UPDATE — Aug. 19, 2015: Florida military mom to regain custody of kids in NJ foster care
Below is the previous story, first published Monday, Aug. 17, 2015:
Before she went overseas to fight in two wars, Amanda Hurst's kids were 7 and 8 years old.
Now back home, Hurst is battling again, this time to regain custody of her own children.
Hurst said she left her son and daughter with her stepmother in 2009 when she joined the Army and went off to war to build a better life for her family.
But shortly before her honorable discharge in 2013, Hurst said her stepmom, who had guardianship over the children, moved to New Jersey with the kids.
Because of the children's special psychological needs, Hurst said they ended up in the care of New Jersey's Department of Children and Families.
Hurst said her daughter had discipline issues, and her son became aggressive toward their step-grandmother, which prompted the state of New Jersey to take custody of the children.
Both children remain in foster care.
"I want my kids back," Hurst said. "I want to be with my kids. I've missed so much of their lives serving my country, that I don't want to miss anymore."
According to court documents, New Jersey agrees the two children belong with their mother in Florida, with a condition.
"The condition is that the emergency services being provided by New Jersey continue on here in Florida, because the children do need special services," said Brad Sherman, Hurst's lawyer.
John Herrel, with Florida's Department of Children and Families, said the department has the authority to investigate if allegations of abuse or neglect happened in Florida. According to court documents, there are no such allegations.
We also tried to contact Hurst’s stepmother, but were unable to get a hold of her.
Herrel said Florida's DCF is working with authorities in New Jersey to bring the children to Florida, hopefully bringing Hurst's plight to a successful conclusion: A family reunion.
"I hope that one day, when they are older, they understand that Mom didn't give up," Hurst said.
A hearing was scheduled for this week to determine when — and if — Hurst's children will be brought to Florida.
When asked what the first thing she will do when she gets her children back, Hurst said, amid tears, "I'm going to hug them, and then we're going to Disney World."