[Njabs-talk] Fighting Discrimination in Missouri

Arielle Silverman nabs.president at gmail.com
Wed Jun 30 22:32:01 UTC 2010

Dear students,

On the eve of our 70th anniversary as an organization, I am deeply
saddened to distribute the below message, about a blind couple in
Missouri whose newborn daughter was taken away from them by CPS,
merely because they are blind. This situation affects all of us,
especially since many of us are current or future blind parents, and
it's a shocking reminder of how much work remains ahead of us as an
organization. I urge you to read the below and to consider donating to
this cause, either directly or by helping to babysit at convention to
raise money for this family.
>From the NFB of Missouri:
Erica and Blake, a young couple were awaiting the birth of their first
child with joy and happiness. Baby Mikaela was born at 12:45pm, May 21. Not
 unlike many new mothers, Erica experienced some difficulty in her
first breast feeding
of Mikaela; she called the nurse for some advice. By 6:00pm child
 protective services arrived at the hospital to say the parents could not
 take Mikaela home, unless they had a sighted person to live with them.
In all the investigations, blindness is the only reason sited for the
 parents not being allowed to leave with their new baby girl.
 The Missouri affiliate has hired an attorney at $250 per hour, and
 her assistant at $85 per hour to bring Mikaela home where she belongs!
 Please help with any donations possible to unite this family. You may
 stop by the Missouri table, B 114 in the exhibit hall, or come by our
 We, the National Federation of the Blind can bring Mikaela home to
 her parents where she belongs! Thank you for any help you can give.
And a more recent update:
    I just spoke with NFB of Missouri President Gary Wunder. Here is the latest:

    The parents initially thought that if they played by the rules,
surely the judge would give them back their daughter at the first
hearing. However, this did not happen, so a second hearing was
scheduled for June 16. At this point, the parents realized that they
needed an advocate and contacted the NFB of Missouri. After visiting
with the couple in their home and determining that there were no
extenuating circumstances and that blindness was the only concern CPS
had about these parents, the NFB hired an attorney to assist them. The
cost of this attorney is $250 an hour, and $85 for the services of the
attorney's assistant.

    About two weeks ago, on June 16, the parents had their second
hearing. The judge seemed outraged that the hospital had taken the
child from this couple with so little cause and was further astounded
that the hospital had never dealt with blind parents before.
Unfortunately, this was not an evidentiary hearing, so no decisions
were made and it was announced that there would need to be a third
hearing. The problem is that this judge is going on vacation, so the
earliest they could get a hearing with her was on July 20. The parents
could have chosen to get an earlier hearing date with a different
judge, but their attorney advised them to wait for this judge to
return from vacation, because she had seemed so sympathetic and on
their side at the second hearing.

    So, the situation as it now stands is that the parents are
awaiting their third hearing on July 20, with this hopefully
sympathetic judge. Meanwhile, the NFB of Missouri is paying for the
parents to receive voc rehab training, to get letters from the state
VR agency saying that these parents can indeed perform the tasks that
were of concern to CPS. The NFB realizes that we shouldn't have to get
a permission slip from the state VR agency to have kids, but their
main focus at this time is to address the ridiculous "But, how does a
blind person do that?" concerns of the hospital and CPS and get baby
Micaela back with her parents where she belongs. So, the NFB of
Missouri is incurring additional costs, as they are paying out of
pocket for these voc rehab services for the couple.

    Gary asked me to pass along that the NFB of Missouri welcomes
donations to help defray the sky-rocketing legal expenses and the cost
of getting letters from VR professionals asserting that these parents
have received training in the skills of parenting and can perform the
required tasks. They are setting up a specific fund for these
donations. You can make a contribution at the NFB of Missouri's
affiliate table in the Exhibit Hall or by visiting Gary in the
Missouri delegation during General Session.

    If you can't make a monetary donation or if you'd like to help
further, I'm collecting names and contact info of Federationists who
would be willing to baby-sit during Convention for parents who want to
get out for an evening or even just attend a few Convention events
without their children, and donate the proceeds to the NFB of Missouri
to help with the legal costs of returning Micaela to her parents.

    If you'd like to volunteer your time, please contact me at
stacy_cervenka at brownback.senate.gov or on my cell at 708-359-3301.
Please let me know the best way to contact you at Convention, a little
bit about your experience with kids (this might include being a parent
yourself, having worked as a counselor at a summer program, etc.), and
which times you would be available.

    Furthermore, feel free to share my contact info with any parents
who might be interested in this service during Convention.


Stacy Leigh Cervenka
Legislative Assistant
Office of Senator Sam Brownback (KS)
303 Hart Senate Office Building
Phone: (202) 224-6521
Email: stacy_cervenka at brownback.senate.gov

Arielle Silverman
President, National Association of Blind Students
Phone:  602-502-2255
nabs.president at gmail.com

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