Steffen Annalise and mom at funeral

Annalise and her mother Patricia at Baby Steffen’s funeral. Photo source: Reunite the Rivenburgs Facebook page.

by Health Impact News/ Staff

Baby Steffen was buried on Friday, July 7, almost a month after his death when DCS, Vanderbilt hospital, and a judge decided to overrule his parents’ rights to make decisions for their baby. The Tennessee family was thankful that Steffen’s big sister was allowed to leave the foster home to attend her brother’s funeral. Even so, social workers kept a tight reign on Annalise, and threatened to take her away if the family continued to take photos.

The children’s grandmother Lisa Rivenburg said it was their last time together as a family with Baby Steffen, and she felt that the social workers’ threats were a cruel addition to an already difficult day.

Their fight continues to try to bring Annalise home and to find answers about what happened to Baby Steffen in DCS custody.

See original story and updates:

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

Judge Who Ordered Baby Steffen to be Removed from Life Support Orders Sister be Placed for Adoption

Tennessee Family Wants Daughter and Sister of Deceased Baby Steffen to Come Home

Steffen funeral family by casket

Patricia, Annalise, and Steffen Sr. say their last goodbyes to Baby Steffen. Photo source: Reunite the Rivenburgs Facebook page.

Waiting for Results from Private Autopsy

The funeral was a long time in coming. It was June 8th when doctors at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt took Baby Steffen off of the life support machine and administered the anesthetic drug propofol to “relax him” after his heart continued to beat and he breathed on his own. He died shortly after being given the drug.

On that day, the family was told that his body would not be released to the family for burial, but that DCS would keep his body in their custody.

Advocate Mattie Shay Mitchell with Liam Changed the World, Inc., helped the Rivenburg family to negotiate to get the baby’s body taken to a funeral home, where he would be kept under lock and key, in hopes of the family obtaining a private autopsy.

It took some time, but Mitchell’s group and the family were finally able to raise enough donations to get a private autopsy.

It may take up to 3 months to get the results, but the Rivenburgs and supporters hope that it will provide some answers as to why the baby, who was not sick when he was seized by DCS and placed into foster care, was on death’s door just 4 months later.

Baby Steffen was born with Down syndrome and congenital heart defects, but there were no problems from his condition before DCS took him over missed routine doctor’s appointments.

Steffen Pooh outfit

Steffen declined rapidly in state custody, and he had several surgeries at Vanderbilt hospital. Photo provided by the family.

Sorrow Mixed with Joy

The family was not sure that DCS was going to permit Annalise to come to her brother’s funeral, and the Rivenburgs were overjoyed to see her arrive. There were many hugs with her parents, grandmother, and all of her aunts, uncles, and cousins, most of whom hadn’t seen her at all since DCS seized her on February 2.

One of her cousins is just a few months older than her, and people call the two cousins “twins,” because they look so much alike. The two were very happy to see each other again.

It was obvious to advocate Lydia Hubbell that Annalise is very loved by her immediate and extended family. The day was a heartbreaking combination of joy over seeing Annalise and grief over Baby Steffen’s death.

Steffen Annalise and mom crying

Grieving the loss of Baby Steffen as well as the DCS-imposed separation of mother and daughter. Photo Source: Reunite the Rivenburgs Facebook page.


Steffen mom by casket

A mother’s grief. Photo source: Reunite the Rivenburgs Facebook page.


Steffen little hand

Holding Baby Steffen’s little hand, one last time. Photo source: Reunite the Rivenburgs Facebook page.


Steffen Annalise and dad at funeral

Annalise with her daddy at the funeral. Photo source: Reunite the Rivenburgs Facebook page.

Social Worker – No More Photos or Annalise Has to Leave

According to Lydia Hubbell, Annalise was accompanied to Baby Steffen’s funeral by two social workers, “Charlotte” and “Ms. Pena.”

Shortly after Lydia recorded a brief video of Annalise and her “twin” cousin, the DCS workers told her that videotaping was not allowed. They told her that it violated the family’s privacy, which confused Lydia because no one in the family was complaining.

Lydia was given the name and number of the social workers’ team leader, Heather Wyatt, and that she could call her at 931-503-3200. She called and left a message. She later wrote of the incident on Facebook, saying:

I told them that I and a lot of other people have an interest in this case and the issue of parental rights being unrecognized.

They were concerned about photos or videos being published on the internet or by the media. Okay…but WHY? and why is that a DCS problem?

Just before the preacher started to speak, Lydia reports that Charlotte sat down beside her and told her that she had just been told by her supervisor that if she or anyone else took any more photos, they were instructed to take Annalise and leave. The family was told the same.

Steffen mom by grave

Patricia by her son’s grave. Photo source: Reunite the Rivenburgs Facebook page.

Lydia said:

I know everyone is grateful that Annalise was “allowed” to be a part of her brother’s memorial and to see him being laid to rest and to comfort and be comforted by loved ones.

But I am still firmly convinced that Annalise and Steffen should not have been removed in the first place,and that it is NOT in Annalise’s best interest to be cut off from the friends and family who love her and are loved by her.

The mother of Annalise’s “twin” told me that she didn’t tell her daughter ahead of time that Annalise would be there. Nobody really expected her to show up, I think.

We all knew she SHOULD be there, but we also know that she never should have been taken in the first place.

The Fight for Annalise Continues

On July 17 at 10:30 am, there will be a hearing where “the family is asking that Annalise be placed with them, if not directly with the parents.”

If Judge Wayne Shelton rules against the family again, the next step is a Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) hearing, scheduled for July 24 at 9:00 am.

Attorney Connie Reguli says of the situation:

Take a look at this little girl. Let me tell you what is going to happen to Annalise.

Her brother was euthanized by Tenn. DCS and Vanderbilt at 7 months old. And that is just the beginning.

Now DCS, who has already removed her from her parents for being tardy to school, will go to court and tell the judge that they want a finding of severe abuse against her mother because she took a lortab while pregnant with her baby brother – who is now dead at the hands of the state – then DCS will use the finding of severe abuse on her dead brother to terminate parental rights and put Annalise in a strangers home and cut her off from her mommy, daddy, grandmother, and cousins forever.

Could this possibly be any more cruel? Can you imagine being seven years old and losing your whole family like this?

Steffen Annalise at funeral

Annalise just lost her brother. Must she lose her whole family, too? Photo source: Family Forward Project Facebook page.

How You Can Help

Supporters have set up a Facebook page for the family called Reunite the Rivenburgs.

Steffen FB page

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam may be reached at (615) 741-2001, or contacted here, to ask for intervention for Annalise. Her family does not believe that her fate should be determined by the very judge who sentenced her baby brother to death. 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.