Chicago Mom Loses Custody of Son for Refusing to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

Photo: (Photo : Emily Elconin/Getty Images)

A Chicago judge has barred a mother from seeing her 11-year-old son because she has refused the COVID-19 vaccine. However, Rebecca Firlit, who has joint custody of her boy with her ex-husband, has appealed the decision in court.

Firlit told Fox News that she hadn't seen her son since August 10 after the judge ruled in a court appearance via Zoom of stripping her of parenting time unless she gets vaccinated. Cook County Judge James Shapiro asked her vaccine status out of the blue, even as she has been sharing custody with the boy's father for the last seven years.

The mother has appealed the decision because she believes that the judge has no right to strip her of her time with her son just because she hasn't gotten the COVID-19 vaccine. Firlit said that she has a bad reaction against past vaccinations hence her hesitancy for the jab. She revealed to Chicago Sun-Times that this was her doctor's advice.

 Read AlsoSpike in COVID-19 Cases in Kids Attributed to Schools With No Face Mask Policy

Breaking New Grounds

The ex-couple were in a court meeting because of expenses and child support. It was unclear if the judge also asked the boy's father if he got the jab for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Her attorney, Annette Fernholz, said that Shapiro overstepped on his jurisdiction because even the boy's father didn't raise Firlit's vaccination status in court. The father's attorney, Jeffrey Living, was also surprised by the judge's call, but they support the decision for the sake of the child's safety. Living said that Shapiro had broken new grounds in court rulings as he showed that vaccination status may now be a factor in child custody cases.

Firlit, however, is confident that the appeals court will rule in her favor since Shapiro's decision is taking a son away from a parent. The mother said that her case would resonate with other parents.

"Unfortunately, I had to be the first person that this happened to, but parents aren't going to stand for that," she said.

Meanwhile, she spoke regularly to her son on the phone and said that the boy has been crying because he misses being with his mother.

COVID-19 Cases in Kids Increasing

As of August 19, pediatric cases across the U.S. have surged to 180,000 or almost 50 percent compared to the previous week. The increase of children infected with the virus was four-fold since July 22, when there were only 38,000 new cases. About one percent of children have been hospitalized since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020. Of these numbers, 402 had succumbed to the virus. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle P. Walensky said that while severe cases of COVID-19 are less common in kids, the Delta variant's transmissibility is affecting the rise in cases. Community transmission among the unvaccinated, including the children, is also impacting the surge at a time when cases of the respiratory syncytial virus are widespread among young people.

Walensky appealed to those who are eligible for vaccination to get their COVID-19 jab as soon as possible. She said that multilayer prevention strategies to curb the spread of the virus work to protect the young ones. 

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