Steffen with Annalise

Annalise with her baby brother Steffen. Photo provided by the family.

by Health Impact News/ Staff

The Rivenburg family was back in court on Monday morning, June 19. This time, it was to fight for Annalise, the big sister of Baby Steffen, the baby who was taken off of life support on June 8.

The family, including aunts, uncles, and cousins, were hopeful that the court would send little Annalise back home to be with her family, but that did not happen.

Instead, they learned that the Department of Children’s Services (DCS) now plans to terminate her parents’ parental rights and place her for adoption, presumably with the foster family with whom she and Baby Steffen were placed 4 months ago, just before the baby got sick.

They are devastated.

Patricia’s heart-wrenching sobs could be heard in the background as a family member told the news to Health Impact News. The thought of losing Annalise seems an unbearably cruel blow to the family that is still reeling from what they call Baby Steffen’s “potentially preventable” death.

Steffen and Annalise

Annalise with her baby brother at a visit in the hospital, after they were seized by DCS. Photo provided by the family.

See our coverage of the family’s story:

Medically Kidnapped Baby Scheduled for Execution TODAY!

Baby Scheduled to go Off Life Support Responding to Family – Rally and Court Date on Monday Morning

Civil Rights Abuse? Judge Only Gives Parents 24 Hours to Find Doctor Before Baby is Removed from Life Support

Family Seeks Answers on Baby’s Death – Threatened Arrest for Trying to Record Last Moments of Life

Parents Patricia Tornberg and Steffen Rivenburg Sr., along with grandmother, Lisa Rivenburg, went to the Montgomery County Juvenile Court in Clarksville, Tennessee, for a review hearing of the DCS dependency case.

According to the Reunite the Rivenburgs Facebook page:

The parents have filed a motion to have Judge Wayne Shelton recuse/disqualify himself for violation of their constitutional rights and his judicial canons.

They have also filed an appeal on the denial of the motion to stay that took Baby Steffen from the world over a week ago, which will be heard soon in a higher Court.

Grandma Lisa has her own motions – a motion for placement of Annalise with her or other kinship care, and a motion for visitation and phone calls with her granddaughter.

Kinship Placement Bypassed in Favor of Foster Care with Strangers

Lisa Rivenburg was reportedly not permitted into Judge Wayne Shelton’s courtroom on Monday, and her motions have been postponed until July 24. Lisa has been a huge part of Annalise’s life, but DCS has not permitted her to even see her granddaughter.

Steffen Annalise and Lisa

Lisa Rivenburg with her granddaughter Annalise in happier times, before DCS. Photo provided by the family.

DCS has allegedly not considered her for placement for her grandchildren, even though she has a “squeaky clean” record. She has never been in trouble with the law and graduated from college with honors. She homeschooled all 7 of her children, and has taken in other children besides her own over the years.

Other relatives with clean records have also reportedly been passed over for consideration for placement.

This is consistent with reports that we hear at Health Impact News from all over the country. States are able to secure far greater federal funding when children are placed into foster care with strangers as opposed to placement with family or friends that the children know.


Report Exposes Why Corrupt CPS Agencies Seldom Place Foster Children with Family Members

Judge Who Ordered Life Support Removed from Baby Steffen Refuses to Recuse Himself


Judge Wayne C. Shelton. Image source.

Patricia and Steffen Rivenburg Sr. asked Judge Wayne Shelton to remove himself from future hearings dealing with their family. The motion notes that the family has appealed the judge’s decision which allowed Vanderbilt hospital to take their son off of life support.

They allege that their “objections, parental, and constitutional rights have been repeatedly ignored” in Judge Shelton’s court, and that he has not performed his duties impartially and fairly, instead showing bias and prejudice.

Steffen parents with Annalise

Patricia, Annalise, and Steffen – a family that needs each other after such a devastating loss. Photo supplied by the family.

Judge Shelton denied the motion to recuse himself.

The family has also learned that DCS does not consider that Baby Steffen is in their custody any longer, and is not planning to pay for his burial.

Is the Change to Terminate Parental Rights Retaliation for Speaking Out?

Even so, the most difficult part of court on Monday was the realization that DCS has decided that the goal of reunification with 6 year old Annalise, which was stated just last week, has been abruptly changed to a plan to terminate the parental rights.

They were crushed when the Guardian ad litem argued that it is now in Annalise’s best interest to be adopted by non-family members. This is the same GAL who reportedly told the judge to pull Baby Steffen off of life support, where doctors then administered the drugs that killed him.

Some supporters wonder if this is possibly retaliation against the family speaking out so vocally against DCS and about their experience with Baby Steffen at Vanderbilt. Most supporters that we spoke with believe that there is a cover-up happening, and that Annalise is an innocent victim caught up in the events.

The Rivenburgs have lost Baby Steffen. They just want to bring Annalise home and to heal together as a family.

How You Can Help

Supporters have set up a Facebook page for the family called Reunite the Rivenburgs. There, supporters can find more information on how to help the family.

Steffen FB page

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam may be reached at (615) 741-2001, or contacted here.  Governor Haslam is also on Facebook.

The Senator for their district is Dr. Mark Green. He may be reached at (615) 741-2374, or contacted here.

Their state Representative is Representative Joe Pitts. He may be reached at (615) 741-2043, or contacted here.