Biological mom denied visitation

Relates to:
Date: 2006-10-19
By GEORGE GRAHAM

ggraham@repub.com

WESTFIELD - A judge will not force the state to restore hospital visiting privileges to the biological mother of child abuse victim Haleigh Poutre.

Suffolk County Superior Court Kathe Tuttman this week denied two of three emergency injunctions filed on behalf of Allison Avrett, of the Feeding Hills section of Agawam.

Along with the injunctions Avrett filed a $12.5 million lawsuit against the state Department of Social Services last month, saying she was coerced into giving the girl up for adoption and now is deprived of her companionship.

One of the two injunctions denied by Tuttman this week called for restoring Avrett's twice-monthly visits to her 12-year-old daughter at Franciscan Hospital for Children in Brighton where she has been since late January.

Although the DSS had initially allowed Avrett and her mother, Sandra L. Sudyka, to visit Haleigh twice a month those visits were suspended in February

DSS has had custody of Haleigh since Sept. 11, 2005 when her adoptive mother and step-father, Holli A. and Jason D. Strickland brought her to Noble Hospital with injuries, including a severe blow to the head, for which they were later charged.

The second denied injunction sought to restore Avrett's access to current medical information about the girl.

"We are obviously disappointed but we are not discouraged," said Avrett's lawyer Elizabeth Clague. "We absolutely have options and we will pursue those in terms of getting Allison in to see Haleigh."

Tuttman took no action on the third injunction requesting that DSS turn over all documents pertaining to Avrett.

"Everybody agrees and acknowledges and admits that we are entitled to that information," Clague said.

Tuttman took action on another issue which was impounded, Clague said.

Haleigh, for the first several months of her hospitalization at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state with little if any hope for recovery.

The battered and emaciated girl was the center of a right-to-die battle last year when the state sought to remove her life support.

But Haleigh started improving and is eating and breathing on her own. Sudyka has said that on their last visit, Haleigh was speaking a few words.

Clague said it was clear to observers that Haleigh had a "positive reaction" to her mother's visits.

"For (DSS) to restart and help establish contact with each other only to cavalierly yank it away is nothing but cruel and inhumane," Clague said.

DSS remains under court order not to disclose the girl's condition. "Nothing has changed," spokeswoman Denise Monteiro said yesterday when asked for an update.

On Sept. 22, after Holli and Jason Strickland were charged with beating the girl, Holli Strickland's biological grandmother and adopted mother, Constance F. Young, 71, apparently fatally shot Strickland and then killed herself in West Springfield, according to police.

Jason Strickland is free on $5,000 bail after pleading innocent in Hampden Superior Court to six counts of assault and battery on Haleigh.

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