[Nfbmo] Setting the record straight about Baby Mikaela andherparents

Gary Wunder gwunder at earthlink.net
Mon Jul 26 12:47:53 UTC 2010

Thanks Dan. This helps keep things in perspective.



-----Original Message-----
From: nfbmo-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbmo-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf
Of DanFlasar at aol.com
Sent: Sunday, July 25, 2010 9:07 AM
To: nfbmo at nfbnet.org
Subject: Re: [Nfbmo] Setting the record straight about Baby Mikaela

       If there's one thing the struggle for  Civil Rights has made
painfully clear again and again - no one will ever give us our rights - we
have to stake them out and relentlessly defend  them.  The inertia of the
well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) ignorant functions as a relentless
friction on the forward motion of our  mission.  
To let this pass not only leaves the possibility that it  will happen again
but also a precedent that there will be no repercussions for  doing so.  
It's not vengeance - it's bringing a wrong to public viewing  which, given
th eweight of public optoin and the NFB's legal actions, can identify  how
this travesty took place and how it can be effectively prevented.
    I caught the very tail end of a local FOX news story  about this case
Friday evening but haven't been able to see the whole story.
    Thanks for your persistence in making the facts of this  case kown,
Gary.  I can tell you that when I manned the Missouri table at  the
convention I spent most of the time talking to NFB members (and some
vendors) about this case.  I heard the same fears you described,  expressed
with outrage, dismay and an evident resolve to right this wrong.
In a message dated 7/25/2010 6:42:46 A.M. Central Daylight Time,
johnsusanford at earthlink.net writes:


You have done a tremendous job of stating the NFB  position on this
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.


----- 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

> 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
> 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
> mandated reporter and took the safe road by calling the  Children's 
> Services Division. For me the biggest problem is  what happened after 
> the
> 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
> Services for the Blind, which, like the  Children's Services Division, 
> is
> part of the Missouri Department of  Social Services. They were 
> certainly upset by the situation, offered  services,  but told the 
> judge they were
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
> 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
>  to let the prevailing legal wisdom be that you can take a child from
> parents and, if you decide you've made a mistake after 57 days,  can
> 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
> removed from homes where they are  clearly neglected. I do not wish to
> the lives of hard-working  public servants more difficult than they
> are. Nevertheless, I  don't think those of us in the National 
> Federation
> 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
> 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
> 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
>  somehow had resurfaced. What they wanted to know was how long ago 
> this
> happened. No matter the questions with which they came, all of  them 
> left badly shaken. Many remarked that they were newly engaged and  
> were
> to have children. Others reported being newly married  and that a 
> child
> 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,
> 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
> 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
> CBS on Monday  morning.
>  GW
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