HOUSTON: A family court judge in Dallas has ruled that the 4-year-old sister of Sherin Mathews, the Indian toddler found dead in a culvert in Texas last month, will soon leave foster care to live with an extended family member, according to media reports today.
US Child Protective Services (CPS) officials had removed the girl after Sherin, 3, was reported missing October 7 by her Indian-American adoptive father Wesley Mathews.
CPS spokesperson Marissa Gonzales said the mother, Sini Mathews, and her family have been cooperative.
"Well a home study was done on family members. We're just waiting on everyone to be in agreement that that's the place for her. Then she can be moved to the family member's home,"
she was quoted as saying by WBAP radio station.
Once the child is placed in the home, the length of time is uncertain, she said without naming the child.
"At this point everything is temporary. The final decision will come from a judge and we don't know when that will be," said Gonzales.
It was not publicly clear yesterday which relatives would have custody of the child or what kind of visitation the girl's biological mother, Sini Mathews, would have with her, the the Dallas Morning News reported.
Sini, a registered nurse, has not been charged with a crime. She has been able to visit her daughter in foster care once a week, WFAA-TV reported.
The hearing to decide who will have permanent custody is now set for November 29.
Wesley, who has since been charged in connection with Sherin's death, remains in the Dallas County Jail on a charge of injury to a child. Bail has been set at USD 1 million. The crime is punishable with up to 99 years in prison.
The 37-year-old, from Kerala, did not attend yesterday's hearing, but his attorney, David Kleckner, did.
Wesley had initially said he sent Sherin outside to an alley near their house about 3 am because she refused to drink her milk.
He later changed his story and to say he "physically assisted" Sherin with her milk, and admitted to removing her body from the home after she choked and stopped breathing, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
The cause of death is still pending for Sherin, who was missing for two weeks before her body was found on October 22 from a culvert by a cadaver dog during a massive search near her home in Richardson city.
Some of the proceedings of the custody hearing yesterday were delayed yesterday because of "aggravated circumstances"
in the case, which was widely reported in the international media.
The Dallas court did not address what those "aggravated circumstances" were, and attorneys for Sherin's mother declined to comment about the reasons for the delay, the Dallas Morning News report said.
Sini, surrounded by her attorneys, reporters and cameras at the Henry Wade Juvenile Justice Center in downtown Dallas, did not comment after leaving court yesterday.
Kleckner, who represents Wesley only in the child custody proceedings, said that his client wants his wife or their family to have custody of their surviving daughter.
Kleckner said outside the courtroom that Wesley wants to make it clear "he loves his children and his wife and he's a good family man."
Wesley and Sini first appeared in court on October 23 to try to regain custody of the biological daughter who was taken into CPS custody after Sherin was reported missing.
Judge Cheryl Shannon first pushed the custody hearing back to November 19 while Wesley looked for a civil attorney.
Sherin's death prompted External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to ask the Indian Embassy in the US to be actively involved in the case and keep her informed. She also sought a probe into the adoption process of Sherin, who was adopted by the Indian-American couple last year from an NGO in Bihar.
Following Sherin's case, India decided that passports to adopted children will be issued only with prior clearance by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.