D.C. Superior Court Judge Steffen Graae had conflicting impressions of the mother who sat attentively in his courtroom on June 13, 1985, accused of endangering the health and welfare of her 6-year-old daughter, Kimberly.

Police described the woman, Cheryl Addy, as a drug addict and entrepreneur who had turned her one-bedroom apartment into a "shooting gallery," a refuge where heroin users could inject themselves out of public view. Twice in four months, police had raided the apartment in Northeast Washington, arresting a dozen addicts, confiscating several packets of heroin and finding syringes and needles everywhere -- on the coffee table, near a sofa, in a cereal box, in Kimberly's crate of toys, even one placed like a bookmark inside a storybook.

The judge tried to reconcile that portrait of Addy with the woman before him. She was 31 and neatly dressed. There was no evidence that she had let Kimberly fall prey to drugs. Indeed, Addy's attorney pointed out, Kimberly was drug-free, well fed and properly clothed, and she regularly attended school.

Graae faced two questions, the same ones he always faced in a child-neglect case in the family court: Did Addy's conduct -- her drug addiction and life style -- make her an unfit parent? If so, should Kimberly be taken away from her?

Graae had no illusions about shooting galleries as a place to bring up a child -- the very idea revolted him -- but he felt constrained by the standards laid out in the D.C. neglect law. There was no evidence of abuse, abandonment, malnutrition or truancy, the primary reasons for removing a child from a home. Moreover, a formal charge of neglect had not been filed against Addy, which meant to Graae that D.C. officials weren't sure about the quality of their case against Addy and that perhaps police had not gathered enough evidence.

At the same time, the law required that parents ensure a child's "physical, mental or emotional health." Was Addy endangering Kimberly's emotional well-being by exposing her to heroin addicts in their home? The answer seemed obvious to the city's attorneys, who were asking Graae to put Kimberly in foster care on an emergency basis.

But Graae wasn't sure. In a city where children are often exposed to drugs in their neighborhoods and in school, Graae remembers asking himself, "Is it really the court's business . . . to say this is a terrible, immoral and degenerate atmosphere in which to bring up a child? . . . I decided I really shouldn't do that."

Graae sent Kimberly home with her mother.

Within the confines of the family court, where the proceedings are closed to the public, Graae's ruling provoked an intense debate. While Addy's attorney applauded the decision, D.C. officials were astonished, given the testimony they had presented.

Fearing that Graae's ruling had put Kimberly in peril, the city's attorneys and police set out to answer key questions about the drug activity in Addy's apartment. How severe was Addy's addiction? Was Kimberly's father, who had appeared at the apartment during one of the raids, also implicated? How could they make the judge understand that operating a shooting gallery in a home was different from selling drugs on the street, that Kimberly was little more than a prisoner, that the court had to rescue her?

Two dozen people -- including four judges -- became enmeshed in Kimberly's case during the next 18 months, often having to make decisions without all the facts, based on fragments of information about the family's life.

Kimberly's case, which remains under the court's supervision, is not unique. Two months ago, police found two children -- ages 8 and 11 -- in a Northwest Washington shooting gallery. The family court is trying to decide whether the children should remain with their mother. Police officials said they have 40 other shooting galleries under investigation, which could mean additional cases for the family court.

To examine how Graae and the family court handled Kimberly's case, The Washington Post was granted access to confidential records and court transcripts on the condition that the newspaper protect Kimberly's identity. This article omits the address of Addy's apartment, the name of Kimberly's father and Kimberly's last name, which is different from her mother's.A 'Horrendous' Scene

The police discovered the shooting gallery at Cheryl Addy's apartment only by accident.

They burst into Apartment 204 at 5 p.m. on Feb. 26, 1985, armed with an arrest warrant for a fugitive gunman allegedly hiding there. They found no gunman, but saw what D.C. police officer Robert Condit later described as a "horrendous" scene:

"Everywhere we looked in that place, you'd find needles," Condit said. There were needles under two twin-sized beds, between the mattresses and box springs and in a pair of shoes. On the dining room table, police counted 43 syringes and needles, as well as bottle caps for cooking heroin, sifters, spoons, cocaine snorters, tourniquets made of belts and pantyhose, bloody wads of tissue, orange juice jars containing dirty water and several bags with traces of heroin.

Kimberly was in the kitchen. Condit was surprised and furious to find a child in the apartment. He remembers telling Addy, "You're just scum to put this little girl through this."

Addy and three other adults were arrested. Following police procedures, Condit radioed for the 5th District's juvenile services officer to take custody of Kimberly. While they waited, he kneeled on the kitchen floor and talked to the child, then 5. Although protective of her mother, she was talkative and friendly. "It just amazed me how this little girl, living in this type of situation, could be so sweet and smart," Condit recalled.

About the time the juvenile services officer arrived, another man appeared. He identified himself as Kimberly's father and Addy's common-law husband. Under questioning, the 36-year-old cabdriver said he knew nothing about the shooting gallery, saying that he lived elsewhere. He asked police whether he could take Kimberly.

Condit raised strenuous objections, sensing that the father was involved in the drug activity. He recalled, "I argued. I was mad. I was ready to fist fight."

But it was the juvenile services officer's call, and he allowed Kimberly's father to take her. As a result, the family court did not become involved at that point.

The next day, Addy was arraigned in the criminal division of the Superior Court, pleading not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of possessing drug paraphernalia, which carries a maximum prison term of one year. She was released pending trial and returned home to Apartment 204. Gathering Evidence

The next time police visited Apartment 204 was nearly four months later. On June 12, they crashed down the door in a second surprise raid. They found eight drug users in the living room. "Half the adults were scrambling to get away from us and the other half were leaning against the walls with tourniquets around their arms," Officer Stephen Mann later testified. "Some had just shot up." Others had open sores on their arms.

Kimberly and both of her parents were there. Although there was no evidence Kimberly had come in contact with the drugs, there were three packets of heroin and some needles on the same bed where Kimberly was sitting. Officer Donald Bell, who also had been on the first raid, confronted Addy, noting that he already had warned her about "having a child in this type of environment . . . ."

Bell testified later, "She didn't say anything. She just really acted like a child who was being scolded as I was telling her this."

Kimberly, crying, begged police not to take her away from her mother. This time, however, there was no debate. An officer picked Kimberly up, put her on his hip and carried her out. She was taken to the city's Department of Human Services and held for an emergency hearing the next day.

The next morning, June 13, Judge Graae was presiding in the family court when Kimberly's case was called. It was at this hearing that Graae surprised police and prosecutors by allowing Kimberly to go home with her mother. "A whole row of police officers . . . rolled their eyes," he recalled.

Nonetheless, Graae believed that the law prevented him from removing Kimberly without more specific evidence that she was in immediate danger. "In the final analysis, I think there's a qualitative difference between that situation -- where a child is growing up in a drug environment . . . -- and a child who is being directly abused or neglected," he said in an interview.

Angered by Graae's ruling, prosecutors and police intensified their efforts to remove Kimberly from her mother. On June 22, investigators returned to Addy's apartment building and questioned people who were gathered in the hallways of the city-run complex. One of the officers was Condit, who confronted one of several men leaving the building through a rear-basement door.

The man said he had come from Apartment 204, where he had paid $2 to "shoot up" with other addicts. A woman named Addy was running the operation, he said, but she had suddenly asked everyone to leave.

Why? Condit asked.

"Because the social worker {from the family court} had called and she thinks this social worker is on the way over," Condit quoted the man as saying.

Using this information and other evidence that police had gathered, city attorneys drew up formal court papers alleging that Kimberly was "a neglected child . . . without proper parental care." They returned to family court on June 24, requesting again that Kimberly be removed from Addy's care.

Judge Frederick Weisberg, who was presiding, heard many of the same arguments made earlier to Graae. Addy's attorney, Diane Weinroth, again insisted that Kimberly was better off with her mother than in foster care. Comparing Kimberly to a child living with an alcoholic parent or spouse abuser, Weinroth said: "There are many children in the world who are exposed to undesirable influences, but the damage that can be done to them by removal is equally great."

Retorted Weisberg: "You couldn't convince me in a hundred years of argument that there is no danger to this child in this environment."

Kimberly's father, who was in the courtroom, twice interrupted the hearing, asking for permission to speak. When he finally got his chance, he strongly denied that he or Addy was involved in drug activity and criticized a social worker's report that the apartment was sparsely furnished.

"I don't know what they mean there wasn't no furniture because I have three TVs in there myself and I don't even live there," the father said. "I'd like to know why these surroundings are not fit for my daughter. There's no drugs being shot in the apartment."

He pleaded with Weisberg: "Why won't you let her stay with us?"

Weisberg refused, ordering that Kimberly be removed. Three days later, Weinroth asked Graae to overturn Weisberg's ruling at yet another hearing. This time, however, Graae was convinced that Kimberly was potentially in danger and he left Weisberg's ruling in place. 'You're Responsible'

Addy's attorney, Weinroth, had a reputation as a fierce advocate. She ardently believed that children belong with their parents, and believed that the court's mission was to find a way to keep families together -- not to punish them by breaking them apart. Sending children into foster home after foster home was a poor substitute, she thought.

Weinroth also believed that Addy, who held a full-time secretarial job, was a good mother. Kimberly seemed "happy, healthy . . . just in the greatest possible shape. They had what struck me as a perfectly normal mother-daughter relationship," Weinroth recalled.

A visit to Kimberly's school reaffirmed Weinroth's impressions. Kimberly's kindergarten evaluation said that she was "showing growth in the basic skills" and that she attended school regularly. Weinroth was encouraged, as she knew that repeated absences are considered a prime indicator of family trouble. She made sure the school records were filed with the court.

Weinroth also was pleased with the comments of two psychologists at Children's Hospital, who evaluated Addy on Aug. 12 at the city's request. Noting that Addy had "excellent knowledge of parenting" skills, they concluded that "there is no reason to consider Ms. Addy an inappropriate parent for her daughter."

The psychologists also tried to find out about Addy's drug problem. She had denied using drugs, their report said, and "there was nothing in this evaluation to suggest that Ms. Addy was not telling the truth." They cautioned, however, that they had not examined any records that might independently confirm Addy's statement.

During this period, Weinroth also made sure that Addy had weekly visits with Kimberly. The child was staying temporarily with a couple who had worked for the Department of Human Services as emergency foster parents for 15 years. According to the couple, Kimberly looked forward to the visits. "The child was so attached to her mother," said the foster father.

At the same time, the foster couple believed that it was risky to send Kimberly home, given Addy's drug history and the activity in the apartment. "No use sending a child back into a hornet's nest," the foster father said.

Weinroth, however, was certain that Addy could overcome her drug problem with the court's help. The various reports bolstered her contention that Addy was a fit parent, but first Addy had to resolve her drug charge in the criminal division of Superior Court. Incarceration would virtually eliminate any chance of Addy's getting Kimberly back.

On Oct. 30, Addy appeared in criminal court before Judge Bruce Beaudin. For the first time in court, she blamed Kimberly's father for what had happened in the apartment. Maintaining her innocence, she told Beaudin that she realized the evidence was strong enough to convict her at trial. She agreed to plead guilty, hoping that her admission would enable her to avoid a jail term.

Beaudin accepted the plea, but rejected Addy's contention that she was blameless. "Even though in your own mind . . . you don't feel that you've committed a crime, you own the place," Beaudin said. "You're responsible for what goes on . . . . You've got some moral culpability here."

"But it doesn't go on," Addy said. "It's not a shooting gallery."

She said Kimberly's father allowed his friends to use drugs in the apartment and she couldn't stop it. "He has a key and he had let some people in and he does that every now and then, mostly when I'm not home. But it's not a shooting gallery," she said.

"But the facts are, you're responsible for what's there," Beaudin said, suggesting that she had to confront Kimberly's father if she wanted things to change.

"I'm working on him now," Addy said. "I'm well aware of that because I intend on getting Kimberly back."

Beaudin decided not to imprison Addy. He gave her a 90-day suspended sentence and nine months of unsupervised probation, then told her that she had to take control of her life. "You're working hard to pay rent on {a place that} is being used in a way that you don't approve of. You've got to stop it. Nobody else can."

A Crucial Victory

With the criminal charge out of the way, Addy now faced the neglect case in the family court. A social worker with the Department of Human Services, Edward Campbell, was assigned to conduct a detailed investigation of Addy. His recommendation would strongly influence the court's decision on whether Addy was a fit parent.

Campbell, 36, was skeptical when Addy first denied to him that she used drugs. He knew the tell-tale signs: the long-sleeve shirts she always wore; the way she sometimes nodded off in conversations; the fact that she had a husband with a long track mark on his neck, the kind that Campbell often saw on heroin users.

But when he questioned Kimberly's father, the man took complete responsibility for the drug activity in the apartment, saying, "It was me. Cheryl had nothing to do with it . . . . They were my friends."

In late October, Campbell learned independently that Addy had lied to him about her drug history. He found out that she had just entered a city methadone clinic. It wasn't the first time she had sought treatment. She had been using heroin for 13 years, ever since she had starting living with Kimberly's father. Her heroin use was relatively heavy, as much as 2 to 2 1/4 grams a day.

Angered, Campbell confronted Addy. He recalled telling her, "That's a very positive step. But it would have been much better {if I had not} found out through the grapevine." Addy apologized and vowed that her heroin use was over.

Still, Campbell remained skeptical, knowing how difficult it is to break the habit. When he visited Addy at Apartment 204 a few weeks later, he found it neat and clean -- "almost too neat and clean to be believed" -- and Addy in good spirits. He remembers Addy leading him through the apartment, saying, "This is where Kimberly will be doing her homework. This is her desk here. This is our bedroom. We watch TV back here."

She also told Campbell that she had warned Kimberly's father to stop bringing addicts to the apartment -- or she would break off all contact with him. "She told me that the most embarrassing point of her life was when they took Kimberly from her," Campbell recalled. "And she was going to do anything she possibly could to make sure that it never happened again."

He also monitored the drug clinic's reports on Addy. When he saw several months of test results that showed no traces of heroin in her urine, he decided that Addy really was trying to change. On Nov. 6, Campbell recommended to the family court that Kimberly be returned to her mother on the condition that Addy continue her treatment.

It was a crucial victory for Addy. It gave her attorney the leverage to negotiate a deal with the city's attorneys, in which Addy and Kimberly's father pleaded to being neglectful parents -- in return for a second chance. On Dec. 17, Judge Robert Richter approved the deal and gave Kimberly back to Addy.

A few days later, Campbell picked up Kimberly and drove her to Addy's apartment. Seeing her daughter, Addy broke into tears, telling Campbell, "She will have the best Christmas she's ever had."

On Feb. 19, 1986, Campbell visited the apartment and recorded his impressions. "Household quiet. Kimberly doing homework . . . . Things are working out well."

Campbell also got positive reports from Kimberly's teachers, who told him that Addy always brought Kimberly to school, picked her up and made sure that she had plenty of rest. "When she comes to school she's bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with a smile on her face," a teacher said.

Campbell said, "I thought they were going to be living happily ever after."

On April 5, 1986, six vice squad officers, acting on an informant's tip, appeared outside Apartment 204 -- the third raid in 14 months. Using a battering ram, they broke down the door, finding seven addicts, and drugs and paraphernalia scattered about.

Several officers grabbed the addicts; two others headed for the closed bedroom door. Someone unlocked it from inside. A man -- Kimberly's father -- walked out.

Officer Shirley Butler pushed her way inside. On the bed was Addy, wearing only underwear. She was squirming and shaking, as if she were having convulsions. Kimberly sat next to her. Addy gasped loudly, and her eyes rolled back in her head. Believing that Addy might have stopped breathing, Butler and another officer moved quickly to try to resuscitate her.

Kimberly, her eyes wide, looked up at Butler and said, "She's dead." Lying for a Reason

The D.C. medical examiner determined that Addy died of a methadone overdose -- the heroin substitute she was receiving at the city drug treatment clinic. An autopsy showed 200 milligrams of the drug in Addy's body, four times the regular dose she was administered at the clinic. There was no trace of heroin.

The city has not determined how the overdose occurred. After Addy's death, a city investigation discovered that 1,200 milligrams of methadone was missing from the clinic where she was receiving treatment. Police could not determine whether Addy obtained any of the missing methadone or bought it illegally on the street. Kimberly's father rejects the possibility that his wife stole methadone, charging in a lawsuit against the District that Addy was overmedicated by careless clinic officials.

Whatever the cause of her death, it was a turning point for Kimberly's father. The family court took Kimberly away from him, placing her with another foster family who wants to adopt her. Later, he was arrested three times in a four-month period for selling heroin on the street. After pleading guilty, he entered a court-ordered drug treatment program.

In a recent interview, he said that he now sees clearly why he lost his wife and his daughter. He was the driving force behind the drug activity in their apartment. He had lied to the police when he said he didn't live in the apartment. They had both lied when they denied that drugs were being sold or used in the apartment. But they had lied for a reason, he said: "To keep my daughter."

They were also lying to themselves, he said. "You think you know all the answers -- you're not going to get hooked or nothing. I knew it was wrong. I knew it was illegal. But I didn't know the consequences of the habit." He said he made as much as $3,000 a day, splitting half with his supplier and spending the rest on his addiction, on clothes, on other whims. "It made me feel kind of powerful," he said. "I thought I was in control."

Addy was stronger than he was, he said. She was the one who managed to hold a full-time job and hide her addiction from her employer. She was the one who kept entering methadone treatment, although it never lasted. And she was the one who reduced her methadone intake during her pregnancy in 1980, hoping to keep Kimberly from being born with an addiction.

But she wasn't strong enough to stay off heroin. They used it together almost every day, he said, but never in front of Kimberly; they waited until she was asleep or in another room.

Were they fit parents?

"Everything was for Kimberly," he said. "Kimberly ate. I always bought her boots, tennis shoes, clothes. Always had Christmas . . . . I liked for her to go to school. I loved her and wanted her to learn.

"I was a big dope fiend but I was good to my kid," he said.

Kimberly's father saw a big change in Addy after Kimberly was taken away by the family court in June 1985. She went back on methadone and told him to stop bringing addicts into the apartment. When he offered her cocaine to celebrate Kimberly's sixth birthday in April 1986, she declined, reminding him of her promise to stay off drugs. Two weeks later, she was dead of the methadone overdose.

It is impossible to tell what the long-term effects will be on Kimberly, but her new foster parents have reported to the family court that Kimberly seems to be coping well.

The court has allowed Kimberly's father to see his daughter on weekends. When she is old enough, he said, he plans to tell her the truth about the events that preceded her mother's death.

"Who could tell her any better than I?" he said. "Not only because I'm her father, but because I'm a drug user."