Two children in foster care got to see their biological parents for the first time in more than eight years during a Skype visit last week.
Ella and Ryslan Shved, who’ve been living in Minnesota with a foster family, enjoyed the video call and the opportunity to see the parents they know as “Mommy Olga” and “Daddy Boris,” said Jennifer Azure, a Richland lawyer representing the kids’ interests.
Olga and Boris Shved of Pasco haven’t been with their kids since Ella was 4 months old and Ryslan was 2 1/2.
The visitation is important since the children, now 8 and 10, have been out of the Shved’s home for so long, Azure reported Monday during a Franklin County Juvenile Court hearing.
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However, equally important for the kids is processing the meeting, which brought up even more questions that they’d like to discuss with their psychologist in a counseling session, she said.
Azure agrees with the state Department of Social and Health Services that future Skype visits should occur every two weeks — not weekly — to give the kids time and allow for their busy school schedules, she said.
The kids were removed from their Pasco home in June 2006 because of allegations of abuse. Olga Shved has since been cleared of all criminal wrongdoing with her baby daughter and the court has reinstated the couple’s parent rights. Court Commissioner Joseph Schneider has refused to reverse his findings in the separate dependency matter that they’re unfit parents.
The Shveds are trying to get their children back and are working through the reunification process.
The kids have been curious to know their biological parents and understand their culture, and even asked for an in-person visit in their home state. That would allow the kids to be in their comfort zone, but added that all of the parties still need to proceed with caution given the young ages of Ella and Ryslan, Azure said.
It’s also been noted that the kids have bonded and become significantly attached to their foster family, and want to stay with them in Minnesota. The foster mother listened in via speakerphone to Monday’s hearing, but she did not talk.
Attorneys Linda Lillevik of Seattle and Jim Egan of Kennewick are in favor of an in-person visit with their clients, the Shveds, to keep the process moving forward. That issue will be argued at a hearing later this month.
In the meantime, another Skype visit was scheduled by the therapists for Oct. 17.
Assistant Attorney General Kevin Hartze said he will check with Minnesota social services to see if they can offer courtesy transportation to the psychologist’s office so the foster mother doesn’t have to take off work and make a long drive for each session. He also will ask if the psychologist will come to the foster family’s home for the visitations.
Hartze said it is OK for the Shveds to send gifts, though the Department of Social and Health Services is a little concerned expensive gifts are being offered as recourse or to encourage the kids’ continued participation.
Lillevik argued that the Shveds haven’t been allowed to be parents in years.
“They want to provide gifts because they love their children as most parents do,” she said.
Lillevik asked for notification in writing of any restrictions or rules on the visitations so the parents don’t later learn they violated something. The Shveds already have been told not to discuss the case with their children.
Peggy Hevland, a guardian appointed to advocate for the children’s interests, said after Friday’s Skype visit, she spoke with Boris Shved and the kids’ foster mother. She also had her own Skype meeting with the children on Sunday.
Ella told Hevland that the visit with her biological parents was “really good, they weren’t mean, they were really nice and they’re going to give us (gaming devices),” she reported.
Hevland said her initial thought was, “Wow, those are really big presents,” but Ryslan admitted he asked for the devices and the Shveds didn’t just offer them.
Schneider ruled the Shveds need to be careful about the quantity of gifts and that they’re appropriate, but otherwise there’s no problem with sending presents. He said it sounds like the kids believe they’re getting these gaming stations after the conversation, so it’s important to keep that promise or it could hurt the reunification efforts.