[Nfbmo] Fw: [Missouri-l] Infant is returned to blind couple afterstate placesher in protective custody

Susan Ford johnsusanford at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 22 01:24:46 UTC 2010


Did you send the Mikaela article to the nfbmolistserve?  I know you got it 
from the mcb listserve.  If you didn't, you should or let me know and I 
will.  I thought it was a really good article.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Fred Olver" <goodfolks at charter.net>
To: "NFB Chapter Presidents discussion list" 
<chapter-presidents at nfbnet.org>; <nfbmi-talk at nfbnet.org>; "NFB of Missouri 
Mailing List" <nfbmo at nfbnet.org>; <Blindad at babel-fish.us>
Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 7:57 AM
Subject: [Nfbmo] Fw: [Missouri-l] Infant is returned to blind couple 
afterstate placesher in protective custody

> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: Chip Hailey
> To: MCB Listserve
> Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 7:47 AM
> Subject: [Missouri-l] Infant is returned to blind couple after state 
> placesher in protective custody
> Posted on Wed, Jul. 21, 2010 12:15 AM
> Email
> Infant is returned to blind couple after state places her in protective 
> custody
> The Kansas City Star
> Fifty-seven days after she was born, Mikaela Sinnett was home for the 
> first time Tuesday with her parents, Erika Johnson and Blake Sinnett of 
> Independence. State officials had worried they were unable to care for 
> her.
> DAVID EULITT | The Kansas City Sta
> Fifty-seven days after she was born, Mikaela Sinnett was home for the 
> first time
> Tuesday with her parents, Erika Johnson and Blake Sinnett of Independence. 
> State
> officials had worried they were unable to care for her.
> A folding cane used by Blake Sinnett rested in the baby carrier used to 
> carry home his daughter.
> On Tuesday, Blake Sinnett, guided by his mother, Jenne Sinnett, carried 
> his 2-month-old daughter, Mikaela Sinnett. Behind them was Mikaela's 
> mother, Erika Johnson.
> Erika Johnson will never be able to see her baby, Mikaela.
> But for 57 days she couldn't keep her newborn close, smell her baby's 
> breath, feel
> her downy hair.
> The state took away her 2-day-old infant into protective custody - because 
> Johnson
> and Mikaela's father are both blind.
> No allegations of abuse, just a fear that the new parents would be unable 
> to care
> for the child.
> On Tuesday, Johnson still couldn't stop crying, although Mikaela was back 
> in her
> arms.
> "We never got the chance to be parents," she said. "We had to prove that 
> we could."
> Tuesday, she and Blake Sinnett knew their baby was finally coming home to 
> their Independence
> apartment, but an adjudication hearing was scheduled for the afternoon on 
> whether
> the state would stay involved in the rearing of the baby. Then from a 
> morning phone
> call to their attorney, they learned that the state was dismissing their 
> case.
> "Every minute that has passed that this family wasn't together is a 
> tragedy. A legal
> tragedy and a moral one, too," said Amy Coopman, their attorney. "How do 
> you get
> 57 days back?"
> Arleasha Mays, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social 
> Services, said
> privacy laws prohibited her from speaking about specific cases. But she 
> added, "The
> only time we recommend a child be removed is if it's in imminent danger."
> Johnson said she knew the system eventually would realize its horrible 
> mistake, but
> she often was consumed with sadness. Sinnett tried his best to keep 
> Johnson hopeful.
> For almost two months she and Sinnett could visit their baby only two or 
> three times
> a week, for just an hour at a time, with a foster parent monitoring.
> "I'm a forgiving person," Johnson said, but she's resentful that people 
> assumed she
> was incapable.
> "Disability does not equal inability," she said.
> Representatives of the sightless community agreed that people were 
> well-meaning but
> blinded by ignorance.
> Mikaela was born May 21 at Centerpoint Medical Center of Independence. The 
> doctors
> let Sinnett "see" her birth by feeling the crowning of her head.
> For Johnson, hearing Mikaela's whimpers was a thrill. The little human 
> inside her
> all these months, the one who hiccupped and burped, who kicked and moved, 
> especially
> at night, was now a real person whom she loved more than anything else 
> she'd ever
> imagined.
> In her overnight bag was Mikaela's special homecoming outfit, a green 
> romper from
> Johnson's mother, with matching bottoms and a baby bow.
> Questions arose within hours of Mikaela's birth, after Johnson's clumsy 
> first attempts
> at breast-feeding - something many new mothers experience.
> A lactation nurse noticed that Mikaela's nostrils were covered by 
> Johnson's breast.
> Johnson felt that something was wrong and switched her baby to her other 
> side, but
> not before Mikaela turned blue.
> That's when the concerned nurse wrote on a chart: "The child is without 
> proper custody,
> support or care due to both of parents being blind and they do not have 
> specialized
> training to assist them."
> Her words set into motion the state mechanisms intended to protect 
> children from
> physical or sexual abuse, unsanitary conditions, neglect or absence of 
> basic needs
> being met.
> Centerpoint said it could not comment because of patient privacy laws, but 
> spokeswoman
> Gene Hallinan said, "We put the welfare of our patients as our top 
> priority."
> A social worker from the state came by Johnson's hospital room and asked 
> her questions:
> How could she take her baby's temperature? Johnson answered: with our 
> talking thermometer.
> How will you take her to a doctor if she gets sick? Johnson's reply: If it 
> were an
> emergency, they'd call an ambulance. For a regular doctor's appointment, 
> they'd call
> a cab or ride a bus.
> But it wasn't enough for the social worker, who told Johnson she would 
> need 24-hour
> care by a sighted person at their apartment.
> Johnson said they couldn't afford it, didn't need it.
> "I needed help as a new parent, but not as a blind parent," Johnson said.
> She recalled the social worker saying: " 'Look, because you guys are 
> blind, I don't
> feel like you can adequately take care of her.' And she left."
> The day of Johnson's discharge, another social worker delivered the news 
> to the couple
> that Mikaela was not going home with them. The parents returned the next 
> day to visit
> Mikaela before she left the hospital, but they were barred from holding 
> her.
> "All we could do was touch her arm or leg," Johnson said.
> The couple began making calls. Gary Wunder, president of the National 
> Federation
> of the Blind of Missouri, had trouble believing it at first.
> "I needed to verify their whole story," he recalled. "We had to do due 
> diligence.
> . I found the couple to be intelligent and responsible.
> "We knew this was an outrage that had taken place."
> He notified Kansas City chapter president Shelia Wright, who visited the 
> 24-year-olds.
> Hearing about the empty crib, the baby clothes, Wright recalled, "I felt 
> as helpless
> as I've ever felt in my life.
> "I hurt so bad for them. This is unforgivable."
> They rallied other associations for the blind nationwide. More than 100 
> people at
> a national convention in Dallas volunteered to travel to Kansas City to 
> protest and
> testify, both as blind parents and as the sighted children of blind 
> parents. (Mikaela
> has normal sight.)
> They also hired Coopman, who watched the young couple with their baby girl 
> on Tuesday.
> "I'm sorry," she said, wiping tears. "But this should not have happened."
> Johnson kept a journal that Coopman is keeping closed for now. She 
> indicates that
> legal action will be taken.
> "Whether a couple is visually impaired or deaf or in a wheelchair, the 
> state should
> not keep them from their children," she said.
> Now breast-feeding is a lost option. And the beautiful newborn clothes 
> hanging in
> the closet went unworn, because their baby was growing bigger in the arms 
> of someone
> else.
> The couple said they had tried to prove themselves to the sighted 
> community since
> their early years. Sinnett rode his bicycle on the street with the help of 
> a safety
> gadget. Johnson graduated from high school with honors. But all the 
> challenges they've
> endured over the years shrink compared to the responsibility of caring for 
> 10 pounds
> of squirming baby girl.
> Johnson cuddled Mikaela. Gave her a bottle. Patted her back until she 
> burped. Mikaela
> gave a tiny smile.
> In their 24 years, the couple said, they've both endured prejudice from 
> others. They
> don't want any other blind parent to suffer the same obstacle they did.
> Fifty-seven days are too precious to lose.
> The Star's Laura Bauer contributed to this report. To reach Lee Hill 
> Kavanaugh, call
> 816-234-4420 or send e-mail to
> lkavanaugh at kcstar.com
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