Gardner, Kansas, family is torn apart... again

Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 9:25 PM CST
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GARDNER, Kan. (KCTV) - John and Nicole DeHaven are once again bracing for heartbreak.

KCTV5 has learned that a Wyandotte County judge overturned a decision by Secretary Laura Howard, head the of Kansas Department for Children and Families, that would have allowed a Gardner family to adopt 3-year-old Mena.

Mena has lived with John and Nicole DeHaven since birth.

The DeHavens had been fighting DCF to adopt Mena. The state wanted to reunite the child with her siblings and have Mena be relocated with a new family in Manhattan, Kansas.

In her ruling, Judge Jane Wilson wrote that the decision by Secretary Howard was made based on limited information:

“By her testimony, Secretary Howard read court reports and some court filings and listened to the testimony of the DeHaven’s at a state legislative session. It is this Court’s understanding that the basis of the Secretary’s decision was limited to that information.”

Of Secretary Howard’s decision to order the sibling split based on an extreme circumstance, Judge Wilson wrote:

“Unfortunately, for families involved in foster care, this is hardly an extreme circumstance in this system. Foster parents often have children placed with them since birth and for extended periods of time, prior to being adopted by another adoptive resource. It’s the hard truth about foster care and adoptions. But, these circumstances are hardly extreme.”

Wilson also said directly placing Mena in a home separate from her siblings and in a home that would, by all accounts, cut off all ties to Mena’s biological siblings was not in Mena’s best interest.

The judge ordered the removal Mena from the custody of DCF and directly placed her in the custody of the family in western Kansas.

Nicole DeHaven told KCTV5 she and her husband will not be seeking an appeal, as foster care cases cannot be appealed in Kansas. DeHaven said they are planning to fight the ruling and are looking into the next step.

Previous coverage:

Family in Gardner, Kansas, fights to stay together

Gardner family adopts foster child after months-long battle

‘I don’t want to move to Manhattan’: Another Kansas family comes forward with concerns about DCF