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Kan. J.L. & Pub. Pol'y.


In 1997, an Ohio court terminated Peggy Fugate’s parental rights to her sixyear-old daughter, Selina. At the time, Ms. Fugate, an incarcerated drug abuser, did not fight the order, believing her daughter would be adopted into a clean, stable home.1 However, Selina was never adopted. For the next seven years, Selina had trouble with the police and ran away from her foster home numerous times. While Selina’s life was going downhill in many respects, her mother was rehabilitating. She entered recovery, married, obtained full-time employment and was living in stable housing with enough room for her daughter. Recognizing the strides that Ms. Fugate had made, the juvenile court allowed Selina to visit her. Wanting some legal recognition of the parent-child relationship that they had now developed, in 2003, Ms. Fugate petitioned the court for custody of Selina. While the lower courts found no bar to Ms. Fugate’s custody petition, the Supreme Court of Ohio held that “a parent who has lost permanent custody of a child does not have standing as a nonparent to file a petition for custody for that child.”2 The judges, in issuing the opinion, empathized with Selina and made it clear that the decision was based solely on the current understanding of the law, stating: “[W]e recognize that Selina’s situation is not ideal . . . . In denying standing to [her mother] . . . we are following the statute as written.