An Oregon family has been fighting for nearly four years to restore custody of their children after the Department of Human Services took their two boys from them over the parents’ low IQ scores. According to a court appeal, both parents have “limited cognitive abilities that interfere with (their) ability to safely parent the child.”
When a relative complained to DHS about the general parental fitness of Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler, the couple lost custody of their son Christopher soon after he was born. Five months ago, their newborn son Hunter was taken from them at the hospital at which he was born by the state. Both babies are currently in the foster care system.
Incredibly, the parents have not been found guilty of any abuse or neglect:
“No abuse or neglect has been found, but each parent has a degree of limited cognitive abilities. Rather than build a network of support around them, the state child welfare agency has moved to terminate the couple’s parental rights and make the boys available for adoption,” reports The Oregonian.
Psychological evaluations recorded in court documents reveal that Fabbrini’s IQ is 72, making her “extremely low to borderline range of intelligence.” Ziegler scored a 66, placing him at “mild range of intellectual disability.” (An average IQ score is anywhere between 90 and 110.)
According to court documents, Ziegler sometimes slept with their baby on the floor “and almost rolled over on him,” is “easily frustrated” and “often forgets to feed his dog.”
Ziegler says his dog is well-fed, and perhaps overweight.
Both parents formally held jobs but are currently unemployed, though Ziegler now receives Social Security benefits due to his disability.
“I have a learning disability, but it’s very, very mild,” explained Ziegler. He says he learns at a slower pace than others, but notes that “everybody learns at their pace.”
The couple resides in a “three-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot home owned by Ziegler’s parents, who live out of state. Ziegler has a driver’s license. Both have standard high school diplomas.”
“I love kids, I was raised around kids, my mom was a preschool teacher for 20-plus years, and so I’ve always been around kids,” said Fabbrini, 31. “That’s my passion. I love to do things with kids, and that’s what I want to do in the future, something that has to do with kids.”
Fabbrini’s father, Raymond Fabbrini, 74, claims his daughter is unfit for motherhood.
“She doesn’t have the instincts to be a mother,” he said.
“Me and Amy were never close,” he added. “She got me mad so many times. She wouldn’t do nothing.”
But the couple has also received support from strangers and advocates who’ve seen them parent first-hand.
“They are saying they are intellectually incapable without any guidelines to go by,” said Sherrene Hagenbach.
Hagenbach is a professional mediator and on the Healthy Families of the High Desert board. She also volunteered for the state and oversaw visits with the couple and their first child last summer.
According to The Oregonian, after Hagenbach “told state caseworkers she thought the couple was capable of raising Christopher, she recalls, she was told her volunteer services were no longer needed.”
“They’re saying that this foster care provider is better for the child because she can provide more financially, provide better education, things like that,” said the advocate. “If we’re going to get on that train, Bill Gates should take my children. There’s always somebody better than us, so it’s a very dangerous position to be in.”
The couple says they’ve worked tirelessly to get their kids back from the state, per The Oregonian: “They’ve taken classes on parenting, first aid, CPR and nutrition through the Women, Infants and Children agency, the nonprofit MountainStar, Healthy Families of the High Desert and more.”
After conducting several in-person and phone interviews with the couple, The Oregonian issued their own quasi-assessment: “Over several in-person and phone interviews with The Oregonian/OregonLive, they seemed like capable and caring adults – frustrated and confused by the state’s intervention, but no more so than any parent would be in their situation.”
A floated and failed 2013 piece of legislation from Disability Rights Oregon would have barred the state “from deeming a parent unfit based solely on a parent’s illness or disability, including intellectual disability.”
“Oregon Sen. Tim Knopp, a Bend Republican, has had several meetings with Fabbrini and Ziegler, who live in his district,” reports The Oregonian.