Unwanted children: What happens when parents no longer want their kids in Butler County?

Credit: Journal News

Middletown City Schools hosts a celebration of life vigil in memory of 6-year-old James Hutchinson

Credit: Journal News

The alleged murder of a Middletown 6-year-old by his mother has called into question what can be done if parents don’t want their kids anymore, and legal experts say they can’t just give up their children.

After allegedly confessing to running her son over in her vehicle and disposing of in the Ohio River, Brittany Gosney, 29, of Middletown is facing a murder charge. Her boyfriend, James Hamilton, 42, was charged with abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.

According to the Preble County Sheriff’s Office report, Gosney said she was under pressure from Hamilton to get rid of Hutchinson and his two siblings, ages 9 and 7.

In an unrelated case, Hamilton resident Rebecca Houck, 30, was indicted in Warren County on Monday for disposing of her 23 to 27 week old fetus in a trash can at the Motel 75 in Monroe, according to Prosecutor David Fornshell. She has been charged with gross abuse of a corpse, a fifth-degree felony.

In Ohio, Safe Haven laws allow parents who feel unable to care for their newborns, up to 30 days old, to legally leave them with medical personnel at hospitals, fire departments or with a police officer, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

After that parents, are not allowed to abandon their children, and they can be prosecuted if they do, according Butler County Assistant Prosecutor Jim Monk, chief of the Juvenile Division. He said they haven’t had many parents who have voluntarily wanted to relinquish custody.

“Times I’ve dealt with them, maybe we’re getting ready to file or something, and we’ll let them know the consequences,” Monk said. “Hey, that’s fine if you want to give your kid up, but you have a duty to this child until they are 18. Unless there is some kind of safety or harm (issue) with a family member or younger siblings or the parents themselves, then you have to deal with this child. There are resources for that ... you just can’t give up.”

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Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell said with older children the best course of action is to contact Children Services, but it is not as “entanglement free” as dropping the child off at a fire station.

“You’re going to have to court, you’re going to have to explain this in court, there is going to be a process in place,” Fornshell said. “You don’t just go drop your 6-year-old off at Children Services and say my boyfriend thinks this is too much for me and it impacts our life so we just can’t do this right now.”

Butler Chief Assistant Prosecutor Dan Ferguson put out a statement Thursday saying while Butler County Children Services did not have any contact with Gosney previously, since their office will be prosecuting the case BCCS will not be making any statements or releasing any information.

Warren County Children Services Director Susan Walther said child welfare agencies have the ability to open a file if a parent is feeling desperate and coordinate services such as mental health and addiction counseling, parenting classes, help for troubled children and even housing assistance.

“We’re not only dealing with families that are abusing or neglecting their children, we want to help families in our community,” she said adding if they fear they might harm their child, they definitely need to call Children Services or law enforcement.

Tonya Buchanan, executive director of PARACHUTE, the county’s court appointed special advocates agency, said especially now, vulnerable families or those who know them, need to speak up.

“They can reach out to schools, many of our schools now have social workers and support staff put in place,” Buchanan said. “Parenting has become even more difficult with the pandemic, it’s a tough time to be a parent, I am by no means excusing her decisions or anything, but people need to reach out in schools and Children Services, they are good a good support system.”

Back in 2013 a Liberty Twp. couple was indicted for “recklessly abandoning or failing to provide adequate support to” their child. They were facing six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

They tried to return their 9-year-old son to Children Services — they adopted the child when he was three months old — because of their son’s “unruly and disturbing behavior.” They dropped him off at Children Services with a small suitcase and a note and didn’t tell him he was leaving their family for good.

Charges were dropped against the father and the mother plead to one count of attempted nonsupport of dependents, a second-degree misdemeanor, and received a suspended 90-day jail sentence. They eventually started the reunification process with their son.

Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser said he must decide every case individually. In that case the family had plenty of resources to try and help their child “but they just decided they didn’t want that one anymore.” However, if someone is in truly dire straits it’s different.

“I would have an impossible time in my own conscience prosecuting that person for abandonment, when they’re doing it in the best interest of the child, based on their circumstances,” Gmoser said.

Helpful phone numbers:

Butler County Children Services: 513-887-4055/800-325-2685

Mental Health & Addiction Recovery Services Board: 513-860-9240

Mobile Response & Stabilization Services (MRSS): Text or call 844-427-4747

JFS Benefits & Child Care Assistance (based on eligibility): 513-887-5600