be fulfilled, as the child would plausibly not be safe at home. Without reading the plan, I have little evidence (besides the general folly and injustice of FCCS's actions so far) as to whether this reference to a goal of reuniting the family before Rifqa's birthday is a mere gesture to the formal statutory framework or is really a serious indication that FCCS is bound and determined to return her to her parents, even against her will. Even the text of the plan might not be at all clear on that point.

Atlas is now referring to the December 22 hearing as a dependency hearing, though her previous statement had been that this is a hearing on the "incorrigible child" matter. Have the two issues been rolled together in court procedings? No one has said. But in any event, the next date we know of is December 22.

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