Investigators: Judge considering legal first in Poca's case
11:31 PM PDT on Tuesday, June 2, 2009
By SUSANNAH FRAME / KING 5 News
Video: Judge considering legal first in Poca's case
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A huge battle brewed both inside and outside a courthouse in Everett Tuesday over a tiny 4-year-old foster child. The KING 5 Investigators have been exposing the case of "Poca" for weeks, shining a light on the state's poor decision-making and red tape that led to the child being taken from the people who've raised her – her foster parents. Tuesday, the foster parents went before the judge to ask if they could be granted the right to request that Poca come back to their home.
It was an explosive hearing.
Outside the courthouse friends and strangers alike rallied for Poca. They’re angry the state and a judge had her taken from the family who raised her since infancy – her foster parents, Amy and Dick Langley of Snohomish County.
Investigators: State of Injustice
After nearly four years with them, she was taken away last month.
The state accused them of meddling in the case to deliberately keep Poca from ever going back to her birth parents, and the judge agreed. CPS took Poca away from her parents when she was a few months old because of abuse and neglect concerns.
In court Tuesday, the Langley's asked Judge Anita Farris for something nearly unprecedented in Washington state: to allow them –not the biological parents, but the foster parents – to officially weigh in, or become a party to, the custody case.
Historically, foster parents do not have such rights.
Deane Minor, their attorney, says the Langleys should be given the rare opportunity because after so many years, they should be able to present evidence to the court on why Poca should be allowed to go back to their home.
"We have a huge problem. This child has spent not just her formative months, but formative years in one family home (the Langleys). And a legion of experts agree that she's done well there," said Minor.
While the attorney for DSHS, Assistant Attorney General Shara Delorme, agreed that the Langleys should be officially heard in court, everyone else involved said: no way. The birth parents' attorneys, Adam Ballout and Monty Booth, and Poca's court-appointed advocate, Chris Desmond, said the Langleys aren't fit. The attorneys accused them of lying about Poca's special needs, such as a seizure disorder, and about her difficult behaviors stemming from neurological problems, including having a hard time with transitions. They say that she's doing much better now in her brand-new foster home with people she’s only known for a few weeks.
"None of these (difficult) behaviors are being seen, so I can only conclude that either the Langleys have been lying about her behavior or they have created an environment in their home such where (Poca) was displaying those behaviors. In my view it's not in the best interest for the child to return to that environment, ever.Now, or in the new future or the far future," said Desmond.
After months of studying the case, the KING 5 Investigators have found the Langleys in the past have been mislabeled as liars and troublemakers, and that Poca was unfairly removed.
Judge Farris said she is troubled by the Langleys' actions in the case. "There is evidence in this case that is very, very concerning, said Farris." Despite that, she ruled she will take the rare position of considering the Langleys be able to intervene in the court case so they can answer to criticisms and present evidence.
Amy and Dick Langley
"I'm glad the judge is going to consider it. Frankly, I'm not real hopeful that the judge is going to rule in our favor in this, but I'll be praying about it," said Dick Langley.
The judge is expected to make her decision sometime soon.
Since the KING 5 Investigators started asking questions, the governor has intervened in Poca's case. She's called for a thorough independent investigation of exactly what has happened.
The new DSHS secretary, Susan Dreyfus, tells KING 5 they are finally working to legally sever the biological parents’ ties with Poca.The state is expected to ask the judge to sign off on that change in the case on June 12.