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Foster parents get stay over Baby X
A High Court judge yesterday told the Adoption Board to review its decision to take away a baby from her foster parents. When the matter came up in the San Fernando High Court, Justice Frank Seepersad said the best interest and welfare of the baby were of paramount importance. Cindy and Donald Rakhal, foster parents of the 16-month-old baby, who is being referred to as Baby X, are challenging a decision of the board to take the child from them. The baby has been in their care since last March. The board has already approved adoptive parents for the child. But the Carapichaima couple has been granted an injunction preventing the board from taking the baby away from them until the case is decided.
Yesterday, the Rakhals’ attorney Gerald Ramdeen submitted that the evidence of a foster care officer who had interacted with the foster couple and the baby was necessary. That was challenged by the board’s attorney Josefina Mohammed, who said the Foster Care Unit and the board were separate units each having its own procedures and officers. The judge noted that while the board has a set of criteria in the adoption process, its ultimate decision must be guided by what is in the best interest and welfare of the child. In selecting the adoptive parents, he said several factors, including the development and physical level of the child and the foster care officers’ reports, had to be considered. He said there was no evidence that the board had considered those things in the case of Baby X. “The Rakhals are important in the context that nearly a year there was a living, breathing human being with them.”
But Mohammed said the Rakhals’ request to adopt the baby could not be considered because the child was not yet at the “adoptable age.” The judge noted that when the child became of age the board identified four adoptive parents, excluding the Rakhals, and subsequently placed the child with one couple. The judge told the board to set up a panel to speak with the foster parents, review all the information and make a proper assessment about what was in the best interest of the infant.