Note: This story was updated on June 18
The State of Washington has returned the son of Heidi Knowles, a woman who was famously arrested for attempting to sell the boy at a Taco Bell when he was days old.
The Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) would not confirm anything about the case. But a family member of the woman who was caring for Knowles’ son has confirmed that the Benton County Court reunited the child with his birth mother last week.
The woman who DSHS placed the child with in 2011 was his caregiver until last week, and is related to Knowles. She was in the process of attempting to adopt the child when the state began to consider reunification, and she is now considering legal options.
“The family is concerned for the health and safety of the child,” said the family member, speaking to The Imprint under the condition of anonymity to avoid publicizing the child’s identity.
According to her, the child’s attorney and guardian ad litem opposed the return of the son to Knowles in court:
“The very people who are charged to speak up for the child have repeatedly stated there are serious safety concerns with returning him to his biological mom. These pleas have been ignored.”
Knowles, now 39, was arrested in the summer of 2011 by Clark County police after a patron at a Taco Bell called 911, reporting that a woman had walked around the restaurant offering to sell a newborn she was carrying.
Knowles was apprehended that night, and initially charged with a felony for attempting to sell the child. Months later, she pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment, a misdemeanor.
Washington DSHS came under scrutiny in the mid-2000s for shortcomings in its reunification procedures. Sirita Sotelo and Rafael Gomez were both children taken in to foster care by DSHS in the early 2000s; both were killed shortly after being reunified with birth parents (Gomez in 2003, Sotelo in 2005).
In 2007, former Gov. Chris Gregoire signed Sirita’s Law, a state bill that required DSHS to assess and conduct background checks on everyone living in the home a child returns to.
DSHS officials declined to comment on the reunification process in Knowles’ case.
John Kelly is the editor-in-chief of The Imprint.