The three breast-fed children shortly before CPS took them away.

by Health Impact News/ Staff

Three breastfed, homebirthed babies who were taken away from their parents by Child Protective Services in Washington state more than a year ago are still not home, but their mother reports that she is very hopeful that they will be home soon.

The story of Erica May Carey and Cleave Rengo’s children being taken by CPS was first reported by Health Impact News in November of 2014. Their heartbreaking story went viral and was read by more than 1.5 million people in less than 48 hours, leading to a national outcry. The governor of Washington reportedly received 6000 phone calls after the story was published.

Original story:

Breastfed, Homebirthed Babies Taken Away From Parents For Not Using Hospital

Twins Morna and Daniel and their brother Levi remain in a foster home in Washington. Initially placed in separate homes, the 3 siblings are now together in the same foster home. As recently as the last court hearing, a Bellingham social worker is still telling the court that the children should be adopted out.

Erica baby boy 2016

Daniel Clemente from a recent visit. Source: Erica.

Health Issues in State Custody

Ironically, all 3 have eczema. Part of the original allegations against the parents was that Levi, then 10 months had eczema that his parents refused to treat. In reality, Erica May and Cleave were treating his eczema, but were using natural remedies such as herbal calendula cream and coconut oil. A social worker termed this medical neglect, since they didn’t want to expose their son to the risk of steroids unless absolutely necessary. Yet, all 3 children have untreated eczema in state custody, and no one seems concerned.

After the children were abruptly weaned to formula, the twins developed gastric reflux, and Daniel had a feeding tube for awhile.

CPS reportedly wants Morna to have hip surgery, because “her hip pops.” Erica would much rather Morna be sent to a chiropractor to check it out before anything so drastic as surgery is done.

Erica Morna March 2016

Morna Kai Grace at a recent visit. Source: Erica

Daniel’s heart murmur has reportedly returned. It mysteriously went away during the few weeks in late 2014 that he was returned home, but is back now. Erica believes that it must be stress related, from being taken away from his family.

Levi is reported to have “behavioral problems,” “throwing tantrums and engaging in self-destructive behavior,” but his mother isn’t buying that. He had always been a happy, loving child when he was at home. According to Erica, these behavioral problems are because:

He misses his mom! He needs me. He has abandonment issues because they tore him away from  me!

Erica Levi March 2016

Levi in foster care. Source: Erica.

A Family Torn Apart

Previously we reported that CPS was demanding that Erica split up from Cleave as a condition of her getting her children back. Unfortunately, we have noticed that this is a trend with CPS, where parents are pitted against each other, and often told that the children can only come home if the parents break up or divorce.


CPS Destroying Rengo Family: Demands Erica Separate from her Husband to Get Children Back

They felt that they had no choice. During this difficult time they discovered that Erica was again pregnant, but CPS had made it clear that the only way that either parent would have a chance to get the other 3 children back was if they separate.

They are no longer together, and are working on being friends for the sake of the children.

Erica made some big changes and relocated to be closer to some of her family members who could be there to help support her as she made the transition to single life and worked toward complying with all of the CPS conditions.

A Blessing in the Midst of the Pain

After she moved away from Bellingham, Erica was again near some of her relatives and has become involved in a good church. She was surrounded by love and support as she neared the time of the new baby’s birth.

Like her other births, Erica May chose a homebirth. This time, she was without Cleave. Elijah was born during a storm on a full moon on October 29. Erica’s mother, a childbirth educator and La Leche League leader who herself had homebirths, was her birth attendant. Erica describes a beautiful, glorious birth at her cousin’s spa, surrounded by peaceful music, candlelight, fragrant frankincense and other soothing scents, and lots of love.

Erica and newborn Elijah

Erica and newborn Elijah after his “glorious” birth. Source: Erica

CPS has left Erica alone about this new baby, thankfully. She is completely in love with little Elijah, but:

There is this huge emptiness inside of me, and I miss my children.

Erica has been “completely compliant” with every demand placed on her by CPS. She has taken parenting classes, and is participating in the therapy and services they want her in. She has a new apartment that family and friends have helped her to pull together. For the second time, she has passed the home study with flying colors. The social worker where she lives now told her that the home study would be “glowing.”

Erica apartment

Erica’s apartment. Source: Erica.

Back and Forth in Foster Care

After the children were taken the first time on November 6, 2014, they were returned home on December 5, but there were so many conditions attached to their return that many who know how the system works said that Erica May and Cleave were being set up for failure. CPS remained completely enmeshed in their personal lives, despite the fact that the parents never abused or harmed their children.

Judge Allows Rengo Babies to go Home: But with Conditions, Calling CPS “Heroes” 

Twins Morna Kai Grace and Daniel Clemente were just 5 weeks old when they were seized from their home. Levi was 10 months. All 3 babies had been breastfeeding, but were abruptly weaned and given formula. Erica May and Cleave recognized that their children had been traumatized during the month they spent in foster care, and were trying to get life back on track, while complying with the CPS demands for classes, therapy, etc.

When they decided to get away from the stress for a little while by going to visit relatives in California, CPS interpreted that as the couple fleeing. They issued reports to media and police on the west coast to be on the lookout for the family, stopping just short of issuing an Amber Alert.

Breastfeeding Mother Arrested and Babies Taken Away by Force: The Parents’ Side of the Story

When Cleave and Erica May learned of this, they turned around and headed back home. They had fully intended to be back for the next court hearing scheduled for February 10th. Police met them at a California gas station and forcibly removed Levi from his mother’s breast.

Erica arrested

Erica devastated as she was arrested and her babies taken from her. Photo courtesy of

Erica was arrested and the children taken back to be placed in a Washington foster home. The charges were dropped, but the children were placed in foster care, where they have been ever since.

Currently, Erica gets one 15 minute Skype visit per week with her children. Cleave has even less time with the children.

New Judge

Erica reports that there is a new judge on her family’s case. She has been told that the court will not discuss the case further or consider the children coming back home until he gets the In-Home Study report in his hands.

When Health Impact News spoke with Erica May this past weekend, she had more hope in her voice than in any previous conversation throughout this whole ordeal. She has people on her team who believe that success is imminent and that her children will be returned home soon. She believes that God has shown her in her prayers that they are coming home soon.

The hopes and prayers of many are with her that her children will be returned soon.