Oswego County infant returned to mother despite objections of case workers

Sheri Remington

Relatives of a 3-month-old baby girl, who was placed in foster care after an exclusive CNY Central report last week, say the child has been returned to her mother by order of Oswego County Family Court Judge Kim Seager.

The babyâ??s paternal grandfather Steven Ouderkirk told Kenyon that Seager placed the girl with her mother, Sheri Remington, 19, over the objections of Child Protective Services (CPS) caseworkers who removed the child last Friday.

Ouderkirk is accusing Judge Seager of ignoring CPS reports that indicate the girl suffered from "cradle cap and discharge from an eye."

Last Friday, Oswego County Department of Social Services Commissioner Gregg Heffner personally ordered the removal of the girl based on earlier assessments that the baby was living in a home of squalor and was suffering from physical neglect.

Included in those assessments was a doctor's report that stated the child suffered from "vaginal total adhesions" from not being cleaned nor properly wiped. Remington is registered as a level 2 sex offender from an earlier conviction of having sexual relations with an underage male.

Ouderkirk says that at the hearing on Wednesday, which lasted for three hours, caseworkers revealed the home had been cleaned over the weekend and Remington had agreed to undergo parenting classes.

Based upon that, Ouderkirk quoted Judge Seager as determining the baby was "in no imminent danger."

Ouderkirk also quoted the Judge as saying, "I'm not going to be intimidated by his (Jim Kenyon's) broadcast or anything else in the public."

Ouderkirk said Remington's own mother told the court that the baby should remain in foster care at this time. Ouderkirk told Kenyon that DSS caseworkers are doing everything they can to protect the child.

Remingtonâ??s mother, Terri Remington, invited Kenyon into the home without a camera on Thursday. She told Kenyon that her daughter "has some growing up to do."

"I felt she (the child) was in a safe place with foster care, but she is abiding by the judgeâ??s decision," says Terri Remington.

Terri Remington, who is disabled and in constant need of oxygen, says that when the baby becomes mobile, she will not be able to keep up the child.

Kenyon observed that the house had been cleaned up and there were no odors or evidence of garbage, as had been noted in the past.

Heffner told Kenyon that while his staff recommended the child remain in foster care, he said, "I am relieved and pleased that services were ordered for the mother."

"This gives my staff an opportunity to be engaged," he says.

Heffner says the Judge Seager based her decision on her definition of "imminent risk" he says he and his staff interpret imminent risk more broadly than judges. "Caseworkers are trained very broadly to recognize risk and to identify multiple risk factors and to combine all of those risk factors to determine whether or not it's safe for the child to remain in the home. Judges are looking for a larger burden of proof that something will actually happen if we don't take action right now."

When contacted this morning by phone, Seagerâ??s secretary told Kenyon "the court cannot make any comment." A source told Kenyon the court determined that all of the conditions had been corrected. Another hearing on the matter is scheduled for next week.

Last year, Judge Seager came under fire from Oswego County legislators, law enforcement and DSS workers for allegedly placing children in dangerous situations by steering them away from foster care.

Their complaint to Fifth District Administrative Judge James Tormey resulted in a closed door session with a court appointed mediator. Last week, DSS Commissioner described their current relationship with Seager as "status quo" and "amicable."