[nfbwatlk] {Disarmed} Fw: [Blind_Democrats] Child returned to parents after fifty-seven days.

Gloria Whipple fairyfoot at webband.com
Wed Jul 21 21:09:09 UTC 2010


That is a tear jerker!

I am so happy for the couple.

God bless all three of them!

Gloria Whipple
Corrisponding secretary
Inland Empire chapter
nfb of WA

cell number: 509-475-4993

-----Original Message-----
From: nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nfbwatlk-bounces at nfbnet.org] On
Behalf Of Lauren Merryfield
Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 12:43 PM
To: NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List
Subject: [nfbwatlk] {Disarmed} Fw: [Blind_Democrats] Child returned to
parents after fifty-seven days.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Lynn I 
To: Blind Democrats 
Sent: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 10:19 AM
Subject: [Blind_Democrats] Child returned to parents after fifty-seven days.

Hi everyone!

The following has nothing to do with politics, but I wanted to post it here 
because unfortunately prejudice and misconceptions about people with 
disabilities is still very much alive and well in 2010. Remember to have 
your tissues handy when you read this. It's just incredible to think that 
this can happen in America.

block quote

Infant is returned to blind couple after state places her in protective 
The Kansas City Star

Fifty-seven days after she was born, Mikaela Sinnett was home for the first 
time Tuesday with her parents, Erika Johnson and Blake Sinnett of 
Independence. State officials had worried they were unable to care for her.

DAVID EULITT | The Kansas City Sta

Fifty-seven days after she was born, Mikaela Sinnett was home for the first 
Tuesday with her parents, Erika Johnson and Blake Sinnett of Independence. 
officials had worried they were unable to care for her.

A folding cane used by Blake Sinnett rested in the baby carrier used to 
carry home his daughter. On Tuesday, Blake Sinnett, guided by his mother, 
Jenne Sinnett, carried his 2-month-old daughter, Mikaela Sinnett. Behind 
them was Mikaela's mother, Erika Johnson.

Erika Johnson will never be able to see her baby, Mikaela. But for 57 days 
she couldn't keep her newborn close, smell her baby's breath, feel her downy

hair. The state took away her 2-day-old infant into protective custody - 
because Johnson
and Mikaela's father are both blind.

No allegations of abuse, just a fear that the new parents would be unable to

for the child. On Tuesday, Johnson still couldn't stop crying, although 
Mikaela was back in her

"We never got the chance to be parents," she said. "We had to prove that we 
Tuesday, she and Blake Sinnett knew their baby was finally coming home to 
their Independence apartment, but an adjudication hearing was scheduled for 
the afternoon on whether the state would stay involved in the rearing of the

baby. Then from a morning phone call to their attorney, they learned that 
the state was dismissing their case. "Every minute that has passed that this

family wasn't together is a tragedy. A legal tragedy and a moral one, too," 
said Amy Coopman, their attorney. "How do you get 57 days back?"

Arleasha Mays, a spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Social Services,

said privacy laws prohibited her from speaking about specific cases. But she

added, "The only time we recommend a child be removed is if it's in imminent


Johnson said she knew the system eventually would realize its horrible 
mistake, but
she often was consumed with sadness. Sinnett tried his best to keep Johnson 
hopeful. For almost two months she and Sinnett could visit their baby only 
two or three times a week, for just an hour at a time, with a foster parent 
"I'm a forgiving person," Johnson said, but she's resentful that people 
assumed she was incapable.
"Disability does not equal inability," she said.

Representatives of the sightless community agreed that people were 
well-meaning but
blinded by ignorance. Mikaela was born May 21 at Centerpoint Medical Center 
of Independence. The doctors
let Sinnett "see" her birth by feeling the crowning of her head.

For Johnson, hearing Mikaela's whimpers was a thrill. The little human 
inside her
all these months, the one who hiccupped and burped, who kicked and moved, 
especially at night, was now a real person whom she loved more than anything

else she'd ever imagined.

In her overnight bag was Mikaela's special homecoming outfit, a green romper

Johnson's mother, with matching bottoms and a baby bow. Questions arose 
within hours of Mikaela's birth, after Johnson's clumsy first attempts at 
breast-feeding - something many new mothers experience.
A lactation nurse noticed that Mikaela's nostrils were covered by Johnson's 

Johnson felt that something was wrong and switched her baby to her other 
side, but
not before Mikaela turned blue. That's when the concerned nurse wrote on a 
chart: "The child is without proper custody,
support or care due to both of parents being blind and they do not have 
specialized training to assist them."
Her words set into motion the state mechanisms intended to protect children 
from physical or sexual abuse, unsanitary conditions, neglect or absence of 
basic needs being met.

Centerpoint said it could not comment because of patient privacy laws, but 
Gene Hallinan said, "We put the welfare of our patients as our top 

A social worker from the state came by Johnson's hospital room and asked her

How could she take her baby's temperature? Johnson answered: with our 
talking thermometer. How will you take her to a doctor if she gets sick? 
Johnson's reply: If it were an emergency, they'd call an ambulance. For a 
regular doctor's appointment, they'd call a cab or ride a bus. But it wasn't

enough for the social worker, who told Johnson she would need 24-hour care 
by a sighted person at their apartment. Johnson said they couldn't afford 
it, didn't need it.
"I needed help as a new parent, but not as a blind parent," Johnson said.

She recalled the social worker saying: " 'Look, because you guys are blind, 
I don't feel like you can adequately take care of her.' And she left."

The day of Johnson's discharge, another social worker delivered the news to 
the couple that Mikaela was not going home with them. The parents returned 
the next day to visit Mikaela before she left the hospital, but they were 
barred from holding her. "All we could do was touch her arm or leg," Johnson


The couple began making calls. Gary Wunder, president of the National 
Federation of the Blind of Missouri, had trouble believing it at first. "I 
needed to verify their whole story," he recalled. "We had to do due 
diligence. . I found the couple to be intelligent and responsible. "We knew 
this was an outrage that had taken place."
He notified Kansas City chapter president Shelia Wright, who visited the 
24-year-olds. Hearing about the empty crib, the baby clothes, Wright 
recalled, "I felt as helpless as I've ever felt in my life. "I hurt so bad 
for them. This is unforgivable."

They rallied other associations for the blind nationwide. More than 100 
people at a national convention in Dallas volunteered to travel to Kansas 
City to protest and testify, both as blind parents and as the sighted 
children of blind parents. (Mikaela has normal sight.) They also hired 
Coopman, who watched the young couple with their baby girl on Tuesday. "I'm 
sorry," she said, wiping tears. "But this should not have happened."

Johnson kept a journal that Coopman is keeping closed for now. She indicates

that legal action will be taken. "Whether a couple is visually impaired or 
deaf or in a wheelchair, the state should not keep them from their 
children," she said. Now breast-feeding is a lost option. And the beautiful 
newborn clothes hanging in the closet went unworn, because their baby was 
growing bigger in the arms of someone else.

The couple said they had tried to prove themselves to the sighted community 
since their early years. Sinnett rode his bicycle on the street with the 
help of a safety gadget. Johnson graduated from high school with honors. But

all the challenges they've endured over the years shrink compared to the 
responsibility of caring for 10 pounds of squirming baby girl.

Johnson cuddled Mikaela. Gave her a bottle. Patted her back until she 
burped. Mikaela gave a tiny smile.
In their 24 years, the couple said, they've both endured prejudice from 
others. They don't want any other blind parent to suffer the same obstacle 
they did. Fifty-seven days are too precious to lose.

The Star's Laura Bauer contributed to this report. To reach Lee Hill 
Kavanaugh, call
816-234-4420 or send e-mail to
lkavanaugh at kcstar.com

block quote end



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