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Child Artist Detained
July 13, 2009 permalink
The art of twelve-year-old Californian Alice Fuzi Wang will be exhibited next month in Korea, where her family plans to visit. Last month her family took her to Nebraska to be honored in an international art competition. What happened? She got into a squabble with her thirteen-year-old brother. The parents stopped the car and spent 20 minutes calming them down. Bystanders saw the incident and Nebraska seized both children. They have been in Nebraska foster care for a month, and to be sure, the hack that Nebraska appointed as guardian of the children wants the family passports seized. Ten family friends traveled from California to Nebraska in support of the Wangs at a court hearing. Only newspaper publicity after a month of detention caused an improvement in the family's condition. Nebraska now plans to send the children back to California, but still under control of California child protectors. We enclose two news articles below, there is also a commentary on Richard Wexler's blog for July 12, 2009.
Dear Mom and Dad, We love you a lot. Remember that. We know you're doing everything you can to bring us back home and we are very thankful. Love you a lot.
Palo Alto parents fight for children's return from Nebraska foster care
By Patrick May, Mercury News, Posted: 07/07/2009 06:16:41 PM PDT, Updated: 07/08/2009 09:02:50 AM PDT
A Stanford University physicist and his wife, whose kids have been held in a Nebraska foster home for more than a month after an ugly family altercation, will appear this morning in a courtroom outside Omaha, hoping to persuade a judge to let their children come back home.
The bizarre chain of events began when the couple — Suwen Wang, a visiting scholar at Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory, and his wife, paralegal Charlotte Fu — traveled to Nebraska last month so their 12-year-old daughter, Alice, could be honored in an international art competition. On June 6, a witness told police the parents had hit their son, 13, while their car was parked on a road outside Omaha.
"This is an Orwellian nightmare," said Larry Markosian, a computer scientist at NASA/Ames Research Institute and longtime friend of Wang and his family.
"Every family occasionally has difficulty raising kids, especially teenage boys. I don't know what happened. But we know they are a loving and kind family and we see no reason whatsoever to keep these kids in a foster home so far from the community they grew up in."
Both Wang and Fu deny striking their son.
According to police, a witness saw Fu get out of their car and punch the boy, sitting in the back seat, in the face several times. The couple's Omaha attorney, Michael Nelson, said "there was an incident with their son. He was needling his sister, and they pulled over to discipline him," he said. "He used an expletive to his mom, but beyond that I can't go into specifics."
Nelson said the incident lasted "probably for 20 minutes or so, as they lectured the son. A witness made the call after watching from their front lawn."
No formal charges
After the boy allegedly pushed his mom away, police said, Wang turned around from the front seat and also hit him several times in the face. Nelson said the boy was not treated for any injuries. Wang and Fu were arrested and kept in jail for two nights before posting a $250 cash bond each, said Nelson, adding that they had not been formally charged in the abuse case.
Wang and Fu declined to comment to the Mercury News about the incident. The Mercury News is not naming the boy because of the nature of the case.
But according to accounts in the Omaha World-Herald, the responding officer said Fu had blood on her face from a cut on her nose and that the children appeared to be upset.
The couple and their attorneys hope to persuade the judge to allow Nebraska child-welfare officials to work with their California counterparts and speed the children's return back home.
Alice's paintings clinched the North American division of the 2009 International Children's Painting Competition and the parents hope she'll be able to travel to South Korea for an Aug. 17 ceremony where the worldwide winner will be announced.
Nelson suggested that the parents' ethnicity may be playing a role in the case. "The parents and children are all U.S. citizens," said their attorney. But the court-appointed guardian for the children is trying to take away their passports.
"These are people of Chinese descent, and it's as if authorities see some dark cloud here or fear there's something more to this than this one incident."
However, the Omaha paper referred to "California documents" that state Wang and Fu have "a 'previous history of domestic violence,' explaining that the father restrained the mother after she threatened to leave during a 2008 argument."
In an interview with the Omaha paper, Fu seemed to be making a special plea to authorities on her daughter's behalf, saying "this whole thing has nothing to do with Alice. She has become the ultimate victim." And traveling to South Korea "would be a lifetime opportunity for her. It would be devastating for her to not go."
Kathie Osterman with Nebraska's Department of Health and Human Services said her agency "is working with California to get the kids back home. I don't know what the time frame might be, because there are a lot of people to work with on this."
Paul Sullivan, the Cass County deputy attorney handling the matter, did not return phone calls for comment.
Osterman could not say how unusual it was for authorities to remove children from parents visiting from another state and hold them for weeks so far from home. She did confirm that the court order required the foster family to monitor the children's e-mail and telephone calls with their parents.
And it was details like that that have rallied dozens of supporters to the parents' side, including 10 who have made the trip to Nebraska for today's court hearing.
Nebraska officials said they are simply carrying out a court order meant to protect the children. But Markosian, who is the boy's assistant scoutmaster and who helped organize a news conference Tuesday evening at the Omaha Children's Museum, said Nebraska was guilty of overkill.
"These kids are very much involved in the Palo Alto community, with Boy Scouts, art and Chinese lessons," said Markosian. "And they are being ripped away from not only their family but from their whole community."
Markosian on Tuesday read aloud from an e-mail he says Alice sent June 17 to her parents.
"Dear Mom and Dad," it said. We "love you a lot. Remember that. We know you're doing everything you can to bring us back home and we are very thankful. Love you a lot."
Markosian said the girl signed her e-mail with 10 exclamation points.
Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689.
Source: San Jose Mercury News
Palo Alto kids will be returned to Santa Clara County; may not go home
By Patrick May, email@example.com, Posted: 07/08/2009 05:23:40 PM PDT, Updated: 07/09/2009 09:53:19 AM PDT
Two Palo Alto children taken from their parents last month and put in a foster home after a family fight near Omaha will be returning to the Bay Area after Nebraska authorities agreed Wednesday to turn over the case to child-welfare officials in Santa Clara County.
The parents — Stanford University physicist Suwen Wang and his wife, paralegal Charlotte Fu — still face misdemeanor criminal charges in Nebraska for allegedly striking their 13-year-old son in the face during an altercation, said their attorney, Michael Nelson. Both deny hitting the boy and will plead not guilty to charges of assault, child abuse and disturbing the peace, said Nelson.
The boy and his sister, 12-year-old Alice Fuzi Wang, should be back in their home county in a matter of days following a judge's approval of the multiagency agreement at a Wednesday court hearing in Nebraska. Where they'll go after that, however, is still up in the air.
"They're residents here so we want them back," said Carol Robinson, Santa Clara County's lead deputy county counsel for the child dependency unit. After a social worker completes an investigation, she said, the children could be placed in one of several places.
"Obviously our first choice is to return them home to their parents," said Robinson. "If we can't do that, then our second choice is a relative or what we call a nonrelative extended family member. Based on news accounts, I think this family has a lot of strong friends and they'd absolutely be considered for that under our rules."
Neither parent would comment on the case. Sharon Silverman, a longtime family friend who lives in Kensington and once worked as an attorney with Fu, said the family was emotionally drained but thrilled to be getting their children back after being separated since the incident on June 6 in Plattsmouth, Neb.
"This has been an exhausting situation for them," said Silverman, one of about 10 friends who traveled from the Bay Area to support the family during Wednesday's court hearing.
"They're very, very happy. It's the very best outcome for this. They're coming back to California which is where they belong."
Wang and Fu had taken their family to Omaha because their daughter was being honored in a United Nations-sponsored international art exhibit. During a short road trip, they pulled over to the side of the road and an altercation broke out. According to police, a witness saw Fu get out of the car and punch her son in the face several times. Nelson said the boy had been "needling his sister, and they pulled over to discipline him." The father then struck the boy in the face, a witness told police.
According to Nelson and accounts in the Omaha World-Herald, the responding officer said Fu had blood on her face from a cut on her nose and that the children appeared to be upset. The parents were arrested and spent two nights in jail before being released on bond.
Wang and Fu are still hoping their daughter can travel next month to South Korea as part of the international art contest that first brought her to Omaha. It's unclear whether Santa Clara County child-welfare officials will allow the family to travel out of the country.
In an interview earlier this week with the Omaha World-Herald, Fu called Alice "the ultimate victim" in this case and said that traveling to South Korea "would be a lifetime opportunity for her. It would be devastating for her to not go."
Neither the county attorney handling the criminal matter in Nebraska nor officials with that state's Department of Health and Human Services returned calls seeking comment.
Patrick May may also be reached at 408-920-5689.
Source: San Jose Mercury News
Addendum: The family has been reunited in California, but must still jump through hoops (counseling). Nebraska is continuing its efforts to convict the parents of a crime.
Nasty feelings linger
The case of the Stanford physicist who temporarily lost custody of his kids in Nebraska in June after allegedly punching his son during an argument back there took a happy turn for the family when authorities back there and in Santa Clara County agreed to turn the kids back over to him and his wife -- but the bad feelings linger.
Physicist Suwen Wang and his wife, Charlotte Fu, will be receiving family counseling as part of the agreement for them to get their 12-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son back. Unpersuaded that everything is now peachy and settled, however, Nebraska authorities have not dropped misdemeanor criminal charges against the couple -- disturbing the peace -- for the June 6 incident in which a witness allegedly saw them punch their son in a car as the family was headed to the airport after seeing an award-winning painting exhibit by 12-year-old daughter Alice Wang. The couple deny doing so.
The whole issue of the witness, who called authorities and got the ball rolling against the family, still has Wang's attorney fuming. Nebraska law is more stringent than California law on such matters, he said, and out here the police probably would have investigated a bit further before tossing the parents in the clink and the kids into foster care. Which is what happened back in Nebraska.
And which leads us to the comment here by the local lawyer that admittedly probably does not accurately describe the facts in parts east, but certainly reflects his frustration.
"This whole thing in Nebraska was overblown," said attorney John Forsyth of San Francisco. "When some inbred sitting on her porch drinking a bottle of red eye with two hound dogs can call 911 and get your kids taken away, it's a good thing to come back to the land of the enlightened."
Authorities in Nebraska aren't talking, citing confidentiality in cases involving children.
Posted By: Kevin Fagan (Email) | July 15 2009 at 11:26 AM
Source: San Francisco Chronicle