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updated: 8/30/2011 6:30 PM

Wheaton woman who abandoned child fights for custody

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  • Nunu Sung

      Nunu Sung

 

A DuPage County judge could decide in October whether an imprisoned mother will regain custody of the son she abandoned under a bush in Wheaton.

Judge C. Stanley Austin on Tuesday set Oct. 19 for a hearing on the parental rights of 26-year-old Nunu Sung, who is due to be paroled in January.

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Sung is serving a three-year term for lying to police about the June 2009 birth of her son, who was found with his umbilical cord still attached by a man walking his dog.

Earlier this year, the child's court-appointed guardian petitioned a juvenile court to terminate Sung's parental rights. Since then, Sung has been fighting to prove she's fit to raise the child, now 2 years old.

Sung's attorneys contend revoking her parental rights would fly in the face of a plea deal in which prosecutors agreed they would not seek to do so. But now prosecutors are under court order to pursue the petition brought by the guardian.

On Tuesday, Austin denied a second request by Sung's attorneys to dismiss the petition to revoke her rights. He also has ruled the focus of the case should be finding substitute care for the child rather than reuniting him with his mother.

"This is not a determination I'm going to terminate her parental rights," Austin said. "I haven't made any determination as to the outcome of that petition."

Kathleen Anderson, the court-appointed guardian, argued that Sung's incarceration is "nobody's fault but her own," and that the boy "has and had no bond with her."

She noted that during a July 5 visit with Sung, the child clung to his foster mother and was "nearly hysterical."

"He was crying," Anderson said. "He was inconsolable."

Jaida Nagengast of the Evangelical Child and Family Agency in Wheaton, which was contracted to oversee the boy's foster care, testified the child did eventually warm up to Sung.

"After some time of coaching and coaxing, he became comfortable enough to let her hold him," she said, adding that Sung took him around a room to show him toys.

Terra Costa Howard, one of two attorneys representing Sung, told the judge her client took a parenting course in prison but has been unable to utilize what she learned because of a lack of regular visits with the child.

"If she does not have visits with her child, she cannot demonstrate she learned anything from her parenting class," Howard said. "Ms. Sung has no way to demonstrate those skills. I do believe she has made progress."

The child has been raised by a Wheaton couple since early on in the case, and Sung has had just one visit with the child since she was sent to downstate Lincoln Correctional Center. Before that, she saw him regularly while her criminal case was pending.

"She asks every time she comes (to court), 'Is he here? Can I see him?'" Howard said.

The foster parents' attorney, Charles Rohde, said the couple is only "concerned for the child's best interest." The foster mother also attended Tuesday's court proceedings.

Sung, an unwed Myanmar native, pleaded guilty to abandoning the infant on the morning of June 12, 2009, after she gave birth behind a garage near a cousin's apartment on Crescent Street in Wheaton. A neighbor called 911 after he and his dog discovered the newborn nude and covered in dirt.

Authorities said Sung became pregnant while living in Texas but kept the pregnancy secret after moving to Wheaton in February 2009. They said she never received prenatal care, and the child's father has expressed no interest in custody.

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