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Council of the District of Columbia. In the light of home rule, this provision ensures prompt attention and action by the governing board of the District.

Mr. STARK. I would also like to submit, at this time, a letter from Congresswoman Schroeder and some testimony of Judge Ketcham that appeared in "The Daily Washington Law Reporter," which, I think, touches on this legislation.

Mr. MAZZOLI. Without objection, that material will be made a part of the record.

[The documents follow:]



After hearing, court finds that biological mother withholds consent to adoption contrary to best interests of child and adoption is granted

In the Matter of J. S. R., Superior Court D.C., Family Division, J-0084-69, 8501-72-A, June 18, 1974. Opinion per Ketcham, J.

KETCHAM, J.: This Court has before it two petitions, relating to the same six year old male infant known as J. S. R. One docket is No. J-0084-69 in which there is now a motion to terminate the parental rights of the biological mother (hereinafter referred to as Mrs. Robinson), the other is No. 8501-72–A in which the adoption of J. S. R. is sought by prospective adoptive parents, (hereinafter referred to by the fictitious name of Mr. and Mrs. Jones). The Court combined (rather than consolidated) the two proceedings because they are inherently interrelated. An attorney had been retained by the prospective adoptive parents, another had been appointed to represent the child's interest, a third was appointed to represent the biological mother, and an Assistant Corporation Counsel participated as a representative of the Social Rehabilitation Administration, to whose legal custody this Court committed the child several years ago in J-0084-69 after finding that his mother was then unable to provide him with adequate parental care.

At the beginning of the hearings, the Court allowed the motion of the child's attorney for termination of parental rights in J-0084-69 to be amended to constitute a prayer that this Court, under 16 D.C. Code § 304 (e), grant the petition for adoption in 8501-72-A, on the grounds that the mother's consent to the adoption has been withheld contrary to the best interests of the child. Thereafter, the Court proceeded to hold hearings to determine what was in the best interests of J. S. R. The Court provided the biological mother's counsel with a copy of Petition for Adoption after deleting the names and addresses of the prospective adoptive parents.

Two days of hearings were held during which the Court and all four attorneys interviewed or heard testimony from all of the principals and numerous other witnesses, a total of twelve persons in all. Since Mrs. Robinson has only seen J. S. R. for a few hours since birth and the child has no present memory of his mother and because the Court wished to protect the anonymity of the prospective adoptive parents as much as feasible, courtrooms in different buildings were utilized for the hearings so that the biological mother and her family did not come into contact with the prospective adoptive family. Both lay and professional witnesses provided information and opinion on the best interest of J. S. R. Counsel for all parties were permitted the opportunity for cross-examination of each witness. After the hearings each attorney submitted both oral argument and a written memorandum distilling his or her position for the Court.

Despite requests by the biological mother to see J. S. R., the Court decided that contract between the biological mother and the child while the case was being heard and was under advisement would be a disruptive influence on the lives of the parties. Accordingly, it denied the biological mother's request to see her child pendente lite.

Background facts

J. S. R. was born on December 30, 1967, in D.C. General Hospital. His mother. Mrs. Robinson, was married and the mother of two other children, but J. S. R. was not the child of her husband from whom she had been separated for more

than a year. Because Mrs. Robinson was subsequently diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis and because she was unable to care or provide a home for him, J. S. R. remained at the hospital after birth. Mrs. Robinson placed him in the temporary care of the Department of Public Welfare at that time. On October 1, 1968 a complaint was filed with the Juvenile Court by the Department of Public Welfare alleging that the respondent child, J. S. R., was without adequate parental care. On January 7, 1969 a petition (J-0084-69) was issued by the Corporation Counsel's Office asking that the Juvenile Court of D.C. commit J. S. R. to the Department of Public Welfare (now known as the Social Rehabilitation Administration) as a dependent child in need of care and supervision. On January 22, 1969, the Juvenile Court (Judge Morris Miller) found the respondent to be homeless and without adequate care and ordered J. S. R. to be committed to the Department of Public Welfare for an indeterminate period of time. In the months immediately following J. S. R.'s birth, Mrs. Robinson sought to place him for adoption, but the Department of Public Welfare, for administrative or policy reasons, declined to accept her consent to adoption at that time. She has never executed a Consent to Adoption and in recent years has repeatedly refused such consent.

On June 19, 1970, the Juvenile Court (Judge Orman W. Ketcham), after an ex parte review of the indeterminate commitment, ordered the respondent committed to the Department of Public Welfare for a period of time not to exceed his 18th birthday (December 30, 1985). This order required said Department to provide J. S. R. with food, shelter, clothing, education, medical care and all the necessities of adequate parental care until he could be safely returned to his mother's custody or until J. S. R. attained 18 years of age. This order authorized foster home placement, but it did not authorize adoption placement an did not terminate J. S. R.'s mother's residual parental rights.

On December 14, 1971, J. S. R. was put in the custody of Mr. and Mrs. Jones as foster parents by the Social Rehabilitation Administration. He has lived there continuously until this date. Either because it erroneously believed that J. S. R. had been legally released by his mother for adoption or because it did not accept or understand the limited authority granted by the Court order of June 19, 1970 in J-0084-69, the Social Rehabilitation Administration encouraged the Joneses to petition for the adoption of J. S. R. The Joneses, who apparently were unaware that the biological mother had not consented to adoptive placement, did file a Petition in Adoption on December 5, 1972 (8501-72-A). Because the mother refused to give her consent, the Clerk of the Court had not previously scheduled this petition for a judicial hearing. On March 20, 1974, a Motion to Terminate Parental Rights was filed in J-0084-69 by counsel on behalf of the child and with the express approval of the Social Rehabilitation Administration. This was apparently done to break the stalemate and with the intent to give the Social Rehabilitation Administration the power to "consent” to the adoption petition.


The Court was met at the outset by the biological mother's motion to dismiss the Motion to Terminate Parental Rights. She contended that the Court lacks jurisdiction to terminate the parental rights of a biological mother in a neglect case.

In this case, however, the Court found it unnecessary to decide whether it has the inherent power to terminate parental rights in a neglect action under Neglect Rule 18 (c), because that power implicitly has been granted by statute in adoption cases where the consent of the parent has been withheld contrary to the best interests of the child. Since the Court has before it actions for both neglect and adoption, it has allowed counsel for the respondent child to amend its motion in the neglect case to allege 16 D.C. Code § 304 (e) as a jurisdictional basis for its motion for termination of parental rights. Thereupon the Court proceeded to hear this motion in the context of the adoption case. Conclusion

The Court gave serious consideration to the plea of J. S. R.'s biological mother that her son be returned to her exclusive care and custody. Mrs. Robinson's blood relationship to the child entitles her to first consideration, even though the child has never known his natural mother. Moreover, the unauthorized refusal of the Social Rehabilitation Administration to permit Mrs. Robinson to visit her son during the last two years and their encouragement of the adoption

petition create sympathy for her plea. But this Court has steered its course by the requirements of the "best interests of the child." So viewed, this Court is convinced that this child's biological mother has withheld her consent to her son's adoption by the prospective adoptive parents contrary to the child's best interests. Therefore, this Court grants the Petition in Adoption No. 8501-72-A. (Implicit in this decision is the fact that the residual parental rights of the child's biological mother are hereby terminated. No putative father has ever been identified.) ·

The Court reached this conclusion for the following reasons.

Mounting empirical evidence indicates that a child's well-being and growth are enhanced by a stable home setting in which his psychological needs for love, discipline and nurture are consistently provided. Change in his home setting is invariably derimental in the short run, and, if repeated frequently, results in a sociopathic personality which finds it difficult to trust and relate to others with confidence. Dr. Alan B. Zients, the psychiatrist from Children's Hospital and a forensic psychiatric consultant to the D.C. Department of Human Resources, testified after an examination of the child J. S. R. that J. S. R. has already experienced some personality damage from the several changes which occurred in his first four years, but is beginning to grow in trust and confidence in the nurturing home of the prospective adoptive parents. In the considered opinion of Dr. Zients, “the least detrimental alternative” for J. S. R. would be to be continued and permanently established in the household in which he is now living, the home of the prospective adoptive parents. Another change in setting would undoubtedly set back his growth and hence not be in his best interests. In this case, through circumstances to some extent beyond the control of Mrs. Robinson, J. S. R. presently knows no other parents than Mr. and Mrs. Jones. They have become his pschological parents. To return him to the custody of his biological mother now because of his blood relationship would be traumatic and would require another major adjustment not deemed to be in the best interests of J. S. R.

The physical and psychological needs of J. S. R. are now being met by Mr. and Mrs. Jones. Their interaction, companionship and effection for the child is manifest. The letter which the Court received from their adopted son, now a young adult, indicates an additional wholesome tie available to J. S. R. if this petition for adoption is granted. The child is clearly wanted by the prospective adoptive parents.

J. S. R. is also now wanted by his biological mother. But her reasons appear more selfish. Her expressed belief is that a mother has the right to keep her own child. She is a victim of multiple sclerosis with a severely shortened life expectancy. She is dependent upon practical nurses, her other two children and new husband for most of her physical needs. She and her husband and two children now live in a one bedroom apartment. The D.C. Department of Human Resources provides most of the funds for her and her children, supplemented by the meager and sporadic income of her new husband. Although comparison of economic well-being is low on the scale of this Court's consideration of what is in "the best interests of the child," there is little doubt that J. S. R. would be materially better provided for by the prospective adoptive parents. The biological mother has overcome obstacles that made it necessary to declare J. S. R. to be "without adequate parental care" in 1970. Today she and her new husband maintain a viable, if marginal, home for her two older children. If the Court's only choice was between continued foster home placement or returning J. S. R. to his biological mother's home, this Court would, in today's circumstances, definietly set aside the present order of commitment and return him to Mrs. Robinson's care and custody.

But today there is a third possibility because of the petition filed by the prospective adoptive parents. Because it seems to this Court to assure the greatest possibilities for maximum continuity of relationships, surrounding and environmental influence, the Court believes that his adoption is in the best interests of J. S. R.

When a judge ascends the bench he is usually given a robe and gavel. A crystal ball is not provided. The law does not afford him the capacity to see into the future. If this Court could lift the curtain of the future and predict the fate which the Almighty intends for Mrs. Robinson or Mr. Jones or Mrs. Jones, it would be much easier to determine what is in the best interests of J. S. R. Without prescience and with a knowledge of my judicial limitations, but relying upon

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seventeen years of experience, this Court is convinced by a substantial preponderance of proof in the particular circumstances of this case that the alternative of adoption is the course which is best for J. S. R. Consequently, the Court finds that Mrs. Robinson's refusal to consent is contrary to J. S. R.'s best interests and the adoption is granted despite her refusal to agree.

The child, who was previously committed to the legal custody of the Social Rehabilitation Administration until his 18th birthday by this Court's Commitment Order of 1970 (J-0084-69) will continue in such custody under that Order until the Final Decree in Adoption (8501-72-A) signed this date takes effect. Thereafter, the order in J-0084-69 shall stand revoked, the commitment of J. S. R. to the legal custody of the Social Rehabilitation Administraton termnated, and t docket closed.


Mr. Charman: I regret that my schedule does not permit me to appear before you in person, but I am very pleased to have this opportunity to submit testimony to you and your committee on Representative Stark's fine bill to provide the District of Columbia with the tools with which to deal with the tragic problems of child abuse.

The reality of child abuse has only recently become apparent to legislators and the American public in general, although the seriousness of the problem has been recognized by workers in the field for years. One hundred years ago the first reported case of child abuse was pursued by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; there were no protective services for children. One hundred years later, we still do not know with any certainty the number of children who are abused, although we do know now that the number is in the tens of thousands and that the number of cases reported continues to represent only a fraction of the undetected, unreported instances of abuse.

Last year the Congress focused on the issue for the first time. Rep. Stark joined me in sharing the privilege and the agony-of attending hearings on legislation I had introduced to deal with the problem of child abuse on the national level-the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1973. Witness after witness told us that child abuse is not confined to any particular socioeconomic group, nor any particular ethnic, religious or racial group, it cuts across all levels of society, from laborers to professionals, from partial grade school educations to advanced degrees, from low I.Q. levels to superior ones. It is found in small towns and in big cities. It is truly a nationwide problem.

While we don't know with any certainty how many children suffer and die each year from child abuse and neglect, we do know that successful methods are being developed to deal with the problem. We know also that most abusive parents were themselves victims of child abuse. The widely acclaimed National Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse in my home city of Denver has found, however, that all but a small percentage of child abusers can successfully fulfill their role as parents with the right kind of help.

The passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act last year signalled the beginning of Federal initiative and commitment in providing the help that is so desperately needed by the families who suffer from this tragic sickness. Rep. Stark's bill is a needed complement to this Act. By establishing a Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse as an independent agency within the District Government, his bill makes use of the great strides made by the Denver Center and other groups in dealing with the problem of child abuse. Rep. Stark's legislation calls for the inclusion of at least one full-time multi-disciplinary team to treat each cast of child abuse and neglect. The multi-disciplinary approach, involving the services of a pediatrician, psychiatrist, attorney, and social worker, has been used in the Denver Center with enormous success: 80% of the children treated in this program have been able to be returned to their natural parents within 8 months with no repetition of abuse.

Rep. Stark's bill is a bill of hope. His bill can mean that the people of the District of Columbia will be able to begin to break the vicious cycle of child abuse. We can reaffirm our commitment to the total health and well being of the children of this city by passing his legislation.

Thank you.

Mr. STARK. The process that we are going to go through is painful.


Sixty thousand children a year are victims of child abuse. More children have died from abuse than by accidents or by any disease.

It is difficult, if you have heard testimony, as many of us did last year, to understand how those of us who are parents can relate to another parent sitting there trying to explain to you this compulsive urge to beat a child.

That is beyond my comprehension; but it exists.

And those people who cannot keep themselves from abusing or beating a child are really some of the most eloquent witnesses in behalf of this type of legislation.

These bills address this tragic problem and attempt to answer the difficult questions of how to treat this illness.

I welcome the witnesses here today and wish to thank them for taking the time and effort to participate in discussing this legislation. I hope that we can build a record that will be useful. And indeed, I hope it will be some incentive, even if we are not able to move legislation of this type in the 93rd Congress, for the new District Government to proceed, to come rapidly to their own determination of what is needed, and then, in their best judgment, see that legislation is enacted here in the District.

Thank you.

Mr. MAZZOLI. I thank my colleague from California for his important remarks, and commend him as I have done our colleague, Mr. Fraser, on taking the lead in this area.

I share the feeling you have expressed. It is incomprehensible to me how parents can abuse children in this fashion. And yet, it is an actuality.

And of course, our problem is to deal with it in some intelligent manner. I think the fact that we do bring the hearings up to date and intend to pursue the point in the remainder of the 93rd Congress should be a sort of incentive, as you mentioned, for action.

At this point, we will insert into the record statement from our colleague, Mr. Stuckey, cosponsor of H.R. 15779, who was unable to be present this morning.

[The statement referred to follows:]


The problem of child abuse has been documented extensively, and will, no doubt, be further elucidated here; probably most in this room are at least fairly familiar with the awesome fact that caretakers inflict unspeakable cruelties on children.

But only within the past 15 years has there been an increasing awareness of the critical problem of the neglect and abuse of children. Both medically and socially, the problem has been hidden. In view of our ignorance of the subject, it has also been hidden statistically. Apparently society has been unwilling to accept the fact that such things happen.

Legislation against child abuse dates back to the Code of Hammurabi, but not until Dr. C. H. Kempe more clearly defined the dimensions of child abuse did major legislative revisions occur. In 1962, Denver physicians, lawyers and social workers formulated a model child abuse law; by mid-1967 all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands had enacted laws concerning the reporting of child abuse. Reporting is discretionary in six states: Alaska, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas and Washington. Reporting is mandatory in all other states.

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