Child-welfare officials obtained an emergency court order to seize a baby just 24 hours after he was born, contending the infant would be unsafe because his father is a convicted sex offender.
The hospital, however, refused to hand over the infant so soon after birth, according to a lawyer representing the mother, Melissa WolfHawk.
WolfHawk, 31, planned to check out of the hospital Thursday night — against medical advice — without her son to prepare for a Friday court hearing, said Mary Catherine Roper, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing the mother.
The child was born Tuesday, and Schuylkill County Children and Youth Services was granted the order Wednesday. The agency expressed concerns that the boy could be in danger because his 53-year-old father, DaiShin WolfHawk, was convicted of rape and sodomy more than two decades ago in New York.
“Melissa is leaving the hospital tonight,” Roper said Thursday. “Schuylkill County is going to show up at the hospital sometime tomorrow morning to pick up the baby, who will be released when the hospital is ready to release him.”
A hospital administrator said Thursday he couldn’t talk about the issue, citing patient privacy rules.
Roper said the child services agency also raised concerns about the mother’s alleged history of drug abuse. A closed hearing on the petition was set for Friday in Pottsville, 75 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
The WolfHawks had already gone to court because county officials were asking about the pregnancy. A federal judge placed a temporary restraining order on county officials to keep them from doing so.
DaiShin WolfHawk said he and his wife were “appalled” at the county’s actions Wednesday.
“Here’s a baby being breast-fed by its mother, and they’re saying that the mother’s a danger to the baby,” DaiShin WolfHawk said by phone Thursday. “What were they doing? They were trying to grab the baby before it even had its shots, circumcised, anything.”
The boy, whose name he declined to disclose, was born at Jennersville Regional Hospital in West Grove, about 60 miles south of Pottsville, where Melissa WolfHawk lives. Mother and child were still together at the hospital as of Thursday morning.
Karen Rismiller, attorney for the county agency, did not immediately return a phone message left at her office Thursday morning.
DaiShin WolfHawk pleaded guilty under the name John Joseph Lentini in 1983 to rape and sodomy in a case involving two teenage girls.
At Monday’s hearing, the county produced a doctor’s report that Melissa WolfHawk had acknowledged using cocaine and methamphetamine and working as a prostitute, and a New York parole document indicating DaiShin WolfHawk sexually abused his daughter. The WolfHawks have vigorously denied those allegations.