Boy Arrested For Not Wearing A Bike Helmet, Held For 2 Years, Mother Sued For Boy's Living Expenses

Calgary mom sued for Oregon foster care
CBC News

Aug. 01, 2010

The Oregon government is suing a Calgary mother for the cost of keeping her son in foster care for two years while she fought for his return to Canada.

The boy, now 12, was visiting his stepfather in Oregon in 2008 when police there picked him up for not wearing his bike helmet.

U.S. officials didn't recognize the boy's stepfather as a legal guardian, so he was sent to a foster home, setting off a long legal battle. A U.S. judge finally allowed him to return to live with his mother and younger sister in Calgary last month.

This week, the mother -- who cannot be identified along with her son -- received a notice from the provincial court of Alberta that Oregon wants to be reimbursed for child support and medical costs incurred while the boy was under the state's care.

"I find it amazing how quickly and how well the two countries have worked together in sending this lawsuit to me pretty darn quick when my son was stuck down in the U.S. for almost two years," she told CBC News.

The notice does not outline exactly how much Oregon officials are seeking to recoup, but the mother said her son, who requires medication, saw several specialists when he was in the U.S.

Worried about legal costs

"Oregon has all my financial records of course," she said. "They know that I wouldn't be financially able to do that. I can take care of my children while they're here but not under the American system when they don't have any health-care coverage."

Tony Merchant, the Canadian lawyer who helped get the boy back to Canada, said this action was never mentioned in court.

"It's bizarre. If it weren't so sad it would be humorous. I've never heard of a state doing this before," he said.

A spokesman from Oregon's Justice Department said he can't comment on specific cases, but said the state generally tries to recoup the cost of foster care.

The mother is required to appear in provincial court on Sept. 14, but she's worried that legal aid won't be able to cover an international case.

Alberta's Children and Youth Services will not get involved in the case because "it is a private legal matter," said government spokesman Tom Olsen on Thursday.

With files from the CBC's Elizabeth Snaddon

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