Two kids removed from their Pasco home eight years ago because of allegations of abuse are curious to know who their parents are, but they want to take it slow, an attorney said Monday.
Ella and Ryslan Shved want to meet their parents, known to the children as "Mommy Olga" and "Daddy Boris," said Jennifer Azure, a Richland lawyer recently appointed to represent the kids' interests.
Yet, Azure was clear the children, now 8 and 10, are not looking to reunify with their biological parents, for now.
"As to what they know, they know some or little of why they're in this situation," Azure said in the Franklin County Juvenile Court hearing.
She has used Skype, a video call service, to talk with the "lovable, adorable" kids, who are being raised by a foster family in Minnesota.
"Ella's been going to doctor's appointments for the last eight years," Azure said. "She knows that she had some injuries but she doesn't know, I think, the whole story. Or I don't think that anybody knows the whole story at this point."
Olga and Boris Shved are fighting to get their children back after the courts recently cleared Olga of all criminal wrongdoing and reinstated the couple's parental rights.
Olga had served two years of a 10-year prison sentence before her first-degree assault conviction was reversed.
The family has not been together since 2006, when Ella was 4 months old and Ryslan was 21/2. The kids live 1,500 miles away.
Court Commissioner Joseph Schneider has refused to reverse his 2007 findings in the dependency matter, saying the parents' request wasn't timely and that the medical experts who say Ella wasn't abused were discovered too late for this case.
Attorneys Linda Lillevik of Seattle and Jim Egan of Kennewick have filed a motion, asking a Superior Court judge to review Schneider's decision.
On Monday, Schneider entertained the idea of visits between the parents and kids.
"Folks, this is a situation that I know is very emotional for the parents. The mother has been through quite a lot, and I understand both sides of this situation," Schneider said. "The focus is where to go from here. How do we bring about any possible reunification in this matter, and I use the word possible because I don't know if it is going to happen."
He is concerned about causing harm or trauma to Ella and Ryslan, who he said probably have bonded and become significantly attached to their foster parents.
"In a perfect, world the children would be returned to the (biological) parents and there'd be no harm, no foul," Schneider said. "We don't just step in and break that bonding situation (with the foster parents) and tell the kids that everything is going to be dandy and happy."
Schneider told Assistant Attorney General Kevin Hartze, who represents the state Department of Social and Health Services, that there should be no more delays in getting a therapist involved.
The therapist should get medical information from Ella's doctors in Minnesota and talk to the foster parents about the young girl's needs, then assess the children's readiness.
Lillevik and Egan said Monday that their clients had hoped to reunite with their kids this summer and have them home before the new school year.
Lillevik suggested that the Department of Social and Health Services pay for at least two visits to Minnesota to make that happen.
Azure told the court that even though Ella and Ryslan are interested, they also are happy and feel safe with the foster family. She said the kids would prefer to go through counseling and visitation with Olga and Boris to see where the relationships go.
"They are curious about their parents and would like to have some contact and learn about them and learn about their cultures and where they came from and all those family types of things," Azure said. "But I ask that we move cautiously as far as moving forward."
Olga is a native of the Republic of Moldova and Boris is from Ukraine.
Azure said the kids were specific that when they eventually meet, Ella and Ryslan want to be together but they would like to do it one at a time with each parent. She explained that Ella looks up to her big brother and views him as her protector, especially since he has been there when she has had epileptic seizures.
In the meantime, Schneider said he wants therapy for Olga and Boris, as well. They should be prepared because the kids may not run and jump into their arms, he said.
"We don't know how the children are going to do, and that's the big issue," he said. "If I could predict it, I would be doing something else and making a lot more money than I am now."
He asked for recent pictures to be exchanged so the kids can at least see what Olga and Shved look like now. Sheila Davidson, a guardian ad litem who was on the case, gave documents to the parents that included photos. Olga and Boris stared at the pages in court for several minutes, checking out their growing children.
Schneider scheduled a review hearing later this month to keep the case on track.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer