by Michelle Chan
Eight years ago, Melinda Garrett was induced into labor a month and a half before her due date.
To Melinda, the baby represented a new beginning, a way to right all the wrongs and trauma and abuse she herself had endured as the survivor of childhood sexual and physical abuse, sex trafficking and a previously stillborn birth. She swore to break the cycle of abuse and to give everything she never had as a child to her newborn baby. She was never given that chance.
Shortly after Melinda finished successfully breastfeeding the baby for the very first time, CPS removed the newborn from her custody. She never left the hospital with her baby. The charges were domestic violence, medical marijuana use and allegedly low birth weight. Except Melinda had a note from her obstetrician recommending the use of medical marijuana due to low appetite, and the labor was induced early, which contributed to the low birth weight.
And though Melinda had been the victim of domestic violence by the father, there had not yet been any incidents in which the baby was exposed to domestic violence.
Shortly after Melinda finished successfully breastfeeding the baby for the very first time, CPS removed the newborn from her custody. She never left the hospital with her baby.
For the past eight years, Melinda has never stopped fighting for the return of her child. She has gone above and beyond the services recommended to her and continues to this very day to engage in these services. She has completed domestic violence classes, anger management classes, parenting classes, GED classes and job certification courses such as in-home nursing assistance and construction.
Furthermore, the judge had ordered a “right to release,” and CPS had the power to return the child to her at any time. No efforts have been made to that end and now Melinda is fighting for the right just to visit with her child.
Melinda’s experience with the child welfare system’s removal of her child is part of an increasingly prevalent phenomenon that family and children’s rights advocates refer to as “medical kidnap.” She is now a member of Parents Against CPS Corruption and protests to help raise awareness about the social injustices that can occur within the child welfare system.
“I will never give up hope that my girl will come home with me one day. I live for her, continue to improve myself and my situation for her,” says Melinda. “All I want is the chance to mother my child, love my child, teach her the things I have seen in life and show her the way.”
In 2013, there was a widely publicized case surrounding the medical kidnapping of Anna and Alex Nikolayev’s baby. The couple took their baby out of Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento against the wishes of medical staff. They immediately brought the baby to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center for a second opinion. The next day, CPS arrived at their home with the police to remove the baby from their custody.
Medical kidnapping can happen to anyone and occurs when CPS removes children from parental custody due to the opinion of a medical professional. However, even when the opinion and/or allegations are discredited by contrary evidence or by the opinions of other professionals – either in the medical field or supportive family and children services industries – the children are often not returned to parental custody.
Melinda’s experience with the child welfare system’s removal of her child is part of an increasingly prevalent phenomenon that family and children’s rights advocates refer to as “medical kidnap.”
MedicalKidnap.com, which is part of the Health Impact News network, an alternative media outlet, is dedicated to telling the stories of families torn apart by medical kidnapping and family injustice.
An accidental fall, a medical misdiagnosis or a choice not to vaccinate can all be the impetus for CPS intervention, a domino effect that sometimes results in the termination of parental rights. Although the anti-vaccination movement is highly controversial, does it seem humane to punish children for their parents’ beliefs? There must be other ways to work with parents that have counter-cultural beliefs.
What is more disturbing is that child welfare workers sometimes ignore the opinions of medical and mental health professionals when it comes to the return of children to parental custody.
An accidental fall, a medical misdiagnosis or a choice not to vaccinate can all be the impetus for CPS intervention, a domino effect that sometimes results in the termination of parental rights.
In “Sally’s” case, one of the two allegations that removed her son from her custody was mental illness. However, three mental health professionals had given her a clean bill of mental health; she had taken a psychiatric evaluation, a psychological evaluation, and her therapist had written letters. All three mental health professionals had diagnosed her with situational depression, which is normal considering the circumstances.
CPS withheld the psychological and psychiatric evaluations from evidence and proceeded with the removals based on the social worker’s allegations of mental illness. According to the Family Code §7827, only the testimonies of two doctoral and medical level mental health professionals can deem a person mentally-disabled. A social worker’s opinion cannot eclipse that of three mental health professionals.
Parents Against CPS Corruption is hoping to decrease the incidence of medical kidnapping by increasing adherence to family and children’s rights. Shonte Foster, the group’s co-founder says: “CPS needs to be consistent in how they apply the law and examine the evidence. When they make mistakes or violate people’s rights, there is no one to enforce the law.”
The group will continue to protest until their demands for greater oversight and accountability, due process, equal protection under the law, and increased efforts towards kinship placement and timely reunification are met.
Parents Against CPS Corruption is hoping to decrease the incidence of medical kidnapping by increasing adherence to family and children’s rights.
Moreover, the group is encouraging people to call the SFPD Chief’s Office at 415-837-7000 and the SF District Attorney’s Office at 415-551-9595, to urge them to investigate and prosecute to the fullest extent of the law crimes committed against parents by CPS caseworkers. Parents Against CPS Corruption says that numerous police reports have recently been filed in response to criminal misconduct, and yet the SFPD fraud unit is reluctant to investigate because they claim “the loss isn’t great enough.”
To find out more about their cause, to join them on protests and marches, or for advocacy, peer support or court attendance, visit ParentsAgainstCPSCorruption.com, follow them on Twitter @ProtestCPS, email Protest@ParentsAgainstCPSCoruption.com, or call 415-815-9415.
Michelle Chan, co-founder of Parents Against CPS Corruption, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.