Fla. couple sues state DHHR for law violations

By Kyla Asbury | Aug 18, 2011

CHARLESTON -- A Florida couple that previously lived in Lincoln County is suing the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources for violating its own laws and procedures and wrongly removing a child from their care.

Natalie Murphy, individually and in her official capacity as Wayne County CPS Supervisor; and Marsha McCallister, individually and in her capacity as Wayne County CPS Worker, were also named as defendants in the suit.

Robert Alexander and Rebecca Alexander previously adopted three children from the Kanawha County division of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and were approved foster care providers and approved adoptive parents, according to a complaint filed July 27 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

The Alexanders claims in May 2010, they were contacted by Braley & Thompson about the placement of a child in the state's custody with the knowledge that they were interested in adopting the child.

Shortly after placement, the defendants learned that the Alexanders were a mixed race couple and on June 24, 2010, McCallister called the couple and informed them that a meeting was being held on June 28, 2010, and that they were to bring the child in and "give the child up," according to the suit.

The couple claims the defendants did not come by to see the child and failed to call about her or return their calls concerning her after placement. The child, who was developmentally behind and suffering from emotional and physical neglect when she came to live with the Alexanders, made great strides under the couple's care in the six weeks she was with them, according to the suit.

The Alexanders claim at the meeting on June 28, 2010, the child was left in their care, but the following day, they were notified and that they were to permit a visitation with the child's great uncle, who had not been approved for foster care or adoptive placement and had not had a home study completed.

The reassignment of the child from the Alexanders' care "to the home of a 'relative' was illegal and contrary to state law, willful and deliberate, and in wanton disregard for the child and the plaintiffs," according to the suit.

The Alexanders claim the defendants caused them irreparable emotional and psychological harm.

The Alexanders are seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They are being represented by Michael T. Clifford and Richelle K. Garlow.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge James C. Stucky.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 11-C-1233

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