Bexar County

Boy Can Stay in Foster Home With Unvaccinated Parents: Judge

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A Bexar County judge denied an attorney's motion to remove a 5-year-old boy from his foster home because his foster parents aren't vaccinated against COVID-19.

Senior Judge Susan Reed initially ruled that the boy should be removed from Richard and Barbara Bernhardt's home, but she reversed her decision this week after learning that they have a medical condition, celiac disease, that they say prevents them from taking the vaccine, the San Antonio Express-News reported.

William "Bill" Keiler, the attorney representing the boy, said he's considering whether to appeal Reed's ruling because he feels moving the boy would be the best way to protect his health and safety.

Gaby Moreno, a conservatorship specialist for Texas Child Protective Services who handles the boy's case, said she hasn't received any training from her agency about COVID-19 protocols or policies for Texas foster parents.

"There's no regulations or new policy that I've heard of that we need to follow when it comes to foster homes or the children aside from the regular precautions that we're all taking (such as) masks and sanitizers," Moreno testified.

Richard and Barbara Bernhardt, the boy's foster parents, said they haven't been vaccinated because they have celiac disease, an autoimmune condition in which people can't eat gluten because it will damage their small intestine. There is no gluten in any of the three vaccines in use in the U.S., according to the Society for the Study of Celiac Disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises caution to people who are allergic to an ingredient in a COVID-19 vaccine or who had a negative reaction after receiving an initial dose.

Richard Bernhardt, 53, said he was nervous about the COVID-19 vaccines because his own father had an adverse reaction to the shot. "I'm a little more concerned about some of the consequences and some of the reactions that he had," he testified.

Richard Bernhardt told the court that he does plan to get his first dose of the vaccine, but that his wife does not plan to do so.

Moreno also testified that moving the boy would "destroy" him.

The child "was in a previous placement when we removed him in January," Moreno said. "All he did from January to July was have major tantrums and aggression and begging the foster parents he was with to take him back home to the foster family where he is placed now."

Moreno noted it would be difficult to find the boy another home because so many foster children are waiting for places to live.

Richard Bernhardt expressed elation at the ruling. If the boy isn't returned to his biological parents, the Bernhardts plan to adopt him.

Copyright Associated Press
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