Ruling in Mankato malnutrition case upheld by Court of Appeals

Published 9:25 am Tuesday, November 19, 2013

ST. PAUL — A court was right to strip a Minnesota couple of their parental rights to an adopted 8-year-old son who was so malnourished when authorities intervened that he weighed what a boy half his age should weigh, the state Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

Although the boy was justifiably removed from the Nicollet County home of Mona and Russell Hauer, there is no reason to terminate Hauers’ custody of their three other children, which the county was considering doing, the appeals court’s three-judge panel ruled.

The boy was the average weight of a 4-year-old when authorities intervened. He had developed unusual food behaviors that officials say were made worse by his parents’ actions. Both rulings stressed that the parents should have pursued medical help sooner and expressed alarm that they complained over treatment he eventually received.

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“While a reasonable person’s opinions on parenting might vary, a child’s physical condition should not be allowed to deteriorate to near-fatal malnutrition before his caregivers conclude that their parenting strategy for the child’s nutritional problems are inadequate,” Appeals Judge David Minge wrote in Monday’s ruling

Mona and Russell Hauer, of North Mankato, reached plea deals on neglect charges and will be sentenced later this month. The Alford pleas allowed them to maintain their innocence while acknowledging a jury could convict based on the state’s evidence.

The Hauers adopted the boy and his two siblings from an abusive household in 2008; the couple has a biological child as well.

The boy, who is identified only by his initials in court records, has been with foster parents since being released from the hospital last year and has exhibited normal eating habits.

Jason Kohlmeyer, the couple’s attorney, said they have no immediate plans to ask the state Supreme Court to step in.

“They’re disappointed about the one child not coming back but they’re equally happy about the other kids that will stay with them,” Kohlmeyer said.