Parker Jensen is back in the legal custody of his parents — but not without conditions from the state of Utah, where the boy's parents are still considered fugitives from justice.
The deal — agreed to in juvenile court Friday — ends a months-long dispute between Daren and Barbara Jensen and the state, which sought and won custody of the 12-year-old after his parents challenged doctors who said Parker suffered from cancer and needed chemotherapy. The Jensens participated in the hearing via a conference call from Pocatello.
After nearly a week in negotiations with the Jensens, state officials praised the arrangement, saying Parker will now get the treatment he needs.
But Daren and Barbara Jensen — who maintain that their son is healthy — said late Friday they agreed to the deal because their standoff with the state left them with few alternatives. Parker, they said, doesn't like it either.
"Given the circumstance, what choice did we have?" Daren Jensen asked in a telephone interview from Pocatello, where he has been staying with his in-laws. "The state has seen it fit that I can have my rights back as a parent, but only partially . . . see footnote."
That footnote allows for Parker to get an independent medical diagnosis from a doctor of his parents' choosing. But the family is also compelled to follow the treatment protocol prescribed — even if it includes chemotherapy, a course of medical action his parents have argued against.
The process of diagnosis and treatment also will be done under the watchful eye of a case worker from the Division of Child and Family Services, DCFS director Richard Anderson said after the hearing Friday. DCFS oversight will continue indefinitely and should the Jensens renege, the Office of the Guardian Ad Litem will again seek custody of Parker, GAL attorney Mollie McDonald said.
Parker is expected to begin new tests as early as next week, although his father declined to reveal the name of the physician and out-of-state hospital involved. Should those tests be inconclusive, Daren Jensen is not certain whether the state will still require chemotherapy for Parker.
"If there's nothing wrong, it's (still) going to be difficult," he said. "They think he needs it."
Another footnote to the deal: Felony kidnapping charges filed by Salt Lake County against Daren and Barbara Jensen remain in place. The state never had power to get those charges dismissed and didn't include county prosectors in negotiations until this week. Prosecutors say that because the Jensens ignored a custody order for Parker and failed to bring him to Utah, they broke the law.
"Our case is still open and pending against both the Jensens," Salt Lake County prosecutor Angela Micklos said. "We're hoping we can work out a surrender date with them."
The Jensens' attorney, Blake Nakamura, will begin negotiations with the county on Monday, Daren Jensen said.
Micklos said a plea agreement can't be discussed until the Jensens return to Utah. Arrest warrants issued for the couple will remain off a national criminal computer network for now so that Parker's medical situation can be addressed, she said.
Daren Jensen was arrested in Pocatello on Aug. 18 but is fighting extradition. A governor's warrant has been signed by Gov. Mike Leavitt but not by Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, who must do so before extradition can occur.
The Jensens first sought a medical evaluation from Primary Children's Medical Center in May after an oral surgeon removed a tiny tumor from Parker's mouth. Doctors diagnosed the boy with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone cancer, and wanted to commence chemotherapy despite subsequent tests which his parents say were negative or inconclusive.
Doctors, DCFS, the Utah Attorney General's Office and the GAL saw the Jensens' reluctance to begin treatment as medical neglect and sought state custody of Parker.
Daren and Barbara Jensen have said they were unaware of how quickly the state could intervene in their lives and they are dismayed by the way the child welfare system has treated their family. Daren Jensen also said Friday that Parker is unhappy with the deal his parents have struck with the state.
"Parker's been lost in the territorial and ego building of each individual (state) agency," Daren Jensen said. "He's tired of being a pawn of agencies and he wants his parents to do what's right for him. If you were 12 years old, who would you believe? Your parents or lawyers who you don't know?"