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Kaylee Klein, the Town of Tonawanda 4-year-old who became the subject of a nationwide search last year when her parents fled with her rather than turn her over to social services workers, has been returned to her parents.

Michael and Christine Klein said Erie County child protection workers brought Kaylee back to them Sept. 20.

Erie County Family Court Justice James H. Dillon, who in January refused to return the child to her parents because of his concerns about their refusal to complete court-ordered parenting and other social training sessions, declined to comment Friday.

But court sources confirmed that Dillon ordered the return of the girl to her parents while giving the Erie County Department of Social Services child protection unit authority to supervise the family for another 12 months.

Michael Klein, 52, said he remains bitterly angry with county government, "its agents and all the people involved," but he became tearful when he described Kaylee asking him the day she was brought home "if it was forever." He said the child "is absolutely terrified that they will take her away from us again."

The Kleins said they are awaiting results of a battery of blood and other tests Kaylee underwent at Children's Hospital last Monday for an overall examination.

Klein said medical officials were concerned that Kaylee weighed only 40 pounds -- underweight for a 5-year-old -- but he said Kaylee's appetite returned as soon as she learned she was being taken home last week "and now she eats anything and everything."

Kaylee was first placed in a county foster home in April 1998 after neighbors complained about her parents'
fighting. She was returned home in September 1998 after suffering a broken right leg at her foster home.

In January 1999, the Kleins' continued bickering got the county government to press for renewed Family Court child protection proceedings, but the couple fled with Kaylee on Feb. 2, 1999. With the help of friends in several states, they remained free until the FBI tracked them down March 1, 1999, to a rural farmhouse in Plainfield, Conn.

Kaylee spent time at several foster homes, suffering a broken leg, head lice and multiple bruises, Klein said.

The Kleins were jailed from March 1 to April 29, 1999, and their efforts to retain their daughter took most of the past year.

Klein, who had to sell his landscape business and is still $150,000 in debt because of his family's legal woes, said the court fight has cost him and his wife about $500,000. He is unemployed and staying home with Kaylee while his wife works.

No county workers have been to the Klein home since Kaylee was returned Sept. 20, but Klein said he regularly receives telephone calls from county child protection workers setting up appointments with various agencies.

Klein said the legal problems have left the family's life "in a state of confusion," but he said he and his wife of 17 years "are glad to have (Kaylee) back with us because we fought so hard to get her home."

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