A young woman--a refugee from Myanmar--imprisoned after giving birth to a baby boy in a backyard near her Wheaton apartment and then abandoning him is scheduled to be in DuPage County Juvenile Court today for a hearing on whether she should lose her parental rights.
Nunu Sung, 26, is serving a 3-year prison sentence for lying to police
about what happened during the birth of her child two years ago.
A foster couple from Wheaton now raising the boy wants permanent custody. Sung is fighting that.
No final determination is expected today.
In an interview earlier this month with the Tribune, Sung said she was consumed with fear and shame on the morning she secretly gave birth near a row of garages in Wheaton, then left the infant to fend for himself.
But Sung said she is the best person to raise her 2-year-old son
when she is freed after serving her sentence for lying to police about being the child's mother.
"I don't want to talk about losing him," Sung said during an interview in the DuPage County Jail. "I am a good mom. I love my son."
In her first public statements since a neighbor found the abandoned infant whimpering and partially covered by brush in June 2009, Sung said she would never harm the child and believes she is worthy of a second chance.
Lawyers representing Sung and the court-appointed guardian for the child are at odds over whether Sung's parental rights should be terminated because of the way she abandoned her newborn. They also have argued over whether prosecutors reneged on a promise not to stand in the way of Sung winning custody of her child. The case is further complicated by her immigrant status and the risk of being deported when she is released.
An interpreter translated her Hakha Chin dialect during the recent one-hour interview supervised by her attorneys. They would not let her go into detail about the birth of the child, but Sung offered some insight into her difficult past and how she said it played a role in what happened.
At times tearful, Sung said unwed mothers are scorned and often face physical violence in the Southeast Asian country also known as Burma that she said she left four years ago to flee its military dictatorship. Her shame led her to hide her pregnancy here in the United States once she learned the father wouldn't marry her or help raise their child
, Sung said.
"In our custom and tradition, it is the most shameful thing for a young woman without a (husband)," Sung said. "I never thought about hurting him."
The hospital staff named the newborn Joshua. But Sung calls him Cung Van Ni, which roughly translates to "up in the sky there is sun and the God's power."
Sung speaks like a smitten mother when describing him as, "handsome, healthy, athletic and lovely."
The boy has "all of my parts," she says proudly about the color of his eyes, shape of his nose or his joyful grin.
A judge granted Sung supervised weekly visits when Joshua was about 7 weeks old, but these all but stopped when she went to prison
in October 2010. During their last visit July 5, he no longer recognized her, she said. It was the only time she had been allowed to see him since she was imprisoned.
Sung is eligible for parole in January. In exchange for her guilty plea, the DuPage County state's attorney's office dropped a misdemeanor charge of endangering the life of the child. It also promised not to interfere with Sung's goal to get her son back.
But the boy's court-appointed legal guardian petitioned the judge in Juvenile Court to terminate Sung's parental rights. In this case, it's the state's attorney's job to represent the legal guardian. So prosecutors are now arguing they have no choice but to follow the judge's order and support the petition. That led Sung's attorneys to ask a judge to find prosecutors in contempt.
Judge Blanche Hill Fawell dismissed the request, saying prosecutors acted in good faith and are required by law to support the termination petition.
Still, Sung accused prosecutors of not keeping their promise.
"I was put into the prison for the accusation of lying to police," she said. "But I have been lied to many times and no one suffers the same that I have been suffering right now."
Her initial abandonment of the child and their long separation legally can be used against her. The child has been with the foster parents since he was released from the hospital after a short stay.