If you ask anyone what it takes to be a good parent, you’ll get a variety of responses. However, the general consensus will be that a parent should be loving, caring, and supportive. Unfortunately, for two Oregon parents, these three things weren’t enough for them to keep their children.
Amy Fabbrini and Eric Ziegler have been fighting for nearly four years to prove to the state of Oregon that they are intellectually capable enough to raise their children after the Department of Human Services put them in foster care.
Despite the fact that the two children weren’t abused or neglected, the Department of Human Services has deemed them too “mentally limited” to be good parents. Now, many are torn on the state’s intervention and on who should really be able to decide when a parent isn’t good enough.
31-year-old Amy Fabbrini and 38-year-old Eric Ziegler are currently both unemployed but have steady housing in a three-bedroom abode owned by Ziegler’s parents. Eric receives Social Security benefits for a mental disability, which he claims is “very, very mild.”
Fabbrini admits that she loves kids and was granted shared custody of twin boys she had with her ex-husband. However, Fabbrini’s parenting abilities came into question when their son Christopher was born without either of them knowing she was pregnant.
Fabbrini misjudged her labor pains for kidney issues that previously afflicted her and gave birth unexpectedly in Ziegler’s home. After a hospital evaluation, both Fabbrini and her newborn son Christopher were determined to be healthy.
While the new parents were surprised, they didn’t second guess raising their son. However, the couple’s family weren’t so supportive and within days of them taking home Christopher, the state of Oregon was alerted with concerns.
According to Oregon Live, child welfare reports stated that Ziegler “has been sleeping with the baby on the floor and almost rolled over on him. There were also reports that Eric is easily frustrated and often forgets to feed his dog.”
Ziegler has defended himself against these accusations saying that he was simply lying next to his son while feeding him and that his dog is more than well-fed. However, psychological evaluations didn’t end up faring too well for the couple.
Oregon Live reports that Fabbrini’s IQ was determined to be about 72, which places her in the “extremely low to a borderline range of intelligence.” Ziegler’s IQ was found to be about 66, which places him in the “mild range of intellectual disability.” The average IQ is between 90 and 100.
The state of Oregon put Christopher in foster care. They were granted supervised visits because the parents were deemed to have “limited cognitive abilities that interfere with [their] ability to safely parent the child.”
Since having Christopher removed from them, Fabbrini and Ziegler have taken multiple parenting classes through the Women, Infants and Children agency, the nonprofit MountainStar, Healthy Families of the High Desert and more.
“We’ve just done everything and more than what they’ve asked us to do,” Fabbrini told Oregon Live, which Ziegler continued by saying, “It doesn’t seem like it’s good enough for them. They’re saying, ‘Who would parent Christopher better, the foster parents or the parents?’”
Just over three years after Christopher was born, Fabbrini and Ziegler had another child together, this time it was intentional. However, the state took custody of the baby, Hunter, while Fabbrini was still in the hospital.
“I honestly don’t understand why they can’t have their children,” Fabbrini’s aunt, Lenora Turner, says. “I go to the grocery store and I see other people with their children and they’re standing up in the grocery cart and I think, how come they get to keep their children? How do they decide whose child they’re going to take and whose can stay?”
Prior to Hunter’s birth, Ziegler and Fabbrini fought to have Christopher returned to them finding that the reasons their child was taken away weren’t sufficient enough. However, their lawyer’s motion ended up being unsuccessful.
Fabbrini and Ziegler’s story has garnered significant attention and the reaction tends to be somewhat split on whether they should have custody of their two children. Some argue that the children would have better upbringings elsewhere and others don’t believe that IQ correlates with one’s ability to parent.
Oregon Senator Tim Knopp, who has met with Fabbrini and Ziegler several times, told Oregon Live, “My impression of them is that they were just like any other couple, and they were trying to be successful in life…I didn’t see any issues when I met with them that would automatically disqualify them from being good parents.”
While the parents will continue to have supervised visitation rights, both children will remain in foster care unless there’s a change to Oregon’s parental rights law.