OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A 3-year-old girl will grow up in a different home from her older brother and sister following a Nebraska Supreme Court ruling Friday that determined the best interest of a child trumps biology in cases of child placement.

The state high court’s opinion involved the case of the girl, known only as Meridian H. in court filings to protect her identity. Meridian was placed in a Nebraska foster home weeks after her 2007 birth, and her mother’s parental rights were later terminated. Meridian’s father had died before she was born.

A Minnesota couple who had adopted Meridian’s two older siblings sought to take custody and eventually adopt the girl, citing public policy of preserving sibling relationships in foster and adoption cases. A psychologist retained by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said in 2009 that while both the foster parents and the Minnesota couple would make excellent adoptive homes for Meridian, she believed the girl “should grow up with the opportunity to have a close and loving relationship with her two biological siblings and extended family.”

But a child welfare worker also retained by the state’s child welfare agency said Meridian’s separation from her foster parents could prove harmful to the girl’s emotional development. Based on that assessment, the state agency opted to keep the girl with her Nebraska foster family.

The Minnesota couple filed an intervention on behalf of their children, Meridian’s biological siblings, with the Sarpy County Juvenile Court seeking to have Meridian placed in their home. The couple said their adopted children “have a fundamental liberty interest in the integrity of the family unit,” including a relationship with their biological sibling and that their children’s interests are constitutionally protected under the 14th Amendment.

The couple also had the support of Meridian’s maternal grandparents, who asked that the girl be placed in the home with her older brother and sister.

A trial was held, and Meridian’s guardian ad litem testified that the girl should remain with her foster parents, saying it “may not be in Meridian’s best interest to be removed from the only family that she’s known.”

Last September, the lower court ruled that Meridian should stay with her foster family, which also is seeking to adopt the girl.

The Minnesota couple appealed, and the girl’s grandparents cross-appealed.

On Friday, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling, saying that there is no constitutional protection or court precedent that would give the siblings or grandparents standing in the placement of the child.

The high court wrote that “no court has recognized a constitutionally protected right of one sibling to a relationship with another following termination or relinquishment of parental rights.”

Further, the girl’s maternal grandparents’ interest in the girl’s case “ceased to exist when the parental rights of their daughter … were terminated.”

Messages left Friday by The Associated Press for the Minnesota couple’s attorney and for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services were not immediately returned.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (8)
  1. hmm says:

    So is this saying the current parents of the other two are bad parents then? Why would having the child in a temporary foster home be better interest than living in a home with her brothers. If that home isn’t safe then why are the brothers living there? Makes no sense to me.

  2. griley says:

    We are tlaking about Nebraska

  3. Patti Burnes says:

    It only makes sense to leave this child with the family that has had her for 3 years. Finally a court made a great decision.

    1. Paul says:

      I don’t really think we know enough to call this a great decision.

    2. gooddecision says:

      Agreed too bad our social service department doesn’t realize that biology doesn’t make you a good parent. My fomer daycare person was a foster mom and her family took in a 7 wk old baby with numerous health and malnuritionment issues, got him to good health, took him to his dr appts in the cities, stayed up all night with him while he went through drug withdrawal, and when he was healthy and “normal” at 9 months, after his biological parents parental rights were terminated, and this woman and her husband were ready to adopt him, out of the wood works come an aunt and uncle to take the baby in. Never mind they didn’t step up to the plate when he was born, my daycare mom was heartbroken and now no longer does foster care because of it.

  4. Valerie says:

    I agree with you Patti plus there’s no real sibling “relationship”- they’ve never met. Unless it was the few weeks before she was taken away. I would guess that the other 2 were already in a FOSTER home-the people who eventually adopted them-when the 3rd child was born. If the child was with a loving family for 3years it is in her best interest to remain with them. The first five years are SO important & not really understanding why she’s being torn away from the family she knows would be very traumatizing. Hopefully she will keep in touch with other 2 siblings & get to know them later in life.

  5. hmm says:

    I guess I assumed foster care was temporary until a permanent home could be found. This appears to be a permanent home that also has the siblings which is why I was confused. Seems like a good situation. Why doesn’t the current foster parent adopt then?

    1. Suzi says:

      The article states “Last September, the lower court ruled that Meridian should stay with her foster family, which also is seeking to adopt the girl.” Sounds like her current foster family will become her permanent home.

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