State's highest court must hear Pixley case Child welfare: ,,High court should hear appeal of decision to send toddler back to a mother who killed.

August 22, 1998

LAST MONTH Maryland's second-highest court upheld a Montgomery County judge's decision to send a little boy back to the mother who killed his half-sister. The woman who has been taking care of 2-year-old Cornilous Pixley can't adopt him, the three-judge panel said, exhibiting the courts' longstanding and often excessive bias toward blood relationships.

The Pixley case has rightly troubled many Marylanders and child welfare advocates, who know the presumption that a child is better off with a birth parent falls apart when that parent has committed a heinous crime against another child. Not only that, it contradicts recent changes in procedural statutes by the U.S. Congress and the Maryland General Assembly, which direct local child welfare agencies to initiate termination of the rights of parents who have been convicted of acts of violence against other custodial children.

The Center for the Community Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest coalition dealing with crime and quality of life issues, wants to make that argument before the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court. This important case deserves to be reviewed.

The lower courts' rulings in support of Latrena Pixley, who suffocated her infant daughter in 1992, raise the question of how the old common law presumption in favor of biological parents should be applied in light of new statutes and policies designed to protect children from parents who clearly pose a risk of abuse or neglect.

If the high court refuses to hear an appeal, little Cornilous will be returned to his mother Sept. 1, and lawmakers' efforts to help protect other children in similar predicaments will be open to question.

Pub Date: 8/22/98

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