Mother Asks Judge to Let Her Visit Brain-Injured Daughter

The biological mother of a girl who authorities say was beaten into a coma by her adoptive mother and stepfather asked a judge Tuesday to resume her hospital visits, which were stopped by the state.

Attorneys for Allison Avrett argued the Department of Social Services never explained why she was barred her from seeing her 12-year old daughter in late July other than to say they were suspended "for the needs of the child."

Avrett sued the agency two weeks ago, seeking documentation regarding Haleigh Poutre's current care at Franciscan Children's Hospital in Boston for a severe brain injury.

Haleigh was at the center of a right-to-die case last year before she began to show improvement.

Sarah Joss, a lawyer for the Department of Social Services, said one of the reasons visitation should not be resumed is that a juvenile court has already ruled that Avrett has no legal rights in the case.

The judge did not immediately rule.

Avrett's lawsuit also seeks information about the adoption. Avrett, who lives in Agawam, gave up her parental rights when she let her sister, Holli Strickland and her husband, Jason Strickland, adopt the girl. Avrett has said she felt pressured by a social worker who said the agency would take Avrett's then-unborn child unless she agreed to the adoption.

One of Avrett's lawyers, Wendy Murphy, argued in court that the entire adoption process should be void because Avrett and Haleigh were residents of Virginia at the time and Massachusetts had no jurisdiction over the matter. That issue will not be decided in this case.

Authorities say the girl was severely beaten by the Stricklands in September 2005. The state took custody after she was hospitalized.

A juvenile court judge granted the agency permission to remove her from life support. But after a legal battle between DSS and Jason Strickland — who wanted her kept on life support — Haleigh began to show signs of improvement.

Holli Strickland died alongside her grandmother in an apparent murder-suicide two weeks after pleading innocent to assault charges in September 2005. Jason Strickland has pleaded not guilty to assault and battery charges in Haleigh's beating.