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

Fred Olver goodfolks at charter.net
Thu Jul 22 02:07:35 UTC 2010

Yes, I did, Susan.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Susan Ford" <johnsusanford at earthlink.net>
To: "NFB of Missouri Mailing List" <nfbmo at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 8:24 PM
Subject: Re: [Nfbmo] Fw: [Missouri-l] Infant is returned to blind 
coupleafterstate placesher in protective custody

> Fred:
> 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.
> Susan
> ----- 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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