[Nfbmo] Setting the record straight about Baby Mikaela and herparents

Roger RogerLH605 at aol.com
Sun Jul 25 13:59:03 UTC 2010


You are a truly wise man, and a great Leader.  I agree with you in all  
you said.  When I first heard of this incident, I was greatly angered  
and made comments on this list that should not have been made. Such  
actions do not serve the higher purposes and goals for which we have  
come together in the NFB.  I now stand corrected, educated, and  
enlightened.  Thank you for your wisdom.

I hope this kind of unnecessary incident never happens again to  
anyone.  I wish the NFB the greatest sucess in what is to come.


On Jul 25, 2010, at 6:38 AM, "Susan  Ford"  
<johnsusanford at earthlink.net> wrote:

> Gary:
> You have done a tremendous job of stating the NFB position on this  
> position. As a member of the state Board I support the position you  
> have reiterated and what we still must do about it.  What was done  
> is nothing less than a threat to every blind couple who has or plans  
> to have children or to adopt them.  We must insist that our civil  
> rights are not violated.
> Susan
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Gary Wunder" <gwunder at earthlink.net 
> >
> To: "'NFB Chapter Presidents discussion list'" <chapter-presidents at nfbnet.org 
> >; "nfbmo list" <nfbmo at nfbnet.org>
> Sent: Saturday, July 24, 2010 9:29 PM
> Subject: [Nfbmo] Setting the record straight about Baby Mikaela and  
> herparents
>> Hello folks. I've been off the list for a couple of days, and I  
>> have to tell
>> you that I'm somewhat disheartened by some of the messages. It's  
>> almost like
>> the facts have gotten lost here. Let me see if I can put some of  
>> them down.
>> When Erika first attempted to feed her baby, she was not given  
>> instruction
>> as to how to do it. She was the one who reported a problem, and  
>> that problem
>> was resolved simply by repositioning the baby and showing Erika how  
>> to
>> ensure that the baby's nose was free for breathing. The hospital  
>> records do
>> not reflect anything to indicate there was a code blue or that anyone
>> besides the nurse had to become involved in the incident.
>> Now we come to what happened afterward. You can certainly make the  
>> argument
>> that the nurse, if there was any kind of question, thought of  
>> herself as a
>> mandated reporter and took the safe road by calling the Children's  
>> Services
>> Division. For me the biggest problem is what happened after the  
>> Children's
>> Services Division became involved. Erika reports that she was asked  
>> how she
>> would bathe her baby, diaper it, know where it was, and take its
>> temperature. These questions she answered. That should have been  
>> sufficient.
>> When we heard about this incident, we started by contacting  
>> Rehabilitation
>> Services for the Blind, which, like the Children's Services  
>> Division, is a
>> part of the Missouri Department of Social Services. They were  
>> certainly
>> upset by the situation, offered services,  but told the judge they  
>> were in a
>> difficult position because, while they had offered their services  
>> to educate
>> The Children's Services Division about issues of blindness, they  
>> were in no
>> position to see that their offer was accepted.
>> We contacted the Children's Services Division both through in formal
>> channels and through legal counsel. They were not interested in  
>> learning
>> about blindness. They were not interested in talking with us.
>> When we were involved in what was the second hearing regarding this  
>> case,
>> the judge (actually she is called a commissioner) was quite  
>> concerned about
>> the actions of the agency and let it be known. She observed that  
>> this most
>> certainly was not the first blind couple to raise a child, and that  
>> she
>> would be very surprised if the hospital in question had not seen  
>> blind
>> parents before. She indicated that while she was on vacation, an  
>> attempt
>> should be made to increase the number of visits which Blake and  
>> Eric got
>> with Mikaela, that some of those visits should be unsupervised, and  
>> that
>> there should be some overnight visits in the mix. This did not find  
>> its way
>> into her written decision, however, and with the exception of one
>> unsupervised visit, which took place on the Friday before Mikaela was
>> returned, I know of only one unsupervised visit in the fifty-seven  
>> days in
>> which Erika and Blake were prevented from caring for their child.  
>> There were
>> no overnight visits, unsupervised or otherwise.
>> Some have observed here that the Children's Services Division  
>> actually did
>> the right thing by coming to its senses. May I politely respond  
>> hogwash! The
>> Children's Services Division started negotiations on the day before  
>> the
>> evidentiary hearing was to take place. They delivered Mikaela to  
>> her home at
>> 9 AM, produced papers for our lawyer at 11 AM, and all to avoid the  
>> hearing
>> which was scheduled for 3 PM. They did not benevolently relent.  
>> They waited
>> as long as they possibly could before having to defend their  
>> actions with
>> Blake, Erika, and the national Federation of the blind being  
>> represented by
>> counsel.
>> There has been a lot of discussion about whether the actions we are  
>> now
>> going to take are vengeful or punitive. The religions which many of  
>> us share
>> give us no right to be vengeful. Let me ask you to consider whether  
>> we
>> should let Blake and Erika's case rest now that they have custody  
>> of their
>> child, or whether we should use it, as we have used so many others  
>> in the
>> past, to establish some meaningful precedent. I, for one, am not  
>> satisfied
>> to let the prevailing legal wisdom be that you can take a child  
>> from blind
>> parents and, if you decide you've made a mistake after 57 days, can  
>> return
>> them with no consequences. I respect the work that children's  
>> services
>> workers do. I want children protected from abuse. I want children  
>> removed
>> from homes where drug use makes the parents irresponsible. I want  
>> children
>> removed from homes where they are clearly neglected. I do not wish  
>> to make
>> the lives of hard-working public servants more difficult than they  
>> already
>> are. Nevertheless, I don't think those of us in the National  
>> Federation of
>> the Blind should be happy or comfortable with settling for anything  
>> less
>> than a systemic change. What was done was against the law. The  
>> Federal
>> Office for Civil Rights is extremely interested in the case. There  
>> are at
>> least three motions we are prepared to file in the court system  
>> where the
>> legal and constitutional rights of blind people have been violated.
>> One of the most troubling experiences I had at the national  
>> convention this
>> year was talking with young people who almost begged me to convince  
>> them
>> they were hearing it wrong. Some came to talk with me and started our
>> conversation by asking whether this was some urban legend which had  
>> gotten
>> started on the Internet with which my name had been associated. I  
>> had to
>> tell them that it was no urban legend and that its association with  
>> my name
>> was no accident. Others came to ask me whether this was a past  
>> event which
>> somehow had resurfaced. What they wanted to know was how long ago  
>> this had
>> happened. No matter the questions with which they came, all of them  
>> left
>> badly shaken. Many remarked that they were newly engaged and were  
>> planning
>> to have children. Others reported being newly married and that a  
>> child was
>> on the way. All of them were concerned, because they thought all of  
>> these
>> issues about child custody and blindness had long since been  
>> resolved by the
>> National Federation of the Blind.
>> Sometimes government bashing takes second place only to the World  
>> Series and
>> the Super Bowl in terms of a public past time, and I don't want to  
>> be a part
>> of that. What I do want to see the Federation be a part of is  
>> exposing this
>> behavior for exactly what it is, and for saying to everyone who has  
>> ears,
>> whether they work in a social service agency, a hospital, a  
>> newspaper, or in
>> some small factory down the road, that blindness is no reason to  
>> take a
>> child from its parents. Should we educate? Of course we should, and  
>> no doubt
>> one of the things we will be asking that the court address is  
>> education for
>> the entities that are the targets of our actions.
>> I understand, as do we all, that blindness is a terribly  
>> misunderstood
>> disability, and whenever I can, I try to be compassionate about the  
>> way I
>> address the issue. Even so, there is a difference between being
>> compassionate and understanding about people who are ignorant when  
>> it comes
>> to what we need and what we can do, and concluding that because  
>> there is
>> widespread misunderstanding, we really have no right to complain or  
>> do
>> anything about it. I think we have to make a firm statement. That  
>> firm
>> statement has to be "You will not take our children. If you do,  
>> there will
>> be consequences and they will be severe. If you will let us teach you
>> through our public outreach and our seminars, will be glad to have  
>> you, but
>> if you make us, we will teach you in the commissions and courts  
>> charged with
>> defending the civil rights of America's citizens."
>> As a final note, let me suggest that Missouri happens to be the state
>> receiving attention now, but Missouri is no different from many  
>> other states
>> when it comes to their knowledge of blind people and the speed with  
>> which
>> they address issues such as this. One person several weeks ago  
>> wrote to
>> inquire in what small backward town this took place, only to learn  
>> the small
>> town was not a small town at all but Kansas City. Geography offers  
>> us little
>> protection. We must all be vigilant and guard against the idea that  
>> this
>> could never happen to us because we live in a more progressive  
>> community.
>> Gary
>> P.S. We have some reason to believe this will receive national  
>> coverage on
>> CBS on Monday morning.
>> GW
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