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

James Moynihan jamesmoynihan at kc.rr.com
Mon Jul 26 18:40:56 UTC 2010

Gary andFriends:

It is understandable that people attending our national convention would be 
skeptical that this incident regarding Mikaela's blind parents actually 
occurred.  One reaction would be to think that matters had been resolved 
since Mikaela has been returned to her parents.  This reaction would be a 
mistake because Mikaela had been removed from her parents solely on the 
basis of their blindness and suffered irreparable harm when she was removed 
from their custody for 57 days.

Jana and I raised two sighted children and fortunately we were not subjected 
to the machinations of the Division of Children's Services (DCS).

To give me a better understanding of this incident Please give me some 
information to enlighten me regarding the actions of DCS.

What law or statute gives DCS the power or authority to remove Mikaela or 
other children from their parents?  It is my understanding that Mikaela had 
to be in "imminent danger" to warrant this action.  I do not believe that 
having initial difficulty with breast feeding constituted an imminent danger 
to Mikaela.  Therefore, DCS misconstrued its authority by removing Mikaela.

I and the rest of us need to know whether there is an ombudsmon or advocate 
within DCS who could have been contacted to conduct an immediate 
investigation to prevent Mikaela from being taken away.  To put it simply 
does DCS have the preemptive authority to remove Mikaela or any other chiold 
from parental custody.

My belief is that DCS knew it had overstepped its authority by returning 
Mikaela and providing legal paperwork prior to the hearing.  DCS became 
concerned about the potential embarrassment of justifying its actions at the 

DCS could have avoided subjecting Mikaela and her parents to this trauma 
simply by consulting with RSA, Gary Wunder, Shelia Wright, and other 
knowledgeable members of NFB.  The arrogance of DCS is mind boggling and 
they have only themselves to blame regarding any repercussions resulting 
from this incident.

We can not take away the harm to which baby Mikaela andher parents were 
subjected. Since DCS will not  engage in discussion We must take steps to 
ensure that other  blind parents are not subjected to the caprice and 
arbitrary whims of DCS.

The NFB of Missouri must insist that DCS institute corrective actions to 
formulate policies requiring that the rights of blind parents are protected 
to guarantee that a child is not removed from parental custody solely on the 
basis of blindness.

A thoroughgoing training program must be conducted by RSB and knowledgeable 
members of the NFB to ensure that DCS will not remove a child from blind 
parents and that a child will not be removed from parentalcustody solely on 
the basis of blindness.

DCS must also pay punitive damages to remedy the pain and suffering 
inflicted on Mikaela and her parents.

Since DCS remains obdurate by refusing to receive training from RSB and NFB 
and also by refusing to learn from the NFB regarding blindness issues it is 
imperative that the social wworker who removed Mikaela from parental custody 
and DCS officials who will not receive training regarding blindness be 
terminated from their positions.  These DCS officials should be replaced by 
personnel who are willing to work constructively with RSB and NFB to protect 
the constitutional rightsof blind parents.

Respectfully Submitted,

James Moynihan

parent of two sighted children, member of the Board of Directors of the 
National Federation of the Blind of Missouri, and former Equal Opportunity 
Specialist with the U. S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights

P. S. Our son James Campbell Moynihan (better known as J. C.) has worked for 
fourr years as a chemical engineer for Conoco/Phillips at the Wood River 
Refinery in Rockford, Illinois.  Our daughter Jeanene Livingston worked for 
a year and a half as a travel agency and is now a receptionist for the Pro 
Rehab clinic in Saint Louis, Missouri.

J. C. graduated magna cum laude from the University of Missouri Rolla and 
Jeanene was on the Dean's list at the University of Central Missouri in 

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "James Moynihan" <jamesmoynihan at kc.rr.com>
To: "NFB of Missouri Mailing List" <nfbmo at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Sunday, July 25, 2010 11:44 PM
Subject: Re: [Nfbmo] Setting the record straight about Baby Mikaela and 

> Gary and Friends,
> I just want to give a littel personal prospective on this.  Some while 
> before Jim and i were married I happened to talk with a woman from another 
> state.  As I recall the story, her husband had died.  They had a little 
> boy about four years old.  She knew as a single mother she needed to 
> return to college so she could get a job which would allow her to raise 
> her son comfortably and with dignity.  A supposedly well-meaning neighbor 
> felt that trying to raise a child and attend college was beyond the 
> ability of a blind person and reported her to that state's version of 
> family services.  When the worker came to her home, dispite the fact that 
> the child and the home were clean, the worker immediately took the child 
> into custody because the woman's blindness, in her opinion, placed the 
> child in imminent danger.  Due to the long delay in getting a hearing, the 
> child was in foster care several months.  As I understood the story, when 
> the case came to hearing the judge threw it out and chastized the state 
> agency for having taken the child with no valid reason.  The woman got her 
> child back, but he had several psychological problems after this tromatic 
> experience.
> I also knew of a blind couple here in Kansas city who, many years ago, had 
> a similar experience.  However, it resulted from the mother swatting her 
> child for misbehaving in a store.  Someone reported it and DFS got 
> involved.  I don't remember whether the couple's children were placed in 
> DFS custody or not, but the family was followed for several months.  Yes, 
> Virginia and John, it can happen to you.
> About a year before I married, I went to work for Office for Civil Rights. 
> I worked for the Health and social Services unit.  One of our assigned 
> duties was to investigate state social service agencies such as DFS.  This 
> included child custody cases, so for the time I worked there, I learned 
> something about their investigations and handling of parents and children 
> in situations where children were removed from parental custody.  I never 
> handled a case like the present one.  With only a couple of exceptions, I 
> found DFS totally justified in removing children from homes where they 
> were being physically abused, were living in filth, or where the parents 
> were drug or alcohol abusers who could not properly protect and care for 
> their children.  Still, even these parents were given opportunities to 
> maintain their family structure.  Sometimes they were given second chances 
> to straighten up their child rearing practices.  On other occasions, they 
> were required to attend parenting classes or to attend alcohol and drug 
> abuse programs if they wanted their children back.  This couple in our 
> present case wasn't given such chances.  In my opinion, being a blind 
> person married to another blind person and having successfully raised two 
> children, I cannot understand why, if DFS were that concerned, they didn't 
> offer the parents training through the Services for the Blind, or did not 
> leave the child in parental care with follow up for a month or two.  Of 
> course, this still was not really necessary from what we have heard of the 
> situation, but it would have been a somewhat more caring and helpful 
> approach.
> I can tell all of you that having our children taken from us by DFS was 
> one of my great fears while raising them. I never so much as raised my 
> voice to them in public and the most I would do if they acted up out of 
> the home was to sweetly wisper to them when they were old enough to 
> understand that they would get their punishment when we got home and they 
> could think about it until then.   I cannot tell you how relieved I was 
> when Jeanene, our youngest, reached 17 and I knew DFS could no longer 
> snatch her from us for little or no reason.
> Cordially,
> Jana Moynihan
> ----- 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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