After four years of battling the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS), a Deschutes County couple have won back custody of their children.
Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler had both of their sons, Christopher, 4, and 10-month-old Hunter taken away from them within days of their births.
This was based on concerns raised by Fabbrini’s family at the time of their oldest son’s birth, questioning the couple’s ability to parent, and lower than average IQ scores, according to Pacific Northwest News.
But a judge on Thursday ordered that their older son, Christopher, be returned to them, after ordering the same of their infant son three weeks ago.
Hunter, the infant, was returned to the couple four days before Christmas.
Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler had both of their sons, Christopher, 4, and 10-month-old Hunter (pictured) taken away from them within days of their births, but now both have been ordered to be returned to their parents
The parents’ two children have lived almost their entire lives in foster care as a result of their removal form the Fabbrini-Ziegler home.
‘I’m glad the case was successful, but it shouldn’t have been this hard,’ said Jamie Gerlitz, attorney for Fabbrini.
‘I think the system is broken. DHS has a lot of power and it’s really scary that it’s taken these people four years to be heard.’
Ziegler is seen here with both of his sons, Christopher, 4, and 10-month-old Hunter
Hunter, the 10-month-old, was returned to the couple four days before Christmas
Ziegler is seen here with her son, Hunter, after his birth in February
Circuit Judge Bethany Flint entered the order that reunited three-fourths of the family, just in time for Hunter’s first Christmas.
‘I feel the threat articulated to Hunter is fairly amorphous,’ Flint said, according to earlier reporting by Pacific Northwest News.
‘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.’
Circuit Judge Bethany Flint entered the order that reunited three-fourths of the family, just in time for Hunter’s first Christmas
The parents are seen here with Hunter in February
Ziegler is shown after being reunited with his infant son, Hunter
Flint also ordered the return of Christopher, which is now underway, but will be a slower process.
The children were taken away from Fabbrini and Ziegler after Fabbrini’s family expressed concerns as to the parents’ cognitive and ‘executive functioning’ skills.
The mother and father had their IQs tested, and Fabbrini’s came back at 72. Ziegler’s registered at 66.
IQ averages fall between 90 and 109 in the US, according to Assessment Psychology.
Hunter is seen here with a baby book and stocking around Christmas time
The parents are shown here, with Fabbrin holding their 10-month-old son after his return home
Ziegler’s parents from out of state purchased the home the couple lives in, by themselves.
Both Ziegler and Fabbrini are high school graduates, who have held jobs.
Ziegler also has a driver’s license and currently works in the mail department of the Bend Bulletin.
Both parents have also taken parenting, nutrition and CPR classes, in an effort to show they are fit to raise their children.
Among the reasons stated as support for the state’s removal of their children were not reading to them, failing to put sunscreen on them, and providing fried chicken nuggets as a snack for a toddler, as opposed to healthier food.
Flint determined the evidence did not support a determination that Fabbrini and Ziegler could not parent.
The judge called missing points in the state’s timeline, as presented, ‘suspicious.’
Fabbrini is seen here playing with Christopher, now age 4
Christopher holds up a Christmas card while his mother smiles behind him
A key witness for the state was also found to be not credible, Gerlitz said.
The state’s case regarding Hunter, their infant, was dismissed by Flint in December.
The judge denied the state’s case to terminate Fabbrini’s and Ziegler’s parental rights as to toddler Christopher on Thursday, with a review hearing scheduled in two weeks.
Ziegler cuddles up on the couch and enjoys quality time with one of his sons
Between now and then, the parents are permitted unsupervised visits with their boy while the state establishes the timeline for a gradual return to their home.
The slow transition is due to the fact that Christopher has lived with his foster parents since birth.
A GoFundMe account was created in August in support of the couple’s goal to regain custody of their boys.
So far, more than $40,000 has been raised of their $200,000 goal.
Ziegler and Fabbrini are seen here, smiling and happy