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

DanFlasar at aol.com DanFlasar at aol.com
Mon Jul 26 21:25:53 UTC 2010

    I do have to agree with Gary on this point.  Try as  I might, I can 
never get a rise out of you.
In a message dated 7/26/2010 4:14:44 P.M. Central Daylight Time,  
gwunder at earthlink.net writes:

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 
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  
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 
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 
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 
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 

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 
basis of blindness.

A  thoroughgoing training program must be conducted by RSB and  
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 
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 
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 
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 

> 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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