A court officer said Friday that she was “humbled and quite emotional” after seeing photographs of two kids on recent outings with their parents in the Tri-Cities.
The pictures captured the first time the entire Shved family has been together in 10 years.
Court Commissioner Jerri Potts had ordered the children of Olga and Boris Shved to spend six days in the Tri-Cities getting to know their biological parents. Ella was 4 months old, and her brother Ryslan was 2 1/2 , when they were removed from their home in June 2006 over allegations of child abuse.
“I was amazed at these photos,” Potts said, noting that they showed lots of happiness and bonding. “… The photos go beyond just being entertained. (There is an) obvious deep affection the children are showing for these parents, and for that I’m pleased.”
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The Shveds stayed at their Pasco home, while the kids, now 10 and 12, slept at a Kennewick hotel with visitation supervisors in an adjoining room.
Before the kids returned to Minnesota with their foster parents Friday evening, Potts met with all of the parties in court to find out how the visit went, and to determine the next steps in the ongoing dependency case.
She also spoke privately to the children for about 15 minutes to get their take on the situation. She described them as well-behaved, “delightful young people.”
“There is no doubt that this whole experience has rocked the world of Ella and Ryslan,” Potts said during the hearing.
You guys let me keep them for 9
Ella and Ryslan’s foster mother
They have been with the same foster family since 2007, and a short time later were allowed by the court to move from the Tri-Cities to a small city outside of Minneapolis because of the placement father’s job.
The siblings have said they want to be adopted into the only home they’ve really ever known.
However, the Shveds — who don’t have any other children — want their kids back, and have continued to fight for them in Franklin County Juvenile Court.
Their parental rights were restored by another court in early 2014. Olga Shved’s first-degree assault conviction was reversed on appeal, and ultimately dismissed, after she served two years of her 10-year prison sentence.
“The parents were unbelievably grateful to have the chance to be with their children and get that glimmer of some of what they have missed out on, and they thank the court for that opportunity.” said attorney Linda Lillevik of Seattle, who represents Olga Shved.
Potts, who started presiding over the case earlier this summer after a colleague’s retirement, has made it clear that the case needs to move forward instead of essentially remaining at a standstill. Otherwise, the kids will be in the state system until they turn 18.
“The goal is reunification and making sure the children are safe with their biological parents,” she said. “I don’t have any evidence that says they are not, but I’m also not ready to make the change in (the kids’ lives).”
Potts questioned if maybe the placement parents need to find another counselor for the kids in Minnesota, because the one they’ve been seeing is not in favor of the reunification plan.
“In order for these children to be emotionally healthy, not just right now but throughout their lives, everyone has to be on board (with) the same narrative,” Potts said.
She also noted that letters and other information previously viewed by the court show their Minnesota community does not support reunification attempts or any contact whatsoever.
“To send the Shveds to that community will set them up for failure and add conflict for the children,” Potts said.
She decided the next visit should again take place in the Tri-Cities when the kids have a four-day weekend in late October.
And she floated the idea for the future of “placing these children in a position where they have more constant and consistent visits with their parents,” saying that can’t be accomplished when they’re 1,600 miles apart.
The foster mother choked up as she told Potts, “You guys let me keep them for 9 1/2 years, and now you want to take them from me.”
The kids didn’t want to come to the Tri-Cities one week ago — not because of the Shveds, but because they were afraid the court was going to keep them here, she said.
Potts said she understands the loyalty that Ella and Ryslan have to the placement parents who have raised them, and that the kids are comfortable in that environment. She said her heart aches for both sets of parents and the kids because of the situation.
But Potts told the foster parents that they need to “give these children permission to love” the Shveds. That’s how Ella and Ryslan are going to be happy and healthy, she said.