Baby Steffen’s parents with Annalise at Baby Steffen’s funeral. Story.

by Health Impact News/ Staff

Patricia Tornberg and Steffen Rivenburg, Sr., thought they were going to court this morning, July 17, 2017, to try to bring Baby Steffen’s big sister Annalise home to be with family members and out of foster care. Instead, the judge had them arrested and thrown into jail.

Family members and supporters alike are shocked at the turn of events, and see this as another way for the court and DCS to grasp at any way to justify their actions and deflect attention away from their role in Baby Steffen’s death.

Last month (June 2017) Baby Steffen was taken off of life support against the wishes of his family, and before the family could find a second doctor’s opinion regarding his condition. Baby Steffen was removed from his parents while still healthy, and yet the parents had no say over his medical care or removal from life support.

Tennessee DCS also removed Baby Steffen’s sister, Annalise, from the parents.

Advocate Serra Frank told Health Impact News:

This judge is scrambling to get rid of this mess, and he’s just making it worse.

The hearing was supposed to be about hearing motions for Annalise to be placed with family members.

Grandmother Lisa Rivenburg and two aunts, each willing and able to care for Annalise, were present at the hearing, but the motions were never heard. Judge Wayne Shelton reportedly stated that he did not intend to hear their motions.

See original story and updates:

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

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

Tennessee Family Buries Baby Steffen as Social Workers Stop Photos – Sister Still in Foster Care

Steffen Annalise and mom at funeral

Mother Patricia Tornberg with her daughter Annalise at Baby Steffen’s funeral. Annalise wants her family. Source – Reunite the Rivenburgs Facebook page.

Secret DCS Court Hearing

Instead, the focus turned to a motion filed on July 1 without the family’s knowledge by Margaret Parker, attorney for DCS, to compel the parents to submit to drug testing. There was allegedly a secret hearing between DCS and the judge on July 10 to hear the motion, but the family was never notified about it.

It was only incidentally that the Rivenburg family learned about the hearing after the fact, when they went to their former court-appointed attorneys’ offices to get their files on July 12. The motion was attached to the back of some paperwork, but there was nothing in the paperwork about any decision on the motion.

Rivenburgs in Court without Legal Counsel

All of the court-appointed attorneys connected with the case, including the Guardian ad litem for Annalise, have quit since Baby Steffen’s death.

The young parents went into court today without any legal counsel. Since their court-appointed attorneys have quit, Patricia and Steffen asked Judge Wayne Shelton for new counsel to be appointed for them today.

He reportedly told them that none of the attorneys wanted to touch the case because of the “notoriety” of the case.

Serra Frank said that when the judge learned that the parents were without counsel, he should have continued the case. They need to be given time to find an attorney. They cannot afford to hire an attorney. Thus, there was no one to argue against the request for drug testing at court.

Why Drug Testing Now?

Since their only knowledge of any request for drug testing came from the motion they found included in the paperwork, Patricia and Steffen asked the court for clarification.

They wanted to know a couple of things about the purpose of the drug testing:

  1. Why was it being requested now, since they have always been in compliance before with all requested drug tests, and neither parent has had a dirty test during their entire ordeal with DCS.
  2. Was it even necessary since DCS and the court has made it clear that they intend to terminate their parental rights for Annalise on July 24? What is the point now of the test?

To be clear, they were not refusing the testing; they simply wanted clarification. They were in the hearing without an attorney. They wanted to know if submitting to the testing would help them to get their daughter back. They did not get an answer to that question.

When they were asked to submit a urine sample at court, they told the judge that the did not have to urinate right then. Judge Shelton reportedly told them:

You will by the end of the day.

Then, he had them arrested for contempt of court. There was no bond set, and their family was told they would have to stay in jail until they produced a urine sample.

Steffen Sr.’s mother Lisa Rivenburg said:

I can’t believe my children were arrested for contempt on something they were never served with.

History of Clean Drug Tests

Steffen Rivenburg, Sr., has no drug history, and the only thing that is alleged as a drug history for Patricia is something that never occurred to her would be interpreted as problematic.

She had a positive drug test last May arising from taking a single Lortab before she realized that she was pregnant.

Steffen and parents

They fought hard to save Baby Steffen’s life, but were overruled by the judge and hospital. Photo supplied by family.

It was a one-time thing, she said, and it showed up in her urine at the obstetrician’s office when she realized she was pregnant and began prenatal care.

When Baby Steffen was born, his Neonatal Assessment Syndrome (NAS) score was zero, indicating that there were no drugs and that he was not born addicted to any substance.

Steffen Pooh outfit

Baby Steffen was born with birth defects, but was not sick when DCS seized him from his parents. Photo supplied by family.

Both parents were drug-tested repeatedly once DCS seized custody of Baby Steffen and Annalise in February 1017, and they have always tested clean.

There is no history of drug use by either parent.

Even so, Patricia voluntarily submitted to drug counseling that was requested by DCS during the process of working out the case plan.

So why, all of a sudden, is DCS demanding that both parents submit to a urine analysis and hair follicle drug testing?

Constitutional Concerns and Civil Rights Violations

The argument could be made that, if they have nothing to hide, then why not submit?

Besides concerns expressed by one supporter that DCS could falsify the results in their attempt to cover up wrong-doing in seizing the Rivenburg children, there are basic Constitutional concerns here.

The 4th Amendment to the United States Constitution states clearly:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

This is a basic American right guaranteed to all citizens. The Founding Fathers recognized that it was not good for government to have free access to search people or their property without a valid reason to do so, and thus secured this protection in the Bill of Rights.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld this principle in a case involving suspicionless drug testing for people applying for food stamps. (See case.)

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) states its position on their website:

Courts agree: Blanket drug testing with no individualized reason for suspicion is unconstitutional.

The ACLU says:

Additionally, the compelled production of bodily fluids is a search under the Fourth Amendment, which, absent consent, requires a warrant supported by probable cause. (Source)

Steffen eyes open

Baby Steffen’s parents’ rights were overruled and he was taken off life support on June 8, while other hospitals offered to give 2nd opinions. Photo supplied by family.

Grandmother Kicked Out of Court

The family went back into court at 1 pm on July 17. According to the Reunite the Rivenburgs Facebook page:

Grandma Lisa was removed from the court room for taking notes. Witnesses who remained in the court room say that Patricia is now being forced to either sign agreement to the permanency plan of adoption for Annalise or be jailed again. She is reported to be UNDER DURESS.
Please Help!

Parents Submitted to Drug Tests, Mother Compelled to Sign Papers

Advocate Lydia Hubbell was at court with the family, and she posted onto the Reunite the Rivenburg Facebook page that both Patricia and Steffen Rivenburg, Sr., did, in fact, submit to the drug tests this afternoon:

[T]he parents were arrested for not taking a urine drug screen and hair follicle on the spot as DCS requested. They let me and Lisa stay in there for the contempt, but when the baliff saw Lisa taking notes, made her leave, saying it was inappropriate. So, both parents are without representation and it is my understanding that Annalise was without representation.

When I left the courtroom, the DCS caseworker was coercing the mom into signing a bunch of DCS papers. The judge had said that if she didn’t sign, she would spend the night in jail and see him at 9 a.m.

If you refuse to take a drug test, it counts against you as they assume it would be positive. Both parents did take both a urine and hair follicle test. I asked the baliffs if the mom was going to get another lawyer appointed. They didn’t know. DCS is running the show.

I will say that the judge was very kindly pleading with Patricia to take the test. Patricia said she felt like it would count against her anyway.

We have all heard of false positive drug screens. It was a no-win situation.

The caseworker was also very kind and respectful as he was explaining the paperwork to her. She was concerned as to what she was signing away. I am sure any lawyer would have told her to comply. Some of what she signed was for a year. It was either sign or go to jail.

I tried to approach the other DCS workers, but was sent back by the bailiffs. I was mad that they kicked Lisa out, saying it was ‘inappropriate’ for her to take notes. I left the courtroom at 2:15 or so.

Parents Still in Jail

This is a developing story, and the parents are both still in jail as of Monday afternoon. Their family and advocates are trying to get answers, and we will update as we learn more.

How You Can Help:

The Rivenburg family desperately needs legal counsel but cannot afford an attorney.

Steffen FB page

There are calls to action posted on the Reunite the Rivenburgs Facebook page, including these:

Please keep calling these numbers and tell them to uphold the Sixth Amendment right to an attorney for these parents in court.

Call the Montgomery County Court and tell them to let those parents go!!! 931-648-5766

Then call the Montgomery County Jail! 931-648-0611

Call Governor Bill Haslam and demand he enforce the 6th amendment right to an attorney in his State’s courts! (615) 741-2001

And call the local news and tell them to keep covering this story! (615) 353-4444