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Trial over foster child costs Douglas County

Published: Nov. 2, 2020 at 10:29 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - An emotional court fight continues over where is the best place for a young teenager to grow up: either in foster homes or with a grandmother.

Family videos show 13-year-old AJ having a ball but her grandparents claim the child protection system is treating her like one.

“Why would you bounce her from foster home to foster home? Why do you feel the system should raise this beautiful child who has issues when she has loving grandparents," said Auburne McMillan, AJ’s grandmother.

AJ’s mom who was adopted lost parental rights so grandmother isn’t a blood relative which her attorney claims is a reason for a legal custody battle with a court-appointed Guardian ad Litem.

“Why would blood matter in this case, it’s ludicrous, these are loving family members," said Andrea McChesney, McMillan’s attorney.

And AJ lived with them for three months in Texas but the Omaha Guardian ad Litem got a court order. It alleged the grandma hasn’t correctly handled the 13-year-old’s unresolved behavior problems. So the child was returned to the Nebraska foster care system.

“Eleven foster care homes since she’s been in care. I have done my research on this family. There is no reason why she should not be with her grandma," said MJ Matthews, AJ’s former case manager.

Matthews says for three years the Guardian ad Litem for the girl has filed volumes of court actions.

“Motion after motion and motion for the court, it is crazy. It is way too much money for this type of case," said Martha Matthews, also a former case manager.

And Douglas County is picking up most of the legal tab.

I requested the Douglas County Clerk send me public records on what taxpayers have paid the Guardian ad Litem in this one juvenile court case.

More than $53,000 paid to Anne Troia, the Guardian ad Litem since the case began in 2017.

Troia declined to comment on the reasons for removing the child from grandmother but Troia tells me, “I’m a taxpayer and very cognizant of how I bill. I don’t pad hours.”

But the case may cost years with her granddaughter for Auburn McMillan.

“Give her back to family. I am her grandmother. That’s the bottom-line,” Auburn said.

The court-appointed special advocates for children or CASA is also involved in the case along with a private child protection group contracted by the state.

The Guardian ad Litem says there are more parties in this case than she’s ever had before. The grandmother has filed an appeal with the Nebraska Court of Appeals.

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