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Attorney: “Incredibly high standard” to remove child like Paislee Shultis from parents

February 17, 2022

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SAUGERTIES, ULSTER CO. — Questions remain about how the parents of a missing girl lost custody of her. It comes after she was found Monday in a hidden chamber in her grandfather’s home.

6-year-old Paislee Shultis was reported missing from the village of Spencer in Tioga County, south of Ithaca in 2019. Police found her Monday more than three hours away in Saugerties in Ulster County just south of Albany.

Officers found Paislee hidden in a small, dark, cold makeshift room under the stairs leading to the basement. She was found in good health with her biological parents who do not have legal custody of her.

On Wednesday, her biological parents and grandfather appeared in court. Kirk Shultis Junior, his father Kirk Shultis Senior and Kimberly Cooper are charged with custodial interference and child endangerment. It comes amid many unanswered questions about how they lost custody of her in the first place. “I think a lot of individuals are excited and happy that we found the child, but I think by the same token a lot of people are very concerned of how was this allowed to happen for this period of time,” said Ryan McCall, Associate Attorney with Tully Rinckey.

McCall says there is still a lot we do not know about this case including what led a judge to remove Paislee from their care when she was just 4-years-old.

“A child being removed from the custody of biological parents is an incredibly high standard. This isn’t something that takes place for a minor violation.” – Ryan McCall, Associate Attorney, Tully Rinckey

McCall expects her parents likely had multiple run-ins with Child Protective Services and the Department of Social Services before they lost custody of Paislee. He says biological parents can lose their parental rights for a number of reasons including physical abuse, child neglect and alcohol or drug abuse.

We do not yet know why Cooper and Shultis Jr. lost care of their daughter. “When it reaches a certain point where the Department of Social Services becomes so involved and parents are considered to be negligent or willful at this point, the department can move forward with terminating the parental rights of the child or they can temporarily remove the child from the care of the custodial parent and place them with a legal guardian,” McCall said.

When a child is removed from their home, the Department of Social Services and Family Court determines where the child will be placed temporarily or permanently. It could be a with another family member or in foster care.

If convicted, Shultis Jr. and his father face up to 4 years in prison. The girl’s biological mother faces up to one year in prison.

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