CHANDLER, AZ — An Arizona couple whose three children were taken into temporary state custody after they refused a doctor's advice to bring their sick 2-year-old boy to a hospital have been granted custody that lets them care for and supervise their children.
A family member said Wednesday that the children returned home about a month ago under the condition that relatives act as "safety monitors." The custody granted Tuesday by Maricopa County Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Ryan means those relatives no longer have to serve as monitors, but the state still retains decision-making authority for the children.
Nearly three months ago, police officers wielding pistols and ballistic shields kicked in the door to the family's home in Chandler in the middle of the night to bring the sick boy to the hospital. The Chandler officers knocked on their family's door to check on the condition of the boy, who earlier in the day had a fever of 105 degrees.
The parents, who said the boy was improving after his fever broke, refused repeated requests by officers to open the door, so authorities got a court order allowing them to take temporary custody of the boy. Once inside, authorities discovered that the boy's 4- and 6-year-old siblings also had been vomiting, so another order was obtained to take the older children into temporary custody. They also found an unsecured shotgun in the parents' bedroom.
Though the mother initially refused to do so out of fear of the repercussions of not having the child vaccinated, she eventually agreed to take him to an emergency room. The doctor, who had learned that the mother had ignored the medical advice, then called child-welfare authorities, according to a police report.
The family denied any wrongdoing and said they will continue seeking the type of custody that would give them decision-making authority over their children.
Before Tuesday's ruling, the parents were concerned that their fourth child, who was born last week, could be taken into temporary state custody.
The Arizona Department of Child Safety, which took temporary custody of the children after the Feb. 25 incident, declined to comment on Tuesday's custody decision.
Nicholas Boca, an attorney representing the mother of the children, didn't immediately return calls Wednesday seeking comment on behalf of his client.
Police said the forced entry was justified to tend to a child with a possible dangerous illness, explaining officers were acting under a law that lets a court order the temporary removal of children who are believed to be suffering from abuse and neglect. State law also lets police officers use reasonable force to enter a building where such children are believed to be suffering from abuse and neglect.
Critics say the door-breaking was more fitting for drug dealers, not parents who made a medical decision for their child.
Police had recommended to prosecutors that they file child abuse charges against the parents, who weren't arrested as a result of the incident.
Amanda Steele, a spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney's office, said the prosecutorial agency is declining to bring charges against parents because there's no reasonable likelihood of winning convictions.