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Relatives of Children in State Custody Protest

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OGDEN, Utah (AP) -- A handful of grandparents and other relatives of children in state custody demonstrated outside the Division of Child and Family Services building in Ogden, contending they are unfairly denied involvement with the children.

"They're burying me alive, and they're causing a lot of trauma," said Lillian Martinez, 50, who has not seen her grandchildren in more than five years. She said DCFS agents took them after it was determined their parents were abusing drugs, she said.

Martinez would like to gain custody of her grandchildren, or at least have the right to visit them.

Brenda Chugg, 46, of Ogden, who has a relative with two children taken into state custody, said Thursday that she has no problem with the DCFS taking children from harmful environments, but the children need to be cared for within their own families and the tests required to gain custody of a child are too demanding.

"I'd like to see anybody pass those tests," she said. "We all have pasts, but we're not bad people."

Janette Davis, 42, said her 6-year-old granddaughter and 6-month-old grandson were taken by DCFS agents after it was found the parents abused meth.

"I want them home and out of state custody," she said.

Custody was denied to her because her granddaughter accused her of using drugs, Davis said.

Davis admitted being convicted on drug charges six months before her grandchildren were taken, but said she is now on probation and has cleaned up her act.

Colleen Lasater, DCFS spokeswoman, said the organization tries to get grandparents involved in children's lives whenever possible.

"Grandparents are very important to us," she said. "Kinship is very important to us."

However, the DCFS must look at each case individually before it is determined what will be done with a child in state custody, Lasater said.

"Every case is different and we have to look at the best interests of the child," she said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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