Heymann & Fletcher

Couple gives up child custody rights in controversial case

Any New Jersey parent can understand the emotional turmoil that would follow the death of a child, even when they have not had that experience firsthand. For one couple, the loss of their 2-year-old daughter has been followed by criminal charges and the threat of losing access to their other six children. As the couple prepares to defend the parenting choices they made based on their religious beliefs, they have ceded child custody of their six surviving children to protective services.

The couple is part of the Faith Tabernacle Church, a sect that holds to the belief that members should shun all medical care. When their daughter became ill late last year, the couple did not take her to a doctor. She developed a form of pneumonia that is commonly treated with antibiotics. However, absent medical care, the toddler was unable to survive the condition.

The parents have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, as well as endangering the welfare of a child. Their legal struggles are just beginning, but they chose to voluntarily turn their six children over to county child protective services workers. That decision may be part of a long-term strategy to regain those rights as the case progresses.

In the meantime, the six siblings will be cared for under one roof, and the family providing their care will ensure that they receive any necessary medical treatment. The case has garnered attention in New Jersey and across the nation and is the subject of great debate. While some feel strongly that children deserve to receive the best possible medical care, others feel that parents have the right to make those decisions on behalf of their children and that their child custody rights should be protected. The matter is far from decided, and readers can expect to learn more in the coming months.

Source: readingeagle.com, "Berks couple charged in daughter's death will give up custody of other six children", Stephanie Weaver, Feb. 16, 2017

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