A Spotsylvania County family that has battled the Department of Social Services for nearly two years to get their son back apparently has regained custody.
“It’s official. The judge has signed the orders! We do not need to appear in court this Friday. God is good. Juan Antonio is coming home no later than December 24th!” Alma Buckley posted on the family’s Facebook page on Oct. 3.
John and Alma Buckley, who have nine children, including some who are adults and in college, have been fighting to regain custody of their young son in a case that appears to have hinged on diverging medical philosophies and the state’s concern about the safety of the child.
The couple’s son, Juan Antonio Buckley, now 2½ years old, has been living with a foster family.
In photos posted on Facebook by the family last week, the boy looks healthy.
But his health had deteriorated drastically in late 2016. After numerous visits to hospitals over a period of months that year, doctors at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., reported the case to social services. The toddler underwent an operation and was then removed from the family by social services.
The parents faced criminal child neglect charges and were put on trial in circuit court. The case was thrown out by the judge before the defense put on its case.
Criminal court files indicate that doctors and social services workers were concerned about the parents’ disagreement with treatment for the boy, who was declared by doctors to be in grave condition at the time. Otherwise, scant information is available regarding the case because of confidentiality laws.
The family mounted a vigorous campaign to get the boy back, speaking at Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors meetings, along with supporters, and creating social media sites to address what they called an injustice.
John Buckley and some supporters openly criticized social services and the county department head.
County supervisors got caught up in the case when Gary Skinner spoke out to support social services. He said officials had been bullied by the family and supporters.
Fellow Supervisor David Ross, who has spoken in support of the family, was not happy about Skinner’s comments and the two sparred during the meeting. Skinner said at this week’s meeting that he did not intend to insult John Buckley.
With their son in foster care, the parents attended numerous custody hearings at Spotsylvania Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court.
They had a hearing scheduled for Friday, Oct. 5. If they hadn’t regained custody of their son, he could have been put up for adoption.
“Someone else enjoyed most of his first steps, words, and new experiences,” Alma Buckley posted on Facebook on Oct. 1. “Yet, God was there in everyone of Juan Antonio’s moments along with mami’s heart.”