Lawyers for a Pasco couple trying to get their children back and the state Department of Health and Social Services agreed Monday on two counselors to help with the reunification process.
Olga and Boris Shved will meet with a Kennewick psychologist to discuss their situation and how the kids may react to seeing their biological parents for the first time in eight years.
Meanwhile, Ella and Ryslan Shved -- who are being raised by a foster family in Minnesota -- will start seeing a well-respected psychologist in that state.
Jennifer Azure, a Richland lawyer recently appointed to represent the kids' interests, told the court that counseling is important at this stage and that the children need to feel comfortable and be able to open up to the psychologist.
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"It is my understanding that Ryslan is having a very difficult time at this point. He is in turmoil," said Azure.
She added that Ella's issues are more medical because of her ongoing seizures, and said the girl is younger so she may be a little more oblivious to what is going on.
The kids, 8 and 10, were removed from their home in June 2006 because of allegations of abuse. Ella was 4 months old at the time and Ryslan was 2 1/2.
Olga Shved was convicted of first-degree assault and served two years of a 10-year prison sentence before an appellate court reversed the conviction. Earlier this year, the courts cleared Olga of all criminal wrongdoing with her baby daughter, and reinstated the couple's parental rights.
Court Commissioner Joseph Schneider has refused to reverse his 2007 findings in the Franklin County Juvenile Court dependency matter, but he has entertained the idea of visits between the parents and kids in working toward possible reunification.
Three weeks ago, Azure advised the court that the kids are curious to know "Mommy Olga" and "Daddy Boris," but want to take the process slow.
Schneider has recognized that Ella and Ryslan likely have bonded and become significantly attached to their foster family, and said he's concerned about causing harm or trauma to the kids.
"As I shared with the Shveds, I think that if we're looking at any sort of meeting between parents and children, it's essential that meeting go well," said Peggy Hevland, a guardian ad litem. "To have that opportunity, both the Shveds and children need to get some counseling under their belt before that."
The kids' foster mother listened in via speakerphone to Monday's hearing, but she did not talk.
Attorney Jim Egan addressed comments that Minnesota social workers want to know what the new plan is, and said they should know the law is for reunification unless there's evidence the Shveds aren't capable of raising their kids.
"I am cognizant that it's emotionally devastating for the foster parents and foster siblings but that is something that when they undertook this particular foster care, they should have realized the effort to reunite this family," Egan told the court.
Assistant Attorney General Kevin Hartze, who represents DSHS, said all parties are aware of the direction the case is going.
"It looks like we're moving along fairly smoothly," Hartze said of them agreeing on treatment providers so sessions can be scheduled.
The state still is awaiting medical reports from Ella's two treating physicians in Minnesota.
Hartze did not object to Egan sending reports from his medical experts -- Dr. Charles Hyman with Stanford University and Dr. Patrick Barnes of Loma Linda University -- to the Minnesota doctors so they can understand what findings supported the acquittal in Olga Shved's criminal case.
Schneider commended the Shveds for taking the initiative and signing up for parent educational/support classes offered through The Arc of Tri-Cities with the Epilepsy Foundation Northwest.
The judge also allowed the Shveds to give gifts to DSHS to be sent to the children.
After reading reports from the state agency about the children and their hobbies, the couple this past weekend bought dance costumes for Ella and hockey gear and Nerf guns for Ryslan, said Egan.
-- Kristin M. Kraemer: 509-582-1531; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @KristinMKraemer