Tennessee Foster Parents Denied Custody Of Omaha Girl

By: WOWT, The Associated Press Email
By: WOWT, The Associated Press Email

The story of a 9-year-old girl taken from her foster parents of eight years and then turned over to a father who just got out of prison is making national headlines after a hearing on Friday.

A judge has blocked an attempt by Middle, Tennessee foster parents to get back physical custody of the child they raised for eight years.

In court on Friday, Dickson County Juvenile Court Judge Andrew Jackson said 9-year-old Sonya McCaul will remain with her father in Omaha, Nebraska, for now.

The child's court-appointed guardian, Hillary Duke, said Sonya is doing well. Duke blamed David and Kimberly Hodgin for blocking the state's earlier attempts to place Sonya with relatives.

Duke also claimed the Hodgins have endangered Sonya by making the custody case public.

Supporters of the foster family have been rallying for their cause on social media and gathered Friday outside the Dickson County courthouse.

The young girl had no memory of any parent except her foster parents, when on Jan. 29 - with the support of the Tennessee Department of Children's Services - Sonya was removed from the Hodgins' home and sent back to live with her biological father in Nebraska, a man she had never met who had just been released from federal prison.

DCS has long maintained that the best place for children is with their biological parents, and if there is nothing that endangers the child, they should go to one or both parents.

"He doesn't have a perfect record. He's not a Boy Scout. But he's done everything the state of Tennessee has asked for," said DCS spokesman Rob Johnson.

But for those with the "Bring Sonya Home" movement, including Charleston, SC, psychologist Dr. Bonnie Cleaveland, there is something more important: the best interest of the child.

"I think that's a no-brainer. It's about the child. It's not about the foster parents. It's not about dad. It's about her and her rights. We can't do this to children," Cleaveland said.

After the hearing Friday, David Hodgin said the family will never give up trying to get Sonya back.

"Sonya doesn't deserve the pain this court and DCS has given her. We will never stop, ever, until we get her home in Dickson County," David Hodgin said.

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