Allain custody decision delayed

Date: 2004-07-14
Source: sptimes.com

The judge in the Arthur and Lori Allain child custody case is awaiting further studies before deciding where to place the couple's children.

By DUANE BOURNE

BROOKSVILLE - A judge said on Tuesday he needs more time to decide whether the sons of a Hernando couple accused of child abuse and neglect could be placed with their older sister.

Meanwhile, Arthur and Lori Allain's four sons will remain in state care until attorneys appointed to represent the boys interview them and the remaining requirements for a home study are completed on Tiffany Staab's Spring Hill home.

Tuesday's hearing, however, leaves open the chance that the 26-year-old Staab, or even the Allains themselves, could be reunited with the boys after psychological exams are performed. Once they are completed and Circuit Court Judge William Hallman III reviews the assessments and reports from the state's Guardian Ad Litem program, Hallman will decide on their placement.

Lori Allain, 47, is scheduled to undergo the psychological test today. The test will also be performed on her children over the next two weeks.

"All possibilities are open," said Department of Children and Families attorney Michael Hopkins of the possibility of the Allains regaining custody. "The reports will give us some direction on where we are going."

On June 18 Lori Allain and her husband, Arthur Allain, 46, were arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse and child neglect after an abuse complaint forced DCF to pull a10-year-old girl from the Allains' Hurricane Drive home.

The girl's 14-year-old half-brother ran away from the Allains' home and told authorities that his sister had been locked in a bedroom for days with only a paint bucket to use as a toilet.

After the Allains' arrest, their sons, ranging in age from 10 to 15, were placed in the custody of their 21-year-old sister, Kristen Staab. The Allains later posted bail, and lived with Kristen Staab and the boys until new allegations arose that Arthur Allain and one of the boys sexually abused the 10-year-old girl. The Allains have denied all allegations.

Since then, the girl's abuse case has been overshadowed by court proceedings involving supervision of the Allains' children.

The purpose of Tuesday's hearing in Brooksville was to review the status of the home study Hallman ordered done on Tiffany Staab's home earlier this month. If the agency found nothing that would disqualify her, both Hopkins and the Allains' lawyer Jim Dysart agreed that there would no reason that the boys could not be placed with her.

However, Hallman learned on Tuesday that DCF workers began the home study with the fingerprinting and background checks on July 7, but were unable to complete the requirements on Tiffany Staab's boyfriend and a friend who provides her with transportation. Tiffany Staab does not own a car.

Dysart, reiterating his request that the boys be placed with relatives, suggested splitting them up among their sisters.

"I don't see why both daughters are not considered for placement," Dysart said.

They have, responded Hopkins. In fact, Hopkins told Hallman, the agency has exhausted all of its options.

The problem, Hopkins continued, remains the Allain daughters' ability to care for their brothers.

Tiffany Staab is five months pregnant with her third child, unemployed, has no income and no transportation. Further, under the rules of her Section 8 housing, Tiffany Staab's three-bedroom apartment would not be big enough for her children and her brothers.

The other reason, both Dysart and Hopkins reasoned, was that Kristen Staab disappeared with the four boys after they were ordered into state care following the sexual abuse allegations.

Lori Allain claimed that the boys had gone on a weekend tubing trip with Kristen Staab and her boyfriend Jason Barrett, and she was unable to reach them.

A three-day search, which included a nationwide bulletin saying the boys were missing and at risk, ended on July 2 when they walked into a Citrus County Courtroom. The boys were later placed in state custody where they remain; the two oldest are in a secured facility with 24-hour supervision, while the youngest are in foster care.

"It is clear that they need to be with family members that are responsible," Hallman said.

Dysart later asked that the Allains be allowed supervised visits with their children, particularly since the case has taken its toll on them. The couple is allowed to speak with their children once a week by telephone.

Lori Allain told Hallman that her youngest son is continually crying, vomitting and not eating properly.

"He can't get a word out without crying," Lori Allain said.

The request for supervised visits was denied.

- Duane Bourne can be reached at 352 754-6114 or dbourne@sptimes.com

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