Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Parents:Does disability mean inability to be a good parent? Blind couples newborn taken by the state for 57 days!

I can see where the lactation consultant had some concern since the nursing incident caused the baby to turn blue,but to not give them a chance to take their child home and care for her is wrong. All she needed was more time,practice & support with nursing. Breastfeeding does not come natural, despite what some may think. I know this from experience as a site-seeing person getting the latch right is trial and error for both the mother and newborns in many cases. Not all babies and mothers are able to do it 'naturally'.

That being said, being disabled doesn't necessarily mean one can or can not care for their child's safety and basic needs. There are many parents who are not 'disabled' who abuse and neglect their children out of pure selfishness or dis-concern for others.

My aunt raised two boys pretty much on her own from a wheelchair. She became disabled after the birth of her second child while bending over his crib to pick him up. To this day it is unknown what the actual cause of her paralysis was,but it is believed she strained her back somehow bending to pick the baby up or she injured herself from working in the yard earlier in the day pushing a push mower and bending to pick up the baby was the 'last straw'. She was in her 20's when this happened and she became paralyzed from the neck down. Thankfully, my aunt was able to carry the baby around in her arms still and maneuver a wheelchair, she learned to care for herself,cook&clean, worked a full-time job and basically raised her sons on her own after divorcing their father for several years of abuse.

I think if their is a 'will there is a way' and those parents who are disabled physically or blind or deaf are able to care for their children if they are willing to. Those who are not physically disabled and are still arrested for abuse or neglect choose not to care for their children because of selfishness,drug abuse or other heinous reasons.

I think it is unfortunate this couple had to go through this experience and feel the hospital should have been more supportive in their response rather than calling in the state and taking their newborn girl from them for 57 days! I hope they are able to sue the state and get some sort of compensation which will help them care for their child,save for her college education or provide the in-home care they might need as new parents. As all new parents know, caring for a newborn is hard work whether you are 'able or disable'.

Do you think the lactation consultant and social worker over reacted?

Amplify’d from

Infant is returned to blind couple after state places her in protective custody

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.

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.

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

“We never got the chance to be parents,” she said. “We had to prove that we could.”

On Tuesday, Johnson still couldn’t stop crying, although Mikaela was back in her arms.

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.

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.

“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 danger.”

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 monitoring.

“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 from 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 breast. 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.

A social worker from the state came by Johnson’s hospital room and asked her questions: 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 said.

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.

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.”

“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.

“I’m a forgiving person,” Johnson said, but she’s resentful that people assumed she was incapable.

The Kansas City Star



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