Indianola mom’s situation raises question: If you call police for help during a domestic disturbance, will you lose your kids? (2024)

Exposing children to domestic violence commonly leads to abuse and neglect charges and can result in loss of custody, experts say.

But in the case of Nakala Murry, an Indianola mother facing neglect allegations, it was a police officer responding to her call for help, not her ex-partner who was causing trouble, that left her then-11-year-old son with a gunshot wound to the chest.

Jennifer Morgan, manager of the family defense program at the Office of the State Public Defender, said it’s often called “failure to protect.” The program represents parents in child welfare proceedings, including some who are domestic violence survivors facing custody loss because their children were in the home when the violence happened.

Neglect allegations against Murry are based on the presence of her children during a domestic violence call the early morning of May 20, 2023 and the gunshot wound to her son, Aderrien.

The boy was not hurt because of domestic violence between his mother and her former partner, as the neglect petition claims, but by Sgt. Greg Capers, who responded to the domestic disturbance call, said Carlos Moore, the family’s attorney.

Murry is suing Capers, the city and police department over the shooting and has continued to pursue misdemeanor charges against Capers after a grand jury declined to indict him.

An adjudication hearing on the abuse and neglect charges is scheduled for Wednesday to determine whether Aderrien, his sister and cousin have been neglected and need to be removed from Nakala Murry’s custody.

Tonya Rogillio, who works with Morgan as the family defense interdisciplinary team coordinator, said the message sent to parents is that if they call the police, they could lose their children.

“[Murry] didn’t do anything wrong and her kid got shot by a police officer, and now she’s being punished for doing what she had to do,” she said.

Rogillio is a social worker who previously worked for the Mississippi Department of Child Protection Services.

When reports came to the agency about a child in a home where domestic violence is occurring, they were typically recorded as neglect or emotional abuse, she said. The next steps would be for an investigation to be completed and services to be offered to the family if the allegations were found to be true.

A spokesperson for MDCPS did not respond to a request for comment.

Between 2017 and 2020, neglect accounted for over 70% of all types of maltreatment children experienced in Mississippi, according to child welfare outcome reports mandated by the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act. However, the data did not break down the type of neglect, such as exposure to domestic violence.

In youth court, judges set the expectations, and outcomes vary by county, Morgan said.

Some judges see exposure to domestic violence as failure by the parent to protect their children and order them to be removed from the home immediately, she said. In other jurisdictions, MDCPS is able to work with the family to provide services to help address issues and keep them together.

Children exposed to domestic violence are at an increased risk of maltreatment and physical abuse, with an estimated 30 to 60 percent of the children of survivors experiencing maltreatment, according to research cited by the Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody.

Morgan, who previously practiced in youth court, said many counties will remove children from a parent’s custody but allow them return later on.

She said not many of the cases she handled involving domestic violence did not result in parental rights termination, which ends the legal parent-child relationship and allows a child to be adopted.

Currently, attorneys representing parents are not mandatory by law, and if they are provided they are primarily paid for by counties, Morgan said. The Office of the State Public Defender partners with counties, courts, legal service agencies and private practice attorneys to provide representation.

To help fill gaps, the parent defender program is looking to develop interdisciplinary teams that bring together parent defenders, social workers and peer support specialists to help their clients.

“An interdisciplinary team would be invaluable to that mother (in Indianola),” Rogillio said.

-- Article credit toMina Corpuz of Mississippi Today --

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Indianola mom’s situation raises question: If you call police for help during a domestic disturbance, will you lose your kids? (2024)


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