11/24/07 Father of five loses battle for parental rights

He says he plans to appeal the judge's order. His battle started in 2004.
By CURTIS KRUEGER, Times Staff Writer Published November 24, 2007

Greg Pound protests outside the criminal courts complex early Friday morning. Greg Pound believes the whole foster care system is corrupt. He regularly complains about the foster care system outside of the criminal courts complex, right near the main entrance. He just had his parental rights "terminated,'' meaning he has no legal right to raise his five children anymore.   
 

[Jim Damaske | Times]

 

Gregory Pound has battled the foster care system for years, ever since a purported "wolf dog" bit his 2-week-old baby in 2004 and child welfare workers took away his children.

He fought back in court, and has become increasingly visible by founding a Web site (www.rescuemykids.com) and staging regular protests outside Pinellas County's criminal courthouse. He even demonstrated outside a St. Petersburg church because a judge in his case worships there.

Now he has lost in court.

This month a judge terminated his parental rights - meaning he no longer has a legal right to raise his five children, ages 2 to 7.

"They called me today and told me that I have no more visits with my children," Pound, 51, said recently.

His wife's parental rights were severed earlier in the battle, he said. Melissa Pound disappeared last year, along with the couple's youngest child.

Gregory Pound said he plans to appeal.

"Love never gets up," he said, adding: "Me and Melissa both love our children, despite what they say."

The Pounds' four oldest children live in Seminole with Melissa's parents, Linda and Stephen Steenberge.

The Steenberges said they assumed at first the Pounds would complete a list of tasks known as a "case plan" to get their children back. But now that the Pounds' parental rights have been taken away, they said they intend to adopt the children.

"It's a tragic situation in the sense that it could have pretty much been avoided," said Stephen Steenberge, 64.

Tampa Bay news media covered the dog bite case in 2004, widely reporting that the Pounds' 2-week-old baby was bitten in the face by a "wolf hybrid." The dog was destroyed.

Since then, Pound has said that the dog belonged to his sister, who denied it was a wolf hybrid.

Soon after the bite, child welfare authorities removed the Pounds' four children from their home. The exact reasons are not clear because the records are not public.

Pound said child welfare officials claimed Melissa was suffering from depression, but he denied that. Pound also said he was asked to take a domestic violence class as part of a case plan in order to get his children back.

The Pounds completed parts of their case plans, but also fought unsuccessfully in court to prove the children should never have been taken away.

When Melissa gave birth to their fifth child last year, they named him Moses, after another baby whose mother sent him on a journey. Shortly after his 2006 birth, Melissa and the infant disappeared.

Pound was jailed for contempt of court for a month last year for failing to reveal her whereabouts, although he insisted he did not know where to find her.

Now, factions of the family are cut off from each other. Greg and Melissa Pound do not have a legal right to visit their four oldest children, who are living with the Steenberges.

Linda Steenberge, meanwhile, said she has not heard from her daughter Melissa and has not laid eyes on her grandchild, Moses.

"That would make me happy, just a phone call from her," Linda Steenberge said.

On the Web site, Pound claims that foster care workers remove children from families for money.

But Pinellas County sheriff's Capt. George Steffen said child abuse investigators work hard to find alternatives to removing children from their homes. "It's the absolute last resort," Steffen said.

When children are removed, foster care workers try to help moms and dads complete their case plans and bring their children home, said April Putzulu, a spokeswoman for the local foster care agency called the Safe Children Coalition.

"We are totally invested in returning children home to safe environments," she said.

[Last modified November 23, 2007, 21:53:49]

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