This update on the Haleigh Poutre case shows both the power of the Department of Social Services (DSS), and the “we never admit we are wrong” DSS culture AND how little the courts can do to rein in DSS. Alison Avrett gave up custody of Haleigh to her sister under DSS pressure when Avrett was a 16 year old, by the way. No abuse, and only a “bad boyfriend”, no neglect. Today Alison is a married woman raising several other children well.
As for “conflicts” I do represent children and parents in cases where DSS is involved. While sometimes DSS (tragically in my opinion) is “all there is”, all too often I see a DSS culture that never, ever admits DSS made mistake and that has done great harm to vulnerable people.
Poutre family going to Statehouse
Saturday, December 09, 2006
By GEORGE GRAHAM
WESTFIELD – The grandmother of child-abuse victim Haleigh Poutre, angered over the state’s refusal to allow family members to visit her, said yesterday she will take her cause to the Statehouse on Monday morning.
Sandra L. Sudyka, of the Feeding Hills section of Agawam, said the state Department of Social Services has not allowed family members to visit Haleigh at Franciscan Hospital for Children in Boston since July 18.
A Suffolk County Superior Court judge, acting on emergency injunctions filed by Haleigh’s biological mother, Allison Avrett, ruled in October she would not force the state to restore hospital visiting privileges.
But Sudyka said it’s not right to keep Haleigh isolated from her family, especially as Christmas approaches.
“It is cruel and abusive,” Sudyka said.
Sudyka said she and Susan Molina, executive director of the Whitman-based Yellow Ribbon Kids Club, will go to the Statehouse on Monday to ask legislators to do what they can to restore visitation.
“We are going door to door,” Sudyka said.
DSS has had custody of Haleigh since Sept. 11, 2005, when her adoptive mother and stepfather, Holli A. and Jason D. Strickland, brought her to Noble Hospital with injuries, including severe trauma to her head, for which they were later charged.
Holli Strickland, Avrett’s sister, was shot and killed on Sept. 22, 2005, in an apparent murder-suicide at the hands of her grandmother, police said.
Although doctors reported that the battered and emaciated Haleigh was in a vegetative state with little or no hope for recovery, she has been improving and can eat and communicate on her own, officials have said.
Sudyka has said that during their June and July visits, Haleigh spoke several words and clearly relished their time together.
DSS officials could not be reached for comment yesterday.
©2006 The Republican
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