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

Gary Wunder gwunder at earthlink.net
Mon Jul 26 20:21:57 UTC 2010

Dear Jim:

What must I do to get you to feel some emotion about this case? What
possible words can I say to get you all riled up?

My friend, when we get to trial I hope we have a judge who thinks a lot like
you do. You often tell me that in my writing I am too nuanced. Well, I can
tell you that you don't suffer from that affliction. You call them as you
see them. I think you would've made a splendid umpire had you not chosen
civil rights is your career.


-----Original Message-----
From: nfbmo-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbmo-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf
Of James Moynihan
Sent: Monday, July 26, 2010 1:41 PM
To: NFB of Missouri Mailing List
Subject: [Nfbmo] Fw: Setting the record straight about Baby Mikaela

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
> 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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