Ladyrebecca's Musings and Ramblings

The Increasingly Political Thoughts of Rebecca (Becky) Walker

Parental Rights in the Forgotten File October 6, 2009

unorganized 1We finally got an external hard drive so I can clean out the old computer and we can put on a new operating system. As I am going through my old files, cleaning out the junk and finding the good, I am stumbling across half finished almost blogs. I think, since I lack the motivation to do more, I am going to post them as they are.

The following was written almost two years ago. It just kind of ends at the end so…feel free to finish it. 🙂

I have a problem. A friend sent me a link to a group which is rallying support for a Constitutional Amendment to protect parental rights from government intrusion without due process of the law. I researched it (I am still in the process but had to get some thought out of my head and onto “paper”) and while I agree in part, I disagree in part as well.

I don’t even know where to begin.

Here’s the part I’m currently upset at:

There is only one solution to this approaching storm: a constitutional amendment that places current Supreme Court doctrine protecting parental rights into the explicit language of the U.S. Constitution. This amendment will shelter the child-parent relationship from the coming storm, ensuring that parents have the right to direct the upbringing and education of their children.

No government, regardless of how well-intentioned it might be, can replace the love and nurture of a parent in the life of a child. Parents care, not because their children are “wards” for whom they are responsible. Parents are willing to brave danger and sacrifice, hardship and heartache to ensure the best for their kids. (the last two paragraphs from ParentalRights.org’s website two years ago.)

I want to draw your attention to a couple of phrases.

“There is only one solution”

Really. Only one. And you’ve discovered it. I am suspicious when anyone or any group claims to have THE answer. Sometimes there is clearly only one answer. In this case I see many answers. Not included in these viable answers are the movement they are fighting against nor the movement they are promoting. More on that later.

“This amendment will shelter the child-parent relationship from the coming storm, ensuring that parents have the right to direct the upbringing and education of their children.”

Um, last time I checked, there were numerous Constitutional Amendments that are currently being violated. Why would this be any different? Also, as I said in my previous blog (read it here), “[t]he only thing that guarantees a right is the willingness to fight and die for those rights.” An amendment is going to do jack-shit until parents are willing, when the government ignores the constitution (Privacy Act anyone?), to take up arms and have their last act in the world be dying for their children or leaving their cushy jobs and McMansions and fleeing the country, provided of course that we’ve not locked ourselves in with a giant wall across our borders. Until parents believe in their rights enough to do that, their rights cannot and will not, be protected.

“Parents care, not because their children are “wards” for whom they are responsible. Parents are willing to brave danger and sacrifice, hardship and heartache to ensure the best for their kids. “

Yeah, and I know a lot of people who aren’t this “model” of a parent. I’ve started meeting some people who aren’t from my church. Yup, I’m 27 years old and I finally have friends that don’t profess the exact same things I do. I’m growing as a person and it’s absolutely blowing my world apart. There are parents out there who are absolutely not “…willing to brave danger and sacrifice, hardship and heartache…” to ensure even the mediocre for their kids. There’s a gal I know who despises her kids. You can see it on her face when they whine at her. Total disgust. She pawns them off on sitters and nannies, refuses to instill the simplest rules or boundaries and then wonders why they are whiny little rotters. She’s not going to fight for her “rights” as a parent and when enough of people like her have allowed the government to roll over them, the government will realize it can do whatever the hell it wants, just like it’s been doing for a century.

Point Two with this group: The first story they present as precedent of the “dark clouds on the horizon” is the story of Rolin and Laura Sumey and their daughter, Sheila. By the time Sheila was 15, there had been numerous “problems” between her and her parents, resulting in Sheila running away a number of times. Extensive counseling was tried but ultimately failed.

In June, again conflict arose and Mrs. Sumey fearing her daughter would again leave home, called the police and they placed Sheila in a receiving home (I have no idea what a receiving home is and a cursory investigation has not provided results. If someone knows what they are, please share your knowledge), preventing her from running away. DSHS (Department of Social and Health Services) began to provide crisis intervention services (as is no doubt law when a parent calls the police on their child). Mrs. Sumey signed consent for Sheila to be in receiving care.

DSHS counseling did not result in reconciliation between Sheila and her parents and within a month, “Sheila filed a petition for alternative residential placement with the Pierce County Juvenile Court…A hearing on the petition was held, and the juvenile court concluded that: the family was in conflict; prior counseling and crisis intervention had failed to remedy that conflict; the conflict could not be remedied by continued placement in the home; and the reasons for the alternative residential placement were not capricious. The court approved the petition for alternative residential placement and ordered that Sheila be placed in a non-secure licensed facility. The court provided for rights of visitation for Mr. and Mrs. Sumey. The case was set for review in 6 months to determine what had been accomplished in resolving the conflict and reuniting the family.” (excerpt from the Law Offices of David S. Vogel, P.L.L.C.)

This is not the story the Parental Rights organization tells you. Here’s their story:

In the early 1980s, a landmark parental rights case reached the Washington State Supreme Court. The case involved 13-year-old Sheila Marie Sumey, whose parents were alarmed when they found evidence of their daughter’s participation in illegal drug activity and escalating sexual involvement. Their response was to act immediately to cut off the negative influences in their daughter’s life by grounding her.

But when Sheila went to her school counselors complaining about her parent’s actions, she was advised that she could be liberated from her parents because there was “conflict between parent and child.” Listening to the advice she had received, Sheila notified Child Protective Services (CPS) about her situation. She was subsequently removed from her home and placed in foster care.

Her parents, desperate to get their daughter back, challenged the actions of the social workers in court. They lost. Even though the judge found that Sheila’s parents had enforced reasonable rules in a proper manner, the state law nevertheless gave CPS the authority to split apart the Sumey family and take Sheila away.

Not quite the same story, it it?

Let’s take a look at the other stories they have on their website:

A thirteen-year-old boy in Washington State was removed from his parents after he complained to school counselors that his parents took him to church too often. His school counselors had encouraged him to call Child Protective Services with his complaint, which led to his subsequent removal and placement in foster care. It was only after the parents agreed to a judge’s requirement of less-frequent church attendance that they were able to recover their son.

After much research and an email to the lawyer who started parentarights.org (to which, when we asked for verification, he said, “I was the lawyer on the case), and then more research, armed now with the lawyer’s name, we were unable to find independent verification that this case ever existed anywhere outside of this lawyer’s mind. This is the story as he put it in another source. The boy’s parents wanted him to attend three church services a week and he wanted to attend only one. The judge ruled that once a week is enough church for a thirteen year old boy. I hate to agree but I must.

If a thirteen year old is being forced to go to church against his will, he is not going to be changed by anything he hears or sees there. By the time a child is an adolescent, the groundwork of character development is complete and it’s just polishing from there on out. Forcing him to attend church three times more often than he wants is going to hinder, not help, his “religious education.”

A West Virginia mother was shocked when a local circuit judge and a family court judge ordered her to share custody of her four-year-old daughter with two of the girl’s babysitters. Referring to the sitters as “psychological co-parents,” the justices first awarded full custody to them, only permitting the mother to visit her daughter four times a week at McDonalds. Eventually she was granted primary custody, but forced to continue to share her daughter with the sitters.

When her case finally reached the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in October 2007, the beleaguered mother was relieved to finally be granted full custody of her daughter.

In their October 25 opinion Supreme Court justices wrote that they were “deeply troubled by the utter disregard” for the mother’s rights. One justice referred to the mother’s right as the “paramount right in the world.”

Chief Justice Robin Davis summed up the case in one simple question.”Why does a natural parent have to prove fitness when she has never been found unfit?” he asked.

This one is a bit more serious. Misty, the mother in this story, had primary custody of her daughter, Senturi. Joshua, the girl’s biological father, had one day a week visitation and was to be paying child support. Christopher and Tanya, the babysitters, were his cousins. They watched Senturi frequently, though how frequently I’ve been unable to ascertain. They were paid for at least a portion of the time they cared for Senturi. When Misty decided to move to Texas to be closer to her family, return to school, and seek better employment, Christopher and Tanya, along with the father, Joshua, went to court. They claimed they’d cared for the child for months on end but I’ve been unable to find record of that claim being investigated. They claimed they were Senturi’s “psychological co-parents.” They were awarded complete custody for a while, then custody with visitation for Misty, then partial custody. When Misty appealed to the supreme court, they reversed the orders of the lower courts and returned full custody to Misty.

So the story as ParentalRights.org presented it was fairly accurate. The problem I have with them using this story as an example is that justice was done. Yes, the mother was deprived of her daughter and the daughter of her mother for a couple of months and that’s regrettable. But the court system did what it is supposed to do. When Misty was unhappy with the results of a lower court, she took it to a higher court and eventually, justice and reason prevailed. Do I think the lower courts were in the wrong? Of course! Do I think a constitutional amendment is the answer to some judge making a bad judgment? Absolutely not!

So the first story they present, they present falsely.

The second is apparently pretend. Maybe I’m being judgmental but if I were a lawyer and someone asked for verification of a case, I would do more than tell them I was the lawyer on the case. I’d give them a link to a court record or a newspaper article or something besides, “I was there. It happened. Take my word for it.”

The third story was a case of a court disregarding parental rights but then in the same court system it was resolved. The child was at no time in the care of someone whom the mother had not already approved. After a couple of months, it worked out. The lower courts were wrong but it’s not an amendment worthy wrong.

The next thing ParentalRights.org petitions against is the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UNCRC is not something I want the U.S. to ratify but it’s not something that needs an amendment to stop. The reason that the U.S. has not ratified the convention is because it already contradicts U.S. Law. …

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One Response to “Parental Rights in the Forgotten File”

  1. valerie van horn Says:

    Hi, thanks for this information, I am currently researching the same parental rights ammendment, and this gives me a place to start. I think that I support the childrens’ right referendum from the UN. It sounds great, and there seems to be a lot of emphasis on preserving culture.
    I think this group is formed so they can pretend to be persecuted, scare people into supporting them with scare tactics. The Lawyer involved with some of this, Vogel, is also associated with the homeschool defense fund, and other pro-parent /anti-government causes. This is not going to go anywhere, but it might scare some lukewarm conservatives into showing up at a tea party or donating money to the next republican candidate.


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