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Social worker picked to monitor Elian
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A bilingual clinical social worker who heads a mental health program in Washington-area Catholic schools was appointed by the government on Wednesday to monitor and report on Elian Gonzalez during his stay in Maryland with father Juan Miguel Gonzalez , stepmother Nercy and baby half-brother Hianny.
The family is staying at a home at the secluded Wye River complex.
Susan Ley of Silver Spring, Maryland, was appointed by the Immigration and Naturalization Service to conduct biweekly visits with Elian. The INS said she would make her first visit on Thursday.
Government-appointed child psychiatrist Paulina Kernberg of Cornell University also will visit the family on Thursday. They will file reports with the INS and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The reports will not be made public, according to the Justice Department.
A government official said that after Thursday's joint visit, Ley and Kernberg will conduct separate visits with Elian while the family waits for appeals in Elian's case to be exhausted.
Court approved monitoring plan for Elian
Ley has been program director of The Christ Child Society School Counseling Program in Washington for four years. In that capacity she administers a mental health program in 16 urban parochial schools. She also serves as a consultant to the Archdiocese of Washington.
In its order of April 27, the appeals court accepted the government's offer to submit a plan to have a social worker monitor Elian. The government said six health and social work organizations or government entities were involved in selecting Ley.Kernberg already had met with Elian once. Last week she issued a preliminary assessment to the court and said letters from the boy's Miami relatives may be helpful but that visits from them could be harmful to Elian. That report was made public because it was termed an "initial assessment" rather than a medical report.
Oral arguments coming soon on asylum appeal
Elian has been in the middle of a custody battle between his Miami relatives and his Cuban father since he was rescued off the Florida coast on Thanksgiving Day, November 25. The boy's mother and 10 others died when their small aluminum boat sank as they tried to reach the United States.
Elian was one of three survivors. He was put in the care of his great-uncle, Lazaro Gonzalez . Gonzalez and his daughter Marisleysis cared for the boy until he was returned to his father after being seized from Lazaro Gonzalez's Little Havana home in a pre-dawn raid by armed federal agents on April 22.
Even though he no longer has custody or possession of the boy, Lazaro Gonzalez has an appeal pending before the appeals court on whether Elian should be granted an asylum hearing. The three-judge panel on April 19 ruled Elian must remain in the United States until it completes its review of the asylum claim. The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on May 11.
In 1999, the U.S. repatriated 1,218 unaccompanied minors; the highest number, 619, from Mexico, according to INS figures.
Producer Terry Frieden contributed to this report.
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