I Didn’t Know Blindness Alone Was Grounds For CPS Taking Someone’s Kids

Jen sent me this sad bit of news the other day. But before I blogged about it, I wanted to assure myself that it was in fact a real and up to date story. If there’s anything I have learned from Snopes, it’s verify, verify, verify! Here’s the message I received, and then I’ll add what I found out below.

From the NFB of Missouri:

Erica and Blake, a young couple were awaiting the birth of their first child with joy and happiness. Baby Mikaela was born at 12:45pm, May 21. Not unlike many new mothers, Erica experienced some difficulty in her first breast feeding of Mikaela; she called the nurse for some advice. By 6:00pm child protective services arrived at the hospital to say the parents could not take Mikaela home, unless they had a sighted person to live with them. In all the investigations, blindness is the only reason sited for the parents not being allowed to leave with their new baby girl. The Missouri affiliate has hired an attorney at $250 per hour, and her assistant at $85 per hour to bring Mikaela home where she belongs! Please help with any donations possible to unite this family. You may stop by the Missouri table, B 114 in the exhibit hall, or come by our delegation. We, the National Federation of the Blind can bring Mikaela home to her parents where she belongs! Thank you for any help you can give.

And a more recent update:

I just spoke with NFB of Missouri President Gary Wunder. Here is the latest:

The parents initially thought that if they played by the rules, surely the judge would give them back their daughter at the first hearing. However, this did not happen, so a second hearing was scheduled for June 16. At this point, the parents realized that they needed an advocate and contacted the NFB of Missouri. After visiting with the couple in their home and determining that there were no extenuating circumstances and that blindness was the only concern CPS had about these parents, the NFB hired an attorney to assist them. The cost of this attorney is $250 an hour, and $85 for the services of the attorney’s assistant.

About two weeks ago, on June 16, the parents had their second hearing. The judge seemed outraged that the hospital had taken the child from this couple with so little cause and was further astounded that the hospital had never dealt with blind parents before. Unfortunately, this was not an evidentiary hearing, so no decisions were made and it was announced that there would need to be a third hearing. The problem is that this judge is going on vacation, so the earliest they could get a hearing with her was on July 20. The parents could have chosen to get an earlier hearing date with a different judge, but their attorney advised them to wait for this judge to return from vacation, because she had seemed so sympathetic and on their side at the second hearing.

So, the situation as it now stands is that the parents are awaiting their third hearing on July 20, with this hopefully sympathetic judge. Meanwhile, the NFB of Missouri is paying for the parents to receive voc rehab training, to get letters from the state VR agency saying that these parents can indeed perform the tasks that were of concern to CPS. The NFB realizes that we shouldn’t have to get a permission slip from the state VR agency to have kids, but their main focus at this time is to address the ridiculous “But, how does a blind person do that?” concerns of the hospital and CPS and get baby Micaela back with her parents where she belongs. So, the NFB of Missouri is incurring additional costs, as they are paying out of pocket for these voc rehab services for the couple.

Gary asked me to pass along that the NFB of Missouri welcomes donations to help defray the sky-rocketing legal expenses and the cost of getting letters from VR professionals asserting that these parents have received training in the skills of parenting and can perform the required tasks. They are setting up a specific fund for these donations. You can make a contribution at the NFB of Missouri’s affiliate table in the Exhibit Hall or by visiting Gary in the Missouri delegation during General Session. If you can’t make a monetary donation or if you’d like to help further, I’m collecting names and contact info of Federationists who would be willing to baby-sit during Convention for parents who want to get out for an evening or even just attend a few Convention events without their children, and donate the proceeds to the NFB of Missouri to help with the legal costs of returning Micaela to her parents.

If you’d like to volunteer your time, please contact me at stacy_cervenka@brownback.senate.gov or on my cell at 708-359-3301. Please let me know the best way to contact you at Convention, a little bit about your experience with kids (this might include being a parent yourself, having worked as a counselor at a summer program, etc.), and which times you would be available.

Furthermore, feel free to share my contact info with any parents who might be interested in this service during Convention.

Thanks,

Stacy Leigh Cervenka

The this could be bullshit antennae were going up when there were no last names on the parents and nowhere to donate besides at a table at a convention. I tried googling the story, to no avail. So, I remembered there was mention of Gary Wonder. I know that name. He’s on a mailing list with me so I know he’s a real live human being. So I emailed the Missouri chapter of NFB asking for some kind of verifiable proof that this was a real story that was current. There were dates in it, so that gave me hope that it was a current story, but I assume nothing.

Gary Wonder wrote me back, basically repeated back what the email had said, and said that the couple was shy and didn’t get out there to the media, partially because that’s not their style, and partially because there was some thought that approaching the media might do more harm than good. Ok then. Gotcha. So this is a real story, and it makes me so unbelievably sad that people would still think that way.

I asked him how folks could give if they’re not going to the convention, or if they want to give after the convention is over. He said there was nowhere online, but cheques could be sent to: Carol Coulter
1613 Blueridge Road,
Columbia, MO 65202-1759

Hmmm…what’s with those extra numbers at the end of the zip? Anybody know if that’s a proper address? I’m feeling a wee touch uninformed about American zip codes.

So, if you feel the same way I do, slip them a few bucks. Let’s bring the baby home and make the hospital look like uneducated fools.

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