No Place To Go

Posted by Annie on Mar 4, 2008 in Legal |

Runaway Teens Request For Assistance Triggers Investigation

No Place To Go!

On October 29, 2005 the Long’s then 14-year-old daughter ran away from home. Her reasons are shared by many a headstrong teenager who resents the authority of a parent. When she found herself with no place to go, she took it upon herself to contact child welfare workers, in order to secure a place to stay.

Her actions triggered yet another investigation. (This was not the Long families first involvement with CPS caseworkers.) Attorneys were assigned to represent each parent and the two youngest minor children – provided for at state expense. The subsequent court battle resulted in a finding for the parents, who not only kept their children in the home but the lower court had no issue with the children being homeschooled.

Attorney Lori A. Fields, representing the two minor children took issue with the court ruling and decided that homeschooling did not provide an appropriate education for Jonathan and Mary Grace. Fields appealed the ruling to the Second Appellate Court.

It was around this time that Jonathan, wishing to continue homeschooling, requested his attorney be dismissed and replaced. The court refused to honor his request and continued the hearing, without holding the required Marsden hearing. The court reasoned that the attorney, which was provided by the court was charged with acting in the children’s best interest – not necessarily to work on the children’s behalf, according to his wishes.

The court ultimately ruled that they had indeed erred in failing to hold a Marsden hearing but contended that the Marsden hearing was irrelevant and therefore had no bearing on the case and subsequent ruling.

Had the minor children been adults, with the funds to hire an attorney to represent them, the attorney would have been hired with the clear understanding that they were to represent them and their wishes (or face being fired). Should the minor children have less right to representation because a court appointed attorney was assigned to their case?

This is an issue I hope will be addressed by the legal minds that take on this enormous challenge.

My phone has been ringing off the hook today. Terry Nevens of CHELD and I had a very long conversation today regarding the case. He is working with the Long Family, putting together their strategy, just as homeschooling organizations around the state are sinking their teeth into the case. Stay tuned for more discussion of the Long case. There are many more avenues of this case to explore. Now if I only had more time.

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