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Father loses custody of infant mother talked about selling

Saturday, May 25, 2002

By Barbara White Stack, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

A father granted temporary custody of his infant son Monday because the baby's mother had threatened to sell the child, lost custody in a hearing yesterday.

Caseworkers from Allegheny County's Office of Children, Youth and Families, who had helped Francisco Vidal Sr. get a custody order Monday, took his baby from him Thursday because he'd allowed the infant's homeless mother to spend a night in his apartment in Homestead and because CYF disapproved of his baby-sitting arrangements.

Common Pleas Judge Kim Clark yesterday approved the child's removal from Vidal, but ordered CYF to deliver the child back to the father for the weekend.

Vidal, an immigrant from Cuba, wept in the hallway of juvenile court after the hearing. "I tried to be nice and look what happened," he said.

He'd permitted the baby's mother to stay in his apartment one night, he said, because he'd seen her begging on the street and knew she was homeless.

The infant stayed with his godparents that night.

The godparents had cared for the boy for several days while Vidal worked. Then, the elderly couple arranged for a family friend to care for the baby. Vidal told the court he allowed his son to stay with that woman and visited after he worked. He planned to take the baby home on weekends.

CYF told the judge that a preliminary check suggested that caretaker may have a criminal record.

Vidal's lawyer, Eleanor Grainy, protested the removal. State law requires "clear necessity" to take a child from a parent and requires an agency like CYF to make efforts to prevent removal.

"I do not believe there is clear necessity to remove this child from Mr. Vidal," Grainy said, pointing out that CYF had determined the child to be healthy when it took him to foster care.

Shortly after the baby was born May 12 at Magee Womens Hospital, Vidal told social workers there that the mother had threatened to sell the boy for $3,000. The mother left the hospital before being discharged and did not return for the baby. She refused later to tell a caseworker where any of her other five children were.

That is what prompted Clark to give Vidal temporary custody of the baby on Monday.

Yesterday, Clark expressed concerns about the baby sitter because of the possible criminal record and because Vidal said he was paying her only $50 a week. The judge wondered how long someone would be willing to care for a baby under those conditions.

She said the child should remain in foster care on weekdays until another hearing could be conducted in June. She ordered CYF to help the father arrange for appropriate day care.

CYF delivered the child to Vidal yesterday afternoon and he was overjoyed. "I am happy," he said, "I just want to make sure they don't take my baby from me. That is my life."

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