Fighting for Franklin

A white lawyer has him. His grandmother wants him back

Austin responded to Perry's letter by saying that Perry's conclusions were "overreaching beyond any scientific data available to this psychologist." Austin reported that his observation of Franklin and Moore through a one-way mirror led him to believe that the relationship was appropriate, that Moore reduced Franklin's anxiety and helped him adjust to his surroundings. Austin explained away the reports of inappropriate kissing and fondling, saying the observers probably misinterpreted the intimate handling of children customary in Moore's family. In Austin's opinion, Moore is a perfectly acceptable caretaker.

Perry disagrees sharply. "We have significant concerns about Mr. Moore's intentions and quality of caregiving," he wrote to Galik. "All information now available to us suggests very strongly that Franklin is best placed with his maternal grandmother, and that further contact with Mr. Moore is inappropriate and potentially destructive."

Concluded Perry: "Franklin has been poorly served by a system which has allowed this bizarre situation to occur."

In her yard, talking about her grandson, Virginia Howard cries sometimes, the tears glinting behind her wire-rimmed glasses. She dreads Monday morning, when Moore will pick Franklin up, reclaiming the boy for another two long weeks.

The case has made Howard despair of the legal system, and of her chances of receiving justice. "I looked at a document that said if someone takes care of your child a minimum of six months, they have [legal] standing," she says with a shake of her head. "It's creepy, because anyone could do that. You could be sick, you trust someone, and then they say, 'I have your child now.'"

Hawklike, she keeps her eyes on the boy as he plays. For this weekend, at least, he is hers to care for. For this weekend, she can protect him.

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