Girl Saved From Closet Placed With Original Foster Parents

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An 8-year-old girl found last month locked in a closet and severely malnourished has been released from the hospital and placed with the Van Zandt County couple that tried to adopt her at birth.

The girl weighed only 25 pounds when she was found June 11 after being locked in a feces- and urine-covered closet in her parent's home in Hutchins.

She has gained weight and her health improved greatly in Children's Medical Center in Dallas, said Marleigh Meisner, spokeswoman for Child Protective Services. She could not give further details about the girl's condition.

The girl will live with Bill and Sabrina Kavanaugh, who became licensed foster parents, while the Canton-area couple seeks adoption of the child.

"For now, CPS will continue to work with the family to ensure her medical and emotional needs will be met," Meisner said.

After conducting a home study, CPS has recommended that the Kavanaughs be allowed to adopt the girl, according to court documents.

Neither the couple or their lawyer, David Cole, could immediately be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

CPS specialist Joseph F. Bielski said the couple was fit to care for a child with attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity, eating disorders and learning disabilities.

Bielski, however, noted that the couple "will need support during the first placement because they are overly excited and may not realize the full meaning of having a child with. . . (the girl's) needs in their home."

Cole said Tuesday he's optimistic the state will allow the couple to adopt the girl.

Before the couple can adopt the girl, she must live with them for six months. The couple also must pass an adoption study, and the birth parents' rights must be terminated. Last month, Barbara Atkinson, the girl's mother, said that she would relinquish her parental rights.

The Kavanaughs had tried to adopt the girl at birth, but had to give her up because their attorney did not terminate the mother's parental rights.

The Kavanaughs have visited the girl regularly.

"They're trying to introduce the Kavanaughs into her life slowly, so when the placement happens, it will be something she will be looking forward to," Cole said.

Authorities say the girl was sexually abused and locked in a filthy closet or other confined space for up to four years.

Barbara Atkinson and her husband Kenneth Atkinson remain in jail on charges of injury to a child with serious bodily injury.

Barbara Atkinson is being held in lieu of $100,000 bond and Kenneth Atkinson is being held without bond because of a warrant from Ellis County. They each face five to 99 years in prison if convicted.

A document filed Tuesday with the court ruled out a Willis Point man as the girl's birth father.

The girl's five siblings remain in state custody. No one is seeking permanent placement for four of them but the birth father of one of the children is seeking custody of that child.