An organization that routinely deals with homeschooling issues across the U.S. and around the globe is taking on a case of parental rights because the circumstances – a social worker calling police over a newborn’s shots – is just too egregious to let pass.
The announcement was made by Michael P. Farris, the chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, today.
“We are taking this case because we are tired of seeing the erosion of parental rights in virtually every area of life. Parental rights in medical cases have an impact on broader parental rights, including educational decisions,” he said. “And the plain fact is this: If we don’t fight for parental rights, it is probable that our rights will be eroded bit by bit until there is nothing that remains.”
He said the organization was not using its normal membership revenue from homeschooling families to fund the new fight, and said supporters were being directed to a special freedom fund mechanism on the HSDLA website.
He said among the issues in the case: social service workers who called police when a new mother wanted tests before authorizing shots for her child, a hospital that ejected the new mom from its property over the issue, a social service “investigation” into the birth, and others.
The HSLDA’s Farris reported on the situation involving the couple named Scott and Jodi Ferris.
Jodi had gone into labor early and the midwife they had hoped would deliver their baby encouraged them to head to a hospital. They did.
“Their baby, whom I will call ‘Annie,’ was born in the ambulance in the parking lot of the Hershey Medical Center – a government hospital in Pennsylvania. Hospital personnel arrived very quickly and took charge of both baby and mom,” he reported.
But when Jodi asked nurses about her baby, “the hospital staff was utterly unresponsive. When they started to give Jodi an injection, she asked what it was and what is was for. They gave her vague answers like, ‘It’s just to help.’”
Farris said eventually a physician told Jodi her baby scored a 9 on a physical exam applied to newborns known as the APGAR test, where a score of 8 or higher is considered healthy.
But then another doctor said the baby was “very sick” and would need to stay in the hospital.
Continuing the back-and-forth, another hospital staffer then said the baby was doing good but that was followed several hours later by a worker who told the couple their baby must stay in the hospital for 48 to 72 hours.
“‘The law requires us to keep the baby for 48 hours,’” they were told, according to the HSLDA, which noted there is no such law in Pennsylvania.
WND could not reach hospital officials for comment tonight.
Ultimately, a hospital “risk management” staff member admitted that the risk that was being managed was not the health of the child, but the risk that the hospital might get sued if something went wrong after the baby was released.
Then, according to the HSLDA, “a government social worker named Angelica Lopez-Heagy came into Jodi’s room announcing that she was there to conduct an investigation. Jodi asked to know the allegations. The social worker claimed that it would be against the law for her to show Jodi the allegations.
“Jodi replied that she would not be comfortable answering the questions if she couldn’t know the allegations. Immediately the social worker proclaimed, ‘Since you’re not going to cooperate, I’ll just go and call the police and we can take custody of the baby.’”
The mixups just wouldn’t quit. When Jodi said she was cooperating, the social worker implied the issue was Jodi’s refusal to consent to a vitamin K shot for the baby.
“Jodi replied that no one had asked her about such a shot. Moreover, she had overheard hospital staffers saying that they had already given Annie such a shot,” the report said.
Then, when Scott left the hospital to tend to their older children, hospital officials demanded permission to give Annie a Hepatitis B shot.
“Jodi said that she would agree only if they tested her or Annie to see if either of them were positive. If so, then she was quite willing to have the shot for Annie. The hospital claimed that they had forgotten about this earlier when it was still possible to test that day, and that they needed to give the shot anyway without any testing,” HSLDA reported.
Jodi asked if the decision could wait until her husband returned.
“Put yourself in Jodi’s shoes at this moment,” Farris wrote. “You gave birth that morning in an ambulance. The hospital has made wild and conflicting claims about your baby’s health all day long. You are exhausted. You are in pain. Your husband has gone to check on your children. And a social worker who has threatened to take your baby into police custody is standing in your hospital room demanding that you make an immediate decision.”
Then, he reported, “the story turns ugly.”
“The social worker left the room and called the police. Without a court order they took custody of Annie, immediately claiming that she was suffering from illness or injury – a patently false claim. The social worker consented to the administration of the Hepatitis B shot even though no blood test had been done,” he reported.
“The police made Jodi Ferris get up out of her hospital bed and escorted her to the entrance – they were expelling her from the hospital because she had not signed the ‘safety plan.’”
She was escorted off the hospital grounds.
But she had been told she could return every three hours to nurse the baby, so the couple was forced to spend the night in a car in the parking lot of a nearby Wal-Mart.
“You read that right. They kicked this mother out of the hospital, and in order to be close enough to feed her child, she had to sleep in the car,” Farris reported.
A hearing the next morning returned the baby to her parents immediately.
“It is not a crime to ask questions about the well-being of your child. It is not a crime to ask for testing to ensure that a procedure is needed before it is done. It is not a crime to be a protective mom,” Farris reported.
“Both the medical personnel and the social worker engaged in outrageous behavior toward this family. And we believe that they violated their rights under the Constitution of the United States. And we are going to court to prove it,” Farris said.
“The social worker’s priority was not the welfare of Annie, but her own convenience and her own perception of her power. She was aiming to teach this homeschooling mother a lesson. And the hospital was clearly not concerned that Annie had a medical issue – they were just trying to avoid being sued for medical malpractice.
“When government workers run over parents in cases like this, the lesson that needs to be taught is to the government,” he said.
It was just a day earlier when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene in another case involving parental rights fought by the HSLDA.
In that case, Arizona deputies threatened parents with the forced removal of their five children unless they agreed to let social workers, who did not have a warrant or probable case, search their home.
The stunning conclusion came in a lawsuit brought on behalf of John and Tiffany Loudermilk, who sued officials after a confrontation at their Maricopa County, Ariz., home in 2005.
A district court judge ruled a reasonable person would believe the Loudermilks’ decision to allow social workers to search their home was coerced, in violation of the 4th Amendment. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the search was proper.
The case may not be finished, as the opinion from the 9th Circuit was unpublished, which means that it is not binding on future cases. Also, when the deputies appealed to the 9th Circuit for immunity, the social workers who also were sued did not, and that part of the case remains on hold at the district court level.
James Mason, chief counsel for the HSLDA, which brought the case on behalf of the family, told WND that the group will consult with the family and soon make a determination on the next step.
But he said the result is disappointing, because no matter the status of the appeal, the situation did develop, and the threats were made to give the social workers what they wanted.
The case developed after a still-anonymous tipster told authorities that there was a danger to the children in the new home. Two months later, social services workers Rhonda Cash and Jenna Cramer arrived unannounced at the home and explained that it was an emergency because social workers decided it was an emergency at that point.