Washington caged children remain in state care

AP News
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Posted: Apr 21, 2011 5:07 PM
Washington caged children remain in state care

Two autistic boys who were held in a caged room at an apartment will remain in state foster care for now, Clark County Superior Court Commissioner Carin Schienberg decided Thursday at a hearing.

The biological mother, Jona Bronson of Tillamook, Ore., was in court. Her lawyer, Maggie Smith Evansen, told the commissioner the mother would eventually like to be considered for long-term placement. That would be determined at a trial.

In the interim, children in state care are not allowed to be placed outside Washington, said Assistant Attorney General Dana Gigler, who is representing the, Washington Department of State and Health Services.

The boys are receiving medical evaluations and could be enrolled in school, The Columbian reported.

The 5- and 7-year-old were taken into state custody April 12 after maintenance workers alerted police to deplorable conditions. The boys were locked behind a cage-like door in a room where they shared a single mattress. The room smelled of urine, and the boys had picked holes in the walls.

The Clark County prosecutor's office has filed unlawful imprisonment charges against the boys' father, 30-year-old John Eckhart and his 26-year-old girlfriend, Alayna Higdon. Their arraignment is April 27.

The defendants' two other children will continue to stay with family members. Higdon has a 9-year-old son from a previous relationship. Eckhart and Higdon together have an 11-month-old boy.

Through their attorneys, Eckhart, Higdon and Bronson, all waived temporary placement of the autistic boys. A 30-day review of their placement is set for May 10.

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Information from: The Columbian, http://www.columbian.com