Testimony begins in boy's suit against mom HD: Fla. youth has 'chance for a decent life,' says aunt, backing Gregory

September 25, 1992|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Cradled by the family that would be his, 12-year-old Gregory Kingsley fidgeted on a hardwood court bench as the adults who control his destiny maneuvered over his unprecedented bid to "divorce" his parents.

Brown-haired and pale, Gregory -- who wants to be adopted by his foster family -- sat shielded by potential brothers and sisters as witnesses testified yesterday his mother neglected and sometimes beat her three children, abused alcohol and drugs, attempted suicide and entertained men in her bedroom in return for cash.

"Why has it taken so long for anybody to do anything for these kids?" a sobbing Jeanette Glynn, Gregory's aunt, asked the judge. "Gregory finally has the chance for a decent life with people who love him and care for him. I want that to happen."

But the mother, Rachel Kingsley, 30, testified in this extraordinary but tangled case that she never neglected Gregory and was forced by circumstances to shuttle him in and out of foster care.

"I was trying to give the children a place to live," she said. "I had been left with all of the bills myself."

Gregory's suit seeks to sever his legal relationship with his parents and allow his adoption by the foster family with whom he has lived for a year. Although his mother wants him back, Gregory's father has surrendered parental rights.

Never before has a child been granted permission to hire his own attorneys to pursue a suit of this nature against his parents. Usually, cases of this nature are left to adults and their attorneys. But Circuit Judge Thomas S. Kirk, who sits under a large sign in the courtroom that says "Equal Justice Under Law," allowed the case to proceed.

The case carries enormous implications in the fields of family law and childrens' rights, and has captured international attention. Portions of the hearing were broadcast live around the world yesterday by CNN.

The judge could rule on the "divorce" action today. If Judge Kirk agrees to terminate the parental rights of Gregory's mother, he then will rule on the boy's request to be adopted by the Russ family.

The Florida Health and Rehabilitative Services Department, which has legal custody of Gregory, has changed its position and now supports termination of Ms. Kingsley's parental rights over the boy.

Gregory's suit argues that his mother turned him over at the age of 4 to an alcoholic and abusive father and that the boy later was abandoned to a succession of foster homes. The boy has spent only seven months of the last nine years with his mother.

Gregory's parents, who have been separated for years, deny all charges of abuse.

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