Just four days before Christmas Day, an Oregon couple who previously had their two boys taken away, got their youngest son back.
The Oregonian reports that 10-month-old Hunter will now spend his first Christmas at home with his parents, Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler, of Redmond. In July, a judge took Hunter away due to the couple’s limited cognitive abilities. Four years earlier, their oldest son, Christopher, now 4, was taken into state custody for the same reasons, and it’s a fight they still haven’t won yet.
On Dec. 22, Circuit Judge Bethany Flint ruled that the state failed to prove that Hunter, who had been in foster care since birth, should remain under the Oregon Department of Human Service’s (DHS) care.
“I feel the threat articulated to Hunter is fairly amorphous,” the judge said, according to The Oregonian. “I searched and searched for some sort of language that was provided to articulate what the current threat of harm is to Hunter right now. … There is no allegation that they’re not able to meet his basic needs.”
The fight for Christopher is a bit different, as he has developmental issues that Flint feels Fabbrini and Ziegler may not fully grasp, given that Fabbrini has an IQ of 72, while Ziegler has an IQ of 66. Since Zieglers’ scores placed him at the “extremely low to borderline range of intelligence,” and Fabbrini’s results placed her in the “mild range of intellectual disability,” their children were “at risk” in their care, according to The Oregonian.
“[Christopher] is not a regular child … that is going to just do great with a lot of love and support. While these parents have learned a lot and are asking a lot of questions, appropriate questions, … Christopher is different than Hunter right now.”
“Limited cognitive abilities or lower IQ numbers do have an impact on people,” deputy district attorney Jason Kropf added. “It impacts judgment ability, it impacts insight, it impacts problem identification, it impacts planning and how to solve those problems and also impacts the notion of whether somebody knows whether a problem is fixed or not.”
Fabbrini wept as she left court on Thursday, after learning her youngest would be coming home soon. A Court Appointed Special Advocate wept along with Fabbrini after advocating tirelessly to help keep the boys with their birth parents. The hurdle for Hunter, however, isn’t quite over. The state has the right to appeal the decision, although the state’s attorneys declined to comment on the matter.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, low IQ scores may not be the only reason DHS intervened. There is a likely chance that other details were factored in, such as reports to DHS from Amy Fabbrini’s father, Raymond Fabbrini, 74.
“She doesn’t have the instincts to be a mother,” Fabbrini said, adding that along with his late wife, he took care of Amy’s two older twin boys she had with her ex-husband. The twins live with their father.
When Christopher was born, it came as a total surprise, not only to her family, but to Amy herself. She said she had no idea she was pregnant until she gave birth to the boy at Zieglers’s home. Amy indicated that she suffered from kidney pain in the past and she thought her pregnancy was kidney pain flaring up again.
“Here and there I have kidney issues so I just thought I was having kidney issues, that’s what I associated the pain with. I was trying to go to sleep and trying to get comfortable … and I felt this weird pain down there.”
When Christopher was born, Amy was living at home with her parents and her twin sons. Her father urged her to give the baby up for adoption, but ultimately, Eric Ziegler took the baby home with him. Within days, Amy’s father called DHS and expressed concerns.
Child welfare records provided to the The Oregonian by the couple read that Ziegler “has been sleeping with the baby on the floor and almost rolled over on him. There were also reports that Eric is easily frustrated and often forgets to feed his dog.”
Further, a MountainStar worker said that there were issues with the parents not telling Christopher to wash his hands after using the restroom and not applying sunblock to anywhere but his face before going in the sun.
Both Amy and Eric declared that they’ve done everything that the state has asked of them in order to get their children back, yet both children are still in foster care.
“We’ve just done everything and more than what they’ve asked us to,” said Fabbrini. “It doesn’t seem like it’s good enough for them. “They’re saying, ‘Who would parent Christopher better, the foster parents or the parents?’ is basically what they’re going on.”
Sherrene Hagenbach, a a professional mediator and a board member of Healthy Families of the High Desert, vouched for the couple after spending time with them during visits with Christopher. She said the state agency told her they no longer required her services after she claimed the couple should be able to raise their children.
“They’re saying that this foster care provider is better for the child because she can provide more financially, provide better education, things like that. If we’re going to get on that train, Bill Gates should take my children. There’s always somebody better than us, so it’s a very dangerous position to be in.”
[Feature Photo: Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler/Facebook]