The Florida judge who has charge of the Rifqa Bary case has ruled that Ohio has jurisdictioon. However, he has not signed the order for this decision yet and he has set certain stipulations:
Before the girl gets sent back, the judge says he needs immigration papers proving her status in the U.S. and proof from the state of Florida that she can continue her virtual schooling and receive credit in Ohio.
Both those requirements involve bureaucratic entities, but judges are feared by county agencies who supervise foster care, so one can presume that the Florida Department of Children and Families will work to satisfy these requirements fairly quickly.
I doubt that her immigration status will be found wanting. IIRC, her parents came to this country originally when she was about eight years old. Their reason for moving was to seek medical care for Rifqa who had sustained an eye injury.
The pressure on Florida to send her back, in my opinion, is largely monetary. Florida’s DCF, who must be the legal payee for Rifqa’s care, will be anxious to send her back because of the expense.
Both Florida and Ohio police investigation teams have failed to substantiate Ms. Bary’s claim that her life is in danger if she is returned to Ohio. How accurate or in-depth these reports are is an open question. I’ve worked with investigative police officers who were thorough and competent, but I’ve also been saddled with the other kind. At any rate, those reports were sealed by Judge Dawson; there is no telling when or if they will be available for public scrutiny. In domestic cases involving juveniles, courts are very cautious about revealing family information. That would not prevent Ms. Bary, one she reaches eighteen years of age, from requesting the documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
Here’s what is supposed to happen:
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She is expected to be placed in foster care when she returns [to Ohio] and will also be provided with psychiatric evaluations. Her parents will also receive psychiatric evaluations.
Rifqa can be back in Ohio as early as this week, or by an Oct. 23 follow-up hearing.
The Orlando Fox website says it could be delayed until a further hearing in November.
One question I’ve not been able to get answered is this: when does she turn eighteen? I believe she has a good nine months or so to go until she reaches the magic age; it’s a crucial fact in this case and ought to be addressed more than it is. At eighteen she is home free (so to speak). Or rather, she doesn’t have to go home at all. She may be able to employ enough delaying tactics that she’ll ‘age out’ of the system and all the concern will then become moot.
Another thing I haven’t seen is any evidence that a guardian ad litem was appointed in this case. In Virginia, a child presenting these issues (apart from any private attorney she might have) would have had an impartial attorney assigned by the judge whose sole function would be to assess and decide the best interests of the child. This person has a lot of authority to question parents, school, officials, etc. It could be that Ms. Bary does indeed have a guardian ad litem, but that wouldn’t necessarily be revealed to the public. I just can’t see that anyone has inquired.
A really aggressive guardian, or even her private attorney, could demand a forensic psychoneurological exam which would include an MRI. A functioning MRI looks at the brain dynamically, not merely in a series of images. They are discovering more and more about the brains of traumatized children and how they differ from that of a normal child (i.e., one that experienced no abuse). But I don’t think Rifqa has received this benefit.
I am on the fence about this one. There are discrepancies that have not been answered, or at least I haven’t seen the answers…
For example, it was reported back in the beginning that she went to a church in Ohio. This was in addition to the Face Book religious group she hung with. At the time it was said that Rifqa never approached any member of the congregation with her concerns and they were in the dark regarding her fears of her father.
There is also the fact that the father permitted her to join the cheerleading squad. This would be a remarkably open move for someone who is supposed to be abusive and angry, especially for an immigrant dad who might find the behavior of cheerleaders on the field definitely not to his liking.
Does anyone know what Rifqa’s school friends are saying? Did she confide in them? Obviously, she didn’t go to the school guidance counselor since those folks are “mandated reporters”. This means that if anyone tells them of abuse they are required by law to call Social Services immediately. If the danger is assessed as serious and immediate, Social Services gets a court order from the judge in that jurisdiction and opens an investigation. You have to present fairly compelling evidence to make a judge sign such an order.
Having been involved in a few cases where serious abuse was alleged, I can assure you that it’s rough going for all concerned. The family is in turmoil, the parents are angry and the child is afraid. Often the other children will turn on her for making trouble. If the child is being abused, there is a mountain of denial by the parents and they don’t cooperate. On the other hand, having Social Services show up at your house suddenly is disorienting to any parent. I wouldn’t expect them to react with less than outrage.
In one case, we were fairly certain, given the evidence, that the teenager was being abused. There was a lengthy series of court appearances and a whole lot of competent intervention by a therapist who specialized in such cases. The girl was placed in therapeutic foster care (a very expensive and a reluctant move on the part of any agency) until she reached eighteen. The judge decided she was old enough to make the call on visitation so she opted for supervised, limited visitation with both parents and a psychologist present.
In the interim, the specially trained foster parents worked intensively with the girl to prepare her for that birthday when she would essentially be on her own. There are some limited provisions past this age, but not nearly enough to help such children. In her case, she had no close relatives who could provide assistance.
This is messy and the pressures from press, advocacy groups (on both sides), and the public make the situation very fraught. Teenagers by nature aren’t very stable. Such intrusive attention only worsens the situation for them.
That’s why I haven’t been reporting much on Rifqa Bary.
I will post on the milestones; in this case the ruling by the judge that she be returned to Ohio. Other than that, I think we serve her best by letting her be, just checking to see what the authorities are doing. In a case this politicized, there are no good outcomes. No matter what happens from now on this young woman has a difficult road ahead of her. The months of high pressure notoriety have assured that she won’t easily be permitted to leave this behind her.
If the world were just, a rich fairy godmother would show up and mentor her when all the noise has died down. Somehow I don’t see that happening, but you never can tell.