[Nfbmo] Fw: [Missouri-l] Infant is returned to blindcoupleafterstate pla...

Susan Ford johnsusanford at earthlink.net
Thu Jul 22 01:42:09 UTC 2010

One of the saddest partsof this story has not yet been told.  In 1975, 1976, 
and 1977 the NFB first organized what was called the Committee on Parental 
Concerns, primarily because a number of us wanted to adopt and were not 
being seriously considered because we were blind.  This was before my kids 
were born and they are now 35 and 34.  Orlo and Mary Nichols from Maryland 
were the first couple of the group of us who were successful.  I think they 
adopted 4 children.  Isn't it sad that 35 years ago it was found that blind 
parents can be successful at raising children and then 35 years later, we 
have to start all over because social workers and nurses still haven't 
learned about the capabilities of blind people.  Just for the record, Brenda 
nursed for more than ten months and didn't suffocate once.  I didn't know 
any more than Erika did about nursing, but I had caring, considerate nurses 
and the help of La Leche League when I got worried that I must not be doing 
it right.  As Debbie said, it has nothing to do with her blindness that 
caused the nursing problem.  It was her inexperience.  When Brenda's baby 
was botrn in February, she had the benefit of a whole lactation unit at the 
hospital whose job it is to work with new parents with individual 
instruction, and classes in early parenting to help and support them.  Some 
hospitals are more progressive than others.  Boise may be rural, but it is 
more progressive than Independence.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: <DanFlasar at aol.com>
To: <nfbmo at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 11:30 AM
Subject: Re: [Nfbmo] Fw: [Missouri-l] Infant is returned to 
blindcoupleafterstate pla...

>I forwarded this story to my sighted friends with the  following note to
> them.  I haven't gotten any reaction yet but I will not  be surprised if a 
> few
> defend the state action.  I feel it's absolutely  necessary to spread
> stories like these and explain why these things are so  wrong.  In all 
> honesty,
> my heart feels lighter knowing that this child has  gone home with her
> parents.  The cynic in me felt that this was going to be  a huge, damaging 
> affair.
>     I can only echo whoever said that this shows both  the power - and the
> need  for - the NFB.
> Friends,
> This was the big topic at the NFB convention in  Dallas. A presentation on
> the case was made at the beginning of the  conference.  The outraged 
> crowd,
> which included many, many blind parents,  gave extremely generously to the
> campaign to get the child back to her  parents.  It was shocking that such
> ignorance still
> exists, and that a state would take such precipitous action as to take a
> child from it's mother solely on hte basis of a disability but it did. 
> The
> state capitulated minutes before a judicial hearing took place.
>    We had been prepared for a long drawn-out and expensive  court
> challenge.   It is further evidence that civil rights can only  be 
> achieved by the
> concerted action of those who face discrimination,  especially the most
> insidious form - well-meaning and ignorant individuals  with power.
>     The article below does a very good job in  detailing the story.
> Dan
> In a message dated 7/21/2010 11:13:01 A.M. Central Daylight Time,
> goodfolks at charter.net writes:
> Well, I  remember when I was told the same thing about 20 years ago in
> South
> Carolina. Chalk it up to ignorance, something we face on a regular  basis.
> Fred Olver
> ----- Original Message ----- 
> From: "Dewey  Bradley" <dewey.bradley at att.net>
> To: "NFB of Missouri Mailing List"  <nfbmo at nfbnet.org>
> Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 10:00  AM
> Subject: Re: [Nfbmo] Fw: [Missouri-l] Infant is returned to blind
> coupleafterstate placesher in protective custody
>> Well as a  blind pairent what do you think about this?
>> ----- 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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