On Jan. 21, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned a case in which the custody of a five-year-old boy was awarded to grandparents who supposedly physically abused him instead of to a lesbian foster parent, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The boy was originally taken from his mother after it turned out that she had abused her other children. He was then sent to live with his maternal grandparents. However, he was soon transferred to the state's custody and sent to a foster parent after child protection workers discovered that he suffered fractures while living with the grandparents. The boy's advocate then asked the Madison County court to send him back to his grandparents; the court agreed, stating that he was better off living with them than with foster parent Rosemary Fontaine, a lesbian living with her partner in Will County.
However, the higher court found that the Madison County judge incorrectly rejected evidence of abuse that the Department of Children and Family Services presented, and ordered the boy back to state care.
The latest ruling left Fontaine extremely joyful, to say the least. 'I can't say how happy I am,' she told Windy City Times. 'The courts finally found that it was what was the best interest of the child that mattered.'
Fontaine admitted that, although she is grateful, the decision surprised her: 'I never expected it.' The whole process definitely had drawbacks, she said: ' [ Dealing with everything ] undermines [ one's ] ability to raise a child.'
Fontaine is definitely a fighter, but she is the first to acknowledge that she could not have won the battle without some assistance: 'I am so grateful for everyone's support,' she said, 'and that includes the help I got from Michael Brody [ of Winston & Strawn ] and Pat Logue [ senior counsel of the Midwest office of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund ] .'
In a Jan. 21 statement issued by Lambda Legal, Logue stated that ' [ i ] t's clear today that the Illinois Supreme Court understands that lesbian and gay parents can provide children with the love, support and guidance they need. ... Sexual orientation is not a relevant issue in choosing foster parents or in allowing good foster parents to permanently adopt children. All that needs to be determined is whether the child will be in a loving and nurturing environment.'
In the wake of the ruling, Fontaine plans on adopting the child. 'I just can't believe how long it took,' said Fontaine, who has two other adopted children. 'He was the first one to come and he's going to be the last to be adopted.'
Fontaine concluded by graciously saying that she hopes that she is not the only one to benefit from the decision: 'I truly hope that [ the ruling ] helps others—and if there's anything I can do to help other people in similar situations, I will.'