CREATED May 18, 2014
Middle Tennessee foster parents who raised little girl for eight years before she was returned to her biological father in January are in court to try to get her back, reports Nashville’s NewsChannel 5.
David and Kimberly Hodgin of Dickson, Tenn., argued in court documents that the juvenile judge erred when he ordered that custody of Sonya McCaul be awarded to biological father John McCaul, an ex-con who lives in Nebraska.
A hearing was held Friday afternoon in Dickson, where a juvenile court judge denied their request to have the state bring Sonya back to Dickson County.
Earlier this year, officials with the Tennessee Department of Children's Services (DCS) sent Sonya to Nebraska.
"He has been as far as we can tell a good father. He's fought for his daughter. He doesn't have a perfect record. He's not a boy scout, but he's done everything the state of Tennessee has asked," said Rob Johnson with the DCS.
According to court documents, John McCaul was in prison for most of the time the Hodgins were fostering Sonya, serving a 7 1/2-year sentence for unlawful transport of firearms. But after cutting a deal, he got his time in prison reduced and fought to get Sonya back, saying his parental rights were violated.
The Hodgins said the judge mistakenly thought the law required him to award custody to the biological parent without consideration of the 9-year-old's best interest.
"The Tennessee Court of Appeals has said that [McCaul] has the right to raise his child and that's he's the birth father that the parental rights were improperly taken from him," said Johnson.
Despite Friday's decision, the Hodgins vowed they'll fight, even if it means all the way to the Supreme Court.
"We will never stop. That's what they have an appeals court for and beyond that. We'll never stop. Ever. Ever," said Dave Hodgin. "Until we get our daughter safe back home in Dickson, Tennessee."