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Disabled Parenting Discrimination in Family Courts

July 9, 2014 in due process, family court, family rights

I am a disabled parent who had five beautiful children. I was born at only 24 weeks gestation and had brain damage that caused cerebral palsy. I grew up enjoying a normal childhood in farming country, building dens, playing in hay stacks and having a free run of our village.

English: A collection of pictograms. Three of ...

A collection of pictograms. Three of them used by the United States National Park Service.

I married my childhood sweetheart at the age of 18, gave birth to a son. After five months, I took an evening job as a receptionist to support us as my husband went through university. A few years later and after giving birth to four more children and helping out in my husband’s electrical store, he dropped a bombshell, he didn’t want to be married anymore, he’d tied himself down too young by being with me. I thought at the time that was the worst day of my life but it was nothing compared to the custody nightmare that was about to follow. After obtaining a residency order in my favor, he locked me in our home and left with all our children, including my three week old newborn baby. I was absolutely frantic and called the police.

Police Discrimination

I showed them my court order but they informed me that as I had married the father of my children, all they were prepared to do was do a ‘safe and well’ check, despite the fact that my newborn was totally breastfed and dependent. After leaving, telling me rather curtly that ‘There’s more than one way to feed a baby’, I was forced to beg my ex-husband on the telephone for the return of our children. 24 hours later, he returned only my two year old and newborn, keeping my older children at an unknown location.

CPS Interrogation

From the moment the police had been called, CPS got involved and that was the start of a two year harassment campaign from them, most of it centred around my disability. They asserted incorrectly that I was not able to bath my babies because I had refused to answer what I viewed as discriminatory questioning about my parenting skills and I was told I had to consent to a social worker coming in to bath my children every day and if I didn’t, they’d be removed from me.

On one occasion they broke down my front door when I had gone out. People would turn up unannounced to ‘spot check’ me and they kept this up for a two year duration. I was court ordered to attend a parenting class but I refused to comply, saying that I had successfully cared for my children for years while my husband was working and didn’t need any classes. I asked why my able bodied husband was not asked to attend a class and I was told he didn’t need one as he didn’t have my disabilities.

On meeting me for the first time, the first words from the guardian ad litem’s mouth were “Oh goodness, how do you cope?” Not hello, or nice to meet you . I knew from that point that I was in for a rough ride.

Court Bias

When the case went to court, I discovered that the police had failed to honor my court order because ‘there were disability issues’. I was shocked and appalled that in the 21st century, people could still be deemed unfit to be a parent because they are disabled.

By the time all the interviews had been conducted, more than seven months had passed so when it finally went to court, the judge said the older children had been with their father for months and it would be cruel to move them so he awarded him custody – a delay that only happened because of the fact that I had to prove myself fit to parent and as a disabled woman I had higher standards to meet than your average able parent.

Fast forward a whole decade and my ex-husband was still pursuing me through the courts for custody. After being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis in 2010, my health deteriorated. I had to have major surgery. This was brought up in court and it was asserted I was not ‘fit’ enough to be a mother, despite having hired help. I was also accused of abusing prescription drugs because I had to take medications. It was inferred by the Guardian ad litem that my children may be acting as ‘carers’ for me, in spite of my assistant’s employment with me. Shockingly, the court allowed all these accusations to be levelled against me. I was informed I had to answer questions about my disability because my health was the reason my ability to parent was under scrutiny.

I was allowed to keep my two youngest children but I shouldn’t have had more than a decade of my life trying to defend my right to be a parent just because I was born disabled.

No Disabled Parents Rights

I found out that there is no law to protect the relationship between a disabled parent and their children. The American’s with Disabilities Act doesn’t have a section on parenting and two thirds of dependency statutes allow a court to determine that a parent is ‘unfit’ on the basis that they are disabled.

Disabled parents frequently struggle to retain custody and are the only group of people where it is legal to discriminate against them. Up to 80% of parents with an intellectual disability will have their children removed. For physical disabilities the rate is 40% or higher and for those with physical disabilities going through custody disputes, 13% will be treated unfairly on the basis of disability. Parents who have psychological disabilities such as bipolar disorder or anorexia will very often have their children removed if they come under the radar of the authorities. In addition – sometimes a disabled parent will be denied the right to any visitation because of court judgements that are stereotypical and the court assumption that children will be forced into ‘caring’ roles with their parent, a view that doesn’t support what researchers have found.

After my experiences I have launched an official complaint with the government and I hope to create amendments to disability discrimination laws so that child custody cannot be decided on the basis of disability. I also hope to outlaw interrogation about disability so that in the absence of any real child protection concerns, disabled parents shouldn’t have to ‘prove’ they can be parents.

Sources:

Kidjacked, accessed July 6, 2014, http://kidjacked.com/

Americans with Disabilities Act, U.S Department of Education, accessed July 6, 2014, http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/hq9805.html

Parents with Learning Difficulties, Child Protection and the Courts, accessed July 6, 2014, http://disability-studies.leeds.ac.uk/files/library/Booth-parents-with-lea-diff.pdf

Rocking the Cradle: Ensuring the Rights of Parents with Disabilities and their Children, National Council on Disability, accessed July 6, 2014, http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/Sep272012/

The Family Law System: Custody and Visitation, National Council on Disability, accessed July 6, 2014, http://www.ncd.gov/publications/2012/Sep272012/Ch7

Determining the Best Interests of the Child, Child Welfare Information Gateway, accessed July 6, 2014, https://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/best_interest.pdf

Find the Best Anorexic Treatment Programs and Dual Diagnosis Rehabs, Bulimia.com, accessed July 6, 2014, http://www.bulimia.com/topics/anorexia/

When a Parent has an Eating Disorder, The New York Times, accessed July 6, 2014, http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/20/adult-children-of-eating-disordered-parents/

Foster Child Speaks Out

March 31, 2014 in Child Protective Services, corruption, foster care

help3_ezrI’m a former foster child. I had suffered abuse at home with my step dad. I stood up to my abuser and asked for the help of child protective services. He confessed and was convicted for his crime and I was placed in foster care. Even though my step dad was the criminal he was released years before I was. Foster care had become such an abusive prison for me I finally ran away, homeless out on the streets, to young to work and no where to go.

Not only do I have physical scars from the abuse I received in foster care but some days I still cry from the type of mental maltreatment I received at the hands of my supposed protectors. I’d come a long way since foster care. I had worked full time and went to school at night to finish high school and continue further in my education to become a surgical dental assistant. Later, I changed my career path and began working for scholastic books. I refused to allow CPS, my therapist, and the foster parents opinions to control who I would become or to limit my future. (I was lucky to be stubborn and rebellious.)

Here recently I’ve had a great opportunity to become connected with other former foster children, and we each share our stories with each other and give each other support. But I started to notice something. The opinions and ordeals each former foster child had faced in foster care, seemed to echo the same opinion or same unacceptable situation when thrown into foster care. For example:

An ex foster child said something recently that had caught my attention. She said, “One thing that bothers me is society says parents who use drugs, abuse their kids, neglects them, and many more things, aren’t good enough to be parents and forcefully removes the children. This very same society looks the other way when we’re abused in foster care, moved several times, remain in limbo for years without any stability.

Kids in jail

We go years if not forever, waiting to be adopted by these people, but they go overseas to adopt. We get dumped out on the street and left to survive like animals when we age out of the system with absolutely nothing. Society doesn’t care what happens after we leave our unfit parents. When in some cases the unfit parents are 100% better than the numerous foster homes who have been checked out by the state and approved. Just because we leave our unfit parents doesn’t mean we live happily ever after.”

Here are some numbers found on Wikipedia that support this former foster child’s statement.

Maltreatment per 100,000 US children.

CPS    Parents

Physical Abuse           160          59
Sexual Abuse              112          13
Neglect                          410       241
Medical Neglect             14          12
Fatalities                           6.4        1.5

I’ve also had an ex foster child contact me wondering why foster kids are treated so badly and no one pays attention. His reasoning, his temporary foster parent had run him over with her truck. He was pronounced dead but then had finally been revived. He sued the state for this and somehow only ended up with $40 thousand dollars and mass long term pain (his court appointed lawyer received the bulk of the money) and he also has many bills from the doctors, him and his bio mother are obligated to pay. ( I can understand his frustrations.)

I’ve been reading many ex foster kids stories (including having my own) and what I find is more atrocities after they were removed then what they experience at home. I can not help but wonder why this agency has made such great leaps and bounds on how to manipulate, maneuver through the law, and perfect how to remove children but they themselves have no idea how to raise children. They have spent millions upon million each year for over 30 or 40 years on these state run agencies yet in general all they have produced is abused and neglected children who go on to struggle in society.

Look at these statistics copied from children’s rights.org

  • 12-30 percent struggled with homelessness
  • 40-63 percent did not complete high school
  • 25-55 percent were unemployed; those employed had average earnings below the poverty level, and only 38 percent of those employed were still working after one year
  • 30-62 percent had trouble accessing health care due to inadequate finances or lack of insurance
  • 32-40 percent were forced to rely on some form of public assistance and 50 percent experienced extreme financial hardship
  • 31-42 percent had been arrested
  • 18-26 percent were incarcerated
  • 40-60 percent of the young women were pregnant within 12-18 months of leaving foster care.

Nancy Schaefer already further summarized all of this as, “The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect in 1998 reported that six times as many children died in foster care than in the general public and that once removed to official “safety”, these children are far more likely to suffer abuse, including sexual molestation, than in the general population. Think what that number is today ten years later!”

Senator Nancy Schaefer reported, “that poor parents very often are targeted to lose their children because they do not have the where-with-all to hire lawyers and fight the system. Being poor does not mean you are not a good parent or that you do not love your child, or that your child should be removed and placed with strangers; that all parents are capable of making mistakes and that making a mistake does not mean your children are to be removed from the home. Even if the home is not perfect, it is home; and that’s where a child is the safest and where he or she wants to be, with family;

I’ve also read countless ex foster children’s stories of how they had been medicated for one thing after another and even witnessed an adopted child so overly medicated, he could not control himself. Thankfully after talking to his adoptive parents they agreed to slowly back him off of the 10 medications he was on. (He spent a lot of time in my home during this time) he has calmed down greatly and has now been able to focus and excel in school.

Some ex foster kids talk about the long term effects these medications have caused them, long after they have finally gotten off of the drugs. Some must continue taking different types of meds to help them deal with the after effects of the medications forced upon them in foster care, (all under the guise of being in their best interest).

Here’s one former foster child’s statement of what she had been through and how the medications affected her.

“I was living in Maryville, Tennessee and was 14 years old. I was depressed but I was a really quiet kid and a laid back type. These folks decided to start me on meds for my depression (a little red pill that I don’t know what it was) shortly after, I noticed I was feeling anxious and nervous. Then I noticed that I started having a short fuse when it came to my temper and it was more difficult to calm down. I told the group home owner this, but she wouldn’t have me taken off the meds.

I started spitting the meds into a paper Dixie cup they would give me water in to take my medications and crush the cup so no one saw. I started to feel normal again, I did that for a month before I was ratted out by another kid. Any way they took me to a doctor that put me on Paxil. The night they gave me that stuff, I was wired for sound and tried to play sumo wrestling with my roommate Donelle. The medication made me constipated and I felt overly psycho, again, no one would listen to me asking to be taken off the meds.

I also noticed I had more issues than usual on concentrating on my school work and I started being mean to others, really mean, as in hitting folks and yelling, it was like I was losing control. I found myself withdrawing because of it and crying my eyes out at every turn. That’s the same year I started having panic episodes. One day decided to ditch school and just go walking… I was told that I cussed out all of the group home staff but I do not remember it… Eric blankenship could tell you a lot about that. I was picked up by the police and taken back to the group home but then I was moved to a teen psych ward.

There at the psych ward they gave me a higher dose of Paxil and added Milloril to my meds and some pill they were telling me was a vitamin but I’m sure it was a tranquilizer because not long after taking it, I could barely hold my head up.

This went on for a month solid until a caseworker (a man) showed up to take me to my next placement. I was on those meds from foster home to foster home then one day I was taken to an all girl group home in Knoxville, Tennessee where shortly after I was abruptly changed from the Paxil and Millorill, to Prozac and Trazedone. The first time they gave me the Prozac, I was 15 years old and was being given 3 Prozac a day and my head always felt like I had a chunk of lead tied to it. Schooling was hard because it was a new place and I felt crazy out of my head. I hated everyone and everything.

I felt as if my mind was working overtime and I was suicidal because i could not calm down and in that same place I was fondled by one of the men staff workers when we went on a trip to the University of Tennessee Race Track. I would scream in the night in my sleep and I would be so nervous every day. I got defiant with the staff and would cuss this one lady in particular named Deiadra. She was a reasonably nice person but I got to where nothing mattered.

Till this very day, I am a nervous type person and I still have the panic episodes that started as a teenager, I have a very hard time coming down from any emotion whether it be anger, anxiety, joy, depression, fear, etc. I know it was because of the meds because prior to the meds, I was able to keep my emotions in check. I’m angry that this has to be this way, with me but this crap has forever changed me, along with all the being passed around like a dooby. It, all has an effect on me that, will never be normal again. I still consider myself a glitch ”

For more Facts About Aging Out visit: Children’s Rights.

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CPS, School and the Law

September 4, 2013 in Child Protective Services, corruption, foster care

After Child Protective Services kidnapped my daughter, they tried to enroll her into a high school. In spite of the fact that a diploma had been issued acknowledging the fact she graduated from a home school. I was told directly “We are above the Department of Education.”

We have a baby...for awhile at least

We have a baby…for awhile at least!

State laws say a child under the age of 16 (up to the 16th birthday) must attend school, with the following exceptions:

(e) The child has graduated from high school or has fulfilled all requirements for high school graduation.

Even though the Governor, State Legislature, Michigan Department of Education all recognize a home school diploma, CPS claims they do not. Even though my daughter was 16, CPS does not have to follow the law. CPS is very knowledgeable of school laws in Michigan. Home schools are not required to register the school or student with any governmental agency. Home schools do not have to conduct standardized tests. Home schools do not have to report student progress to any governmental agency.

CPS asked under what certified educational program was she taught. I told them I was the certified agency. They refused to believe me and also refused to call the Department of Education!  At age 16, my daughter legally was not required to attend a school because of age and because of having graduated! But CPS is to arrogant to believe a parent whose child they had just illegally abducted!

In fact, any law that CPS wants to break, they are allowed to inject their personal opinions above what state and federal laws say. As I have said before, CPS has told me directly “When CPS is involved, parents and children have no Civil or Constitutional Rights. We are above the Constitution!

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