Toddler's removal from home is decried

Foster mother fights giving child to father


A foster mother who has cared for a city girl for the past year is decrying a decision by the Baltimore Department of Social Services to take the girl away from her six weeks before a juvenile court decides who should raise the toddler: her mother, father or the foster mother, who wants to adopt the child.

Foster parent Mary C. Coleman of Randallstown said she agrees that the child's birth parents should have an opportunity to regain custody of their daughter, but she disagrees with the state's decision to reunite the child with her father six weeks before the court date, April 25.

Coleman has hired an attorney, hoping to keep the youngest of her six foster and adopted children at home until after the court decision, but she has been told she has no legal right to protest the removal of the girl, a 16-month-old named Serenity. Coleman said DSS caseworkers told her they would come to get the girl at 4:30 p.m. today.

"Serenity has never lived with either of her birth parents," said attorney Natalie H. Rees of Towson. "Miss Coleman's home is the only home she has ever known."

A spokeswoman for DSS, a division of the state Department of Human Resources, declined to comment on Coleman's request or Serenity's case.

Coleman said she worries that Serenity, who has had several daytime visits with her father recently, will not react well to staying with him overnight. The toddler suffers from severe upper respiratory problems, and Coleman said she is concerned that the father will not know how to administer medicine and other medical aid to his child.

The foster mother said she has expressed her concerns to DSS caseworkers but that they have ignored her. She said she believes the state is taking Serenity away from her before the court date to get back at her for pointing out problems in the system.

Coleman said that if DSS removes Serenity from her home before the court date, she will quit the foster care system, which is short on foster parents.

"It's just been such an ugly scene," said Coleman, a licensed foster parent since 1992. "It has put a sour taste in my mouth."

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