Friday, July 23, 2010

Blind couple whose infant was taken away by Missouri says their constitutional rights were violated; they don't want other blind people victimized

From Fox News:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A blind couple who had a baby two months ago say that the State of Missouri violated their constitutional rights by taking their newborn away, and now their attorney says that she's working to make sure it doesn't happen again to another blind family.

Erika Johnson and Blake Sinnett (pictured) say they were not able to bond or care for their baby girl for 57 days because social workers were blinded by ignorance. The couple says that when their child, Mikaela, was born on May 21 they were filled with joy, but social workers then refused to let them take her home.

"I didn't think that was appropriate at all, we are just as capable as our sighted peers," said Sinnett.

Johnson says that their nightmare began when she was trying to nurse her baby in the hospital.

"There was some breast tissue blocking her nose," said Johnson. "But the nurses across the room at the time, I asked them was she okay and she said, 'No, she was beginning to turn blue, but it's fine it could have happened to anybody'."

Johnson says instead of the lactation nurse teaching her how to breast-feed her baby, she reported the incident to the state and for the next 57 days they were not able to care for their child because little Mikaela was in a foster home.

"I'm the one that should have been waking up at 1 o'clock in the morning, feeding her, I missed bonding with her," said Johnson.

The couple's attorney, Amy Coopman, says while the state dismissed the case and returned the baby this week, the state should be held liable for violating the couple's constitutional rights.

"A lawsuit doesn't take that time and give it back to them, but we want to make sure some other blind person that walks into the hospital to have their baby doesn't have this happen to them," said Coopman.

The Missouri Department of Social Services says it can't comment on the case because of privacy laws. But a spokesperson says children aren't taken from their parents unless abuse, neglect or the welfare of the child is in imminent danger.

"We are visually impaired, not mentally impaired," said Johnson. "We are just like everybody else, we just can't see as well."