Army vet mom fights for custody of special needs children after tours of duty

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Army veteran mom fights New Jersey for custody of special needs children
Diana Williams has the story

NEW JERSEY -- When Amanda Hurst went to Iraq and Afghanistan, she left her two children behind with her stepmother. But she never imagined the war she would wage once she got back home - just to get her kids back.

Hurst said she left her children with her stepmother in 2009 when they were 7 and 8 years old so she could join the Army, hoping to build a better life for her and her kids.

But just before her honorable discharge in 2013, Hurst says her stepmom, who had guardianship, moved to New Jersey with the children.

Because of their special psychological needs, they ended up in the care of the state's Department of Children and Families, Hurst says.

Hurst says her daughter had discipline issues and her son became aggressive toward their step-grandmother, which prompted the State of New Jersey to take custody.

To this day, both remain in foster care.

"I've missed so much of their lives serving my country," Hurst said. "I don't want to miss anymore."

According to court documents, New Jersey agrees the two children belong with their mother in Florida, with a condition.

"The condition is that the emergency services being provided by New Jersey continue on here in Florida, because the children do need special services," Hurst's lawyer, Brad Sherman, said.

DCF spokesman John Herrel says the agency has the authority to investigate if allegations of abuse or neglect happened in Florida.

According to court documents, there are no such allegations. A spokesman says DCF is working with authorities in New Jersey to bring the children to Florida, hopefully bringing Amanda's plight to a successful conclusion - a family reunion.

"I hope that one day when they are older, they understand that mom didn't give up," Hurst said.

Once she gets her children back, Hurst said she's "gonna hug them and then we're gonna go to Disney World."

A hearing is scheduled this week to determine when and if Hurst's children will be brought to Florida.