DAD LOSES FIGHT FOR HAITIAN KIDS

Date: 1997-07-30

Journal Gazette, The (Fort Wayne, IN)

Author: Associated Press
Dateline: SHELBYVILLE

A year after Dan Blackburn was granted custody of 17 of his 28 adopted Haitian children, a judge has placed them with their adopted mother, saying Blackburn is unable to care for them properly.

On Friday, Judge Jack Tandy of Shelby Superior Court placed the children with Blackburn's ex-wife, Kathy Blackburn, after welfare authorities alleged he had failed to provide them with a clean, safe home.

``I've seen a lot of miracles these last few months, and I know God's in charge. I'm capable of taking care of these kids,'' said Kathy Blackburn, who adopted 28 Haitian children with her ex-husband as missionaries in Haiti.

Eleven of the children are now adults who live on their own.

In February, Shelby Circuit Judge Charles O'Connor ordered Dan Blackburn to go on welfare so he could better support the children.

O'Connor had granted Blackburn custody of the children last year after following the couple's bitter divorce.

But after workers from the Shelby County Department of Family and Children inspected the couple's former Shelbyville home and found unsanitary conditions, they went to court, seeking to remove them from Dan Blackburn's care.

In June, Kathy Blackburn agreed to move back into the home and care for the children, and her ex-husband moved elsewhere.

On Friday, welfare department officials said the children should be sent to a children's home.

But Tandy, swayed by testimony from some of the children, decided they should remain with Kathy Blackburn, pending further review, said Blackburn's lawyer, Michael Loveall.

``Basically, Dan Blackburn, although he appeared in all court procedures, relinquished his right of custody. He didn't contest the issue of his inability to raise those children,'' Loveall said.

``Now it's up to the court to determine what's in the best interest of those children, keeping in mind that . . . the ultimate goal is to reunite the family.''

During the last couple of months, Blackburn said she has not seen much of her ex-husband, and doesn't know where he's living.

Dan Blackburn could not be reached for comment. No ruling has been issued on his visitation rights.

Kathy Blackburn won't work while she's caring for the children, who range in age from 10 to adult. Most will attend school this fall, while a few who are old enough will work full time.

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