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Trial begins for Arlington woman wanting children returned

FORT WORTH -- A mother’s home environment put her two children and her unborn baby in danger last year while they lived in Richland Hills, an attorney for the kids’ foster family told a Tarrant County jury Tuesday morning.

Kellye Swanda of Arlington noted to jurors that Whitney Walker admitted to using methamphetamine while she was pregnant with each child. In April 2007, two of the them tested positive for methamphetamine in their system, according to police.

“They are a Christian family,” Swanda said in her opening statement. The foster family wants to adopt Walker’s three children. “They take the children to church every Sunday.”

Swanda’s opening statement came on the first day of a trial in a Fort Worth family court to terminate Walker’s and the children’s father parental rights to them.

Child Protective Services placed the two children and her third child who was born in July 2007 in foster care after the two oldest children were found to have ingested methamphetamine. Walker had her fourth child a few months ago, but CPS did not take that child away.

Walker and the children’s grandmother, Janna Beau, were charged with endangering a child, but a Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict them on the charges in December.

The courtroom was packed with six attorneys on Tuesday morning before visiting State District Judge Mary Ellen Hicks. Two attorneys represented Walker while one each was there for Child Protective Services, the children’s father, foster family Laura and Carl Gorman and the children. One lawyer representing the state attorney general’s child support division was excused from the courtroom for the day.

Dustin Harris, the children’s father who is in prison, also was brought up by authorities for the trial.

Before Swanda’s opening statement, Mike Schneider of Arlington admitted to jurors that Walker, 22, had led a polluted life before April 5, 2007, the day she rushed her then 18-month-old to the hospital when he started to act oddly.

“Before then, she had made some bad choices. She had made mistakes, but she has changed her life,” Schneider said. “I’m not going to waste my breath beating up on the foster family because they are a good Christian family. But the reality is that they are foster parents.”

Testimony continued Tuesday afternoon in a Fort Worth family court courtroom.

The trial is expected to last a few days.