AMHERST, N.Y. — David and Rachel Schneiter believe they have been treated unfairly in their effort to adopt a little girl that they fostered from the time she was 12 weeks old. In an effort to protect the child's confidentiality, she is only referred to as Baby N.
Baby N is now three years old. Two months after her birth she was diagnosed with "failure to thrive" placed in a foster home. The Schneiters were no strangers to the child because Rachel Schneiter worked with at-risk mothers and developed a bond with Baby N's birth mom while she was pregnant. In fact, the birth mom named Schneiter the god-mother of the newborn.
When the baby was removed from her birth mother in May 2015 she was placed in the Schneiter's home where there was a mother, father and two older children. The placement worked out well, according to the Schneiters' attorney David Gutowski, "the department of social service's reports, periodic reports made by their case workers indicate, they use that word that she was thriving in the Schneiters' home."
In June 2016, The Department of Social Services (DSS) removed Baby N from the Schneiter's home so she could be placed in another foster home with her two biological siblings. Baby N did not know anyone in the new foster home because she had been with the Schneiter's from 12-weeks of age.
"We love this little girl, and what they did to her by moving her caused her a trauma. They'll deny it, they have to live with themselves at night," said Rachel Schneiter.
After filing a petition to adopt Baby N, which must be accepted by DSS, the Schneiters' attorney learned that the other foster family wants to adopt her and her biological siblings. This is happening despite "the expert psychologist that we retained and the courts that looked at this have found that the primary attachment bond with Rachel Schneiter as primary caregiver and the whole Schneiter family are stronger and more important to the child's well being than any bond she may have formed with this intermittent visitation with her siblings," said attorney Gutowski.
Meanwhile, courts have ruled that removing Baby N was "arbitrary and capricious" and Erie County's Department of Social Services was directed to "return the child" to the Schneiter's.
When 2 On Your Side reached out to DSS for a response, the spokesperson for Erie County responded with this statement: "DSS follows court orders to keep siblings together, which is happening in this case. Until the court tells them to do otherwise, they are bound to follow the court's order."
The Schneiter's are granted visitation with Baby N twice a week in their home. They plan to continue to fight to adopt her while the county spends tax money to battle this case in court. "A child who has suffered abuse or neglect severe enough to land them in foster care, should not have to be torn away from the very people they bond with during their healing and recovery especially when they are not even going back to a birth parent," said Schneiter.
A July hearing is scheduled in what the attorney said is a "best interest hearing regarding whether or not the time that has elapsed since the last decision changed the best interest analysis for the baby."