Adopting children is big business. Websites like advertise available children, and give advice on how to adopt. With a huge need to find foster parents so states can collect federal funds for foster children, this website states “You don’t have to be a perfect parent” to try and entice people to become foster parents. Ironically, many children are taken out of their loving homes simply because their biological parents are not “perfect.”

Commentary by:
Terri LaPoint, Assistant Editor
Brian Shilhavy, Editor
Health Impact News

One of the dirty little secrets of Child Protective Services is that children are sometimes taken from their homes, and their parents’ rights ended, simply because the children are “adoptable.”

Now, in a stunning reversal of a termination of parental rights decision, a Court of Appeals has concluded that the Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) took children from their mother primarily because her children were considered adoptable.

This admission is now part of the court record.

This confirms what many parents and social worker insiders have told Health Impact News – that one of the reasons that children are taken even from good, loving homes is because of their adoptability, not just in Arizona, but in every state.

There is a great deal of federal funding in adopting out children to strangers; thus, children have literally become a commodity to be seized and sold.

Devani photo from AZ Childrens Lives Matter FB page

Devani was taken from her mother by Arizona DCS for false allegations, then placed into a foster home that was a pornographic pedophile ring. With her blond hair and blue eyes, she was very adoptable. Story Here.

In any other context, this would be considered human trafficking. In the context of Child Protective Services, it is considered “in the best interest of the child.”

AZ Central reported the story of the Maricopa County family on November 20, stating:

Writing for the three-judge panel, Acting Presiding Judge Peter B. Swann concluded there appeared to be only one motive to separate the mother from her kids: that the children were adoptable.

Judge: Adoptability Not a Justification for Overriding Parents’ “Fundamental, Constitutional Rights” to Parent

In the 15 page ruling, the judges addressed the DCS argument to sever parental rights based on adoptability:

[Point 34] In evaluating the children’s best interests, the court found that both children were adoptable, that their respective placements are meeting their needs, and that they would gain permanency and stability through severance. The Department argues this is sufficient to establish best interests. We disagree.

Earlier in the ruling, Judge Peter B. Swann upheld the fundamental Constitutional right to parent:

As the United States Supreme Court held in Santosky v. Kramer:

The fundamental liberty interest of natural parents in the care, custody, and management of their child does not evaporate simply because they have not been model parents or have lost temporary custody of their child to the State.

Even when blood relationships are strained, parents retain a vital interest in preventing the irretrievable destruction of their family life.

If anything, persons faced with forced dissolution of their parental rights have a more critical need for procedural protections than do those resisting state intervention into ongoing family affairs.

The ruling also affirms that the mother in this case:

has a fundamental constitutional right to the “companionship, care, custody, and management of” and “associat[ion] with” her children ….

The purpose of DCS involvement is not to override parents’ constitutional rights, according to the Arizona Court of Appeals:

The purpose of the state’s initial involvement is not to sever parents’ constitutionally protected rights to the care, custody, and association with their children, but to ensure that children are healthy and safe and to rectify the circumstances that led to the need for intervention.

Based on these fundamental constitutional rights, Judge Swann elaborated on the concept of adoptability:

Adoptability… is not on its own sufficient to overcome a parent’s constitutional rights. …

The Department must show that there is a substantial likelihood that the parent will not be capable of parenting effectively in the near future, not that someone with better parenting skills may be able to care for the child. See Roberto F., 232 Ariz. at 53, ¶ 38 n.11.

Otherwise, “it is irrelevant whether a child has a stronger attachment to their foster parents, whether foster parents are more ‘nurturing,’ or whether foster parents might be more capable or better parents than a natural parent.”

Read the full ruling here.

Adoptability Has Long Been a Factor in State-sponsored Kidnapping of Children

Merissa Hamilton, Libertarian candidate for governor of Arizona, has made protection of families from DCS overreach a primary focus of her campaign. She reached out to Health Impact News with this commentary on the Appeals Court decision:

Finally, a court has documented that Arizona’s DCS is only severing rights because children are adoptable and not because any abuse or neglect exists.

It has long been known that Arizona DCS, in collusion with judges, have been severing parental rights based on adoptability. In fact, one of the requirements from the federal government in order to receive the Title IV-E funding is to prove the adoptability of the children.

Merissa Hamilton and Terri in DC Sept 2017

Merissa Hamilton and Terri LaPoint in Washington, D.C., advocating for families. Photo source: Merissa Hamilton.

Just last year, in one of the first cases I worked on, the judge wrote in her statement on terminating the mother’s rights, that although the State had not proven the accusations against her, since her children were highly adoptable, she was ruling for rights to be severed to create permanency for the children — permanency with total strangers. This woman lost her appeal and has not seen her young children in over a year.

Separating children from their parents and loved ones, who provide healthy homes, to be placed with strangers is indeed child abuse!

Arizona DCS must be abolished and replaced with a system that actually protects the welfare of children, rather than the financial interests of the State. We need a system that rehabilitates families when possible, doesn’t traumatize children like what the Shoars’ children have experienced [see their story here], doesn’t sell children into pedophile rings like what happened to baby Devani [see her story here], and most certainly doesn’t steal children from healthy homes!

I am thankful that we now have case law established to protect children from an over-aggressive State agency who has proven time and again as a failure to our children and families.

How to Kidnap a Child Without Evidence: Hire a Psychologist as an “Expert Witness”

Brenda Bursch

Dr. Brenda Bursch from UCLA has frequently been called upon in Arizona as an “expert witness” against parents in favor of severing parental rights.

In addition to the flawed evidence presented by Arizona DCS social workers to terminate the parental rights in this case, the judge’s opinion also implicated the “evidence” submitted by the states expert witness, a psychologist:

Only two pieces of evidence could support the juvenile court’s findings: the testimony of the Department’s case manager and the psychologist’s testimony and evaluation of Mother.

Both are too fundamentally flawed to support severance.

While judges and courts often rely heavily upon expert testimony given by doctors, we have discovered here at Health Impact News that when the State does not have enough evidence to support the removal of parental rights, it is all too easy to find a psychologist willing to testify against parents in support of removing children from their families, especially in Arizona.

In this current Arizona case, Judge Peter B. Swann notes that the psychologist testified against the mother with no supporting evidence:

The evaluator also stated that “records” indicated Mother has bipolar disorder. But there is no reference to any such records anywhere else in the evaluation (or the record on appeal). And the only records the evaluator claims he consulted were the progress reports provided by the Department. There is no other indication in the record that Mother is bipolar.

In addition, the psychologist apparently presented the mother to the court as a drug addict, even though the mother had repeatedly tested negative for any drugs:

The psychologist recommended Mother receive one year of doctoral-level therapy, family therapy, and group therapy; and further recommended specialized substance-abuse treatment, parenting classes, parent-aide services, and domestic-violence classes.

If these conclusions were supported by evidence, they would indeed be significant, but the evidence tells a different story.

Conspicuously absent from the information the Department gave the psychologist is any reference to the 14 months of services Mother had successfully completed or was currently receiving.

Mother had — without exception — tested negative for drug use; successfully closed out of her drug-testing service because of the lack of any positive test; closed out of drug rehabilitation because the service provider determined that no drug treatment was necessary; participated in domestic-violence counseling and group meetings; and successfully completed at least eight months of parent-aide services and supervised visitation, where she always came prepared and showed proper parenting skills.

In Judge Peter B. Swann’s opinion, he was especially critical of the psychologist’s unwillingness to examine the evidence, or conduct his own evaluation of the mother:

At trial, the expert testified that he never received any information about these services. Nevertheless, he testified that Mother had benefitted “very little” from them and that the lack of a positive drug test did not detract from his conclusions on her drug dependence and need for treatment.

He explained, “I was not looking . . . [at] her training and as to being a parent, I was looking for a diagnosis.”

Because he neither considered the available information nor attempted to evaluate Mother’s parenting skills, his conclusion that she is unable to successfully parent for the foreseeable future is not reasonable evidence of Mother’s parenting ability.

Indeed, the foundation for his opinion is so lacking that we question (though we do not here decide) its admissibility.

Leanna, Jameelah, Chaunell (1)

Arizona mother Leanna Smith had her children taken away by the State of Arizona based largely upon the expert witness testimony of psychologists. Story here.

Using psychologists’ testimony as “expert witnesses” to testify against parents even when there is no evidence implicating the parent of abuse or neglect, is unfortunately a common practice we have found in many of our stories.

When parents disagree with doctors or try to seek a second opinion regarding medical care of their child, they are often labeled by a psychologist as having a disorder called “Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.”

Leanna Smith filed a federal lawsuit against the State of Arizona for the removal of her daughters. The lawsuit implicated Arizona DCS of using false testimony from psychologists employed by the department:

The key to this complaint is the act of Dr. Brenda Bursch (“Bursch”) and Marina Greco (“Greco”), a licensed therapist who intentionally and knowingly practiced medicine without a license. They did so pursuant to a conspiracy to manipulate a child in CPS care and custody and were aided and abetted by Bonnie Brown, CPS Supervisor , Tammy MacAlpine, CPS Case worker, Katrina Buwalda, a licensed psychologist in Arizona. (Story here.)


Arizona mother Melissa Diegel lost custody of her two daughters after she questioned doctors and wanted to seek a second opinion. Story here.

Arizona mother Melissa Diegel has gone public with her daughters’ medical kidnapping by the State of Arizona, and has implicated psychologists’ expert testimony as a primary reason she lost her daughters:

Brenda Bursch, PHD – “Professional Testifier”

So how are the courts successfully keeping these children?

In some cases, they hire professional testifiers like Brenda Bursch, who gets paid $200 an hour to testify on the stand. She is contracted by different states, (in her case 5 different states.) She has been practicing for over 20 years, and has been working with CPS since the early 1990s. She now gets paid to professionally and falsely testify against the parents.

Brenda Burch has a PHD in psychology. She testifies against the medical records she has reviewed, but she is NOT a licensed medical doctor. Also, in most cases, she has NEVER MET the children or the accused parent IN PERSON until the day of the trial, yet testifies as to their supposed diagnosis on the stand.

Her specialty is MBP. She boldly claims that a parent should never be able see their child again because the parent has made the child ill. In seemingly all her cases, she claims the parents suffer from “Munchhausen by Proxy/ Factitious Disorder,” yet she has never spoken to the parent or child in almost all her cases.

It is the most unprofessional thing I have ever seen. Brenda Bursch has been involved in at least 9 MBP Arizona cases and was brought up on charges of practicing medicine in Arizona without a license. She has also been involved in multiple clinical research trials. (Story here.)


Los Angeles mother Jewels Stein had her daughter medically kidnapped because a psychologist labeled her with Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy/Fictitious Disease. Interview here.

Los Angeles mother Jewels Stein, a paramedic and film producer, also lost custody of her child primarily due to testimony of doctors:

I hate Munchausen by proxy. I have been doing a lot of research on this, there is a specialist named Helen Hayward Brown, from Australia, who is the biggest advocate against Fictitious Disease and Munchausen by proxy. Helen Hayward Brown she is a doctor out of Australia, she is an expert witness against these cases.

There is a person at UCLA and I’ve since heard that UCLA has made a habit of looking at these cases predominantly because they have a doctor there named Doctor Brenda Bursch, who is also the doctor who testified in Justina Pellitier’s case, who has written books on Fictitious Disorder and has made a habit of going after parents.

She is the expert witness against the parents when it comes to Munchausen or Fictitious Disorder.

One of the things that Dr. Hayward Brown brought up, it is disheartening to me, it paints the characteristics of the mother that has Munchausen or Fictitious Disorder and it says here that the mother makes complaints about medical negligence, that the parent asks too many questions about the child’s medical care and the parent seeks a second opinion.

So, yes, I did ask a lot of questions about my daughter’s medical care, and I did seek a second opinion. It is disheartening to me because it presents a pretty scary situation and it even talks to that the parents are too assertive and they become involved in their child’s care.

In this day and age, I came from being a paramedic in a man’s world, I had to be assertive, it’s my nature, it’s my character, it’s who I am… It’s presenting a bad situation where parents are going to be afraid to go forth and afraid to ask questions and afraid to take their children to the doctors.

Once you are branded with this Munchausen by proxy or Fictitious Disorder, which is what they say in the juvenile court system, you are guilty until proven innocent. I told my public defender, how do you prove innocence from something that is fictitious? It is fictitious in every way, it’s not just fictitious disorder, it is made up and it’s basically a witch hunt against parents who give doctors problems.

The thing I found out when I was at UCLA, when Dr. Grace Deukmedjian started yelling at me and started to be inappropriate, I asked for a medical liaison, every hospital has one. A medical liaison is someone that comes and deals between the doctor and the parent.

What I didn’t know until I left, is that Brenda Bursch is that hospital liaison. So when you call and you’re in trouble and you’re worried sick about your kid and you are arguing with the doctor. You want to have some say here comes Brenda Bursch and she is your friend, but she is not.  I was very fortunate she was testifying against another parent across country. (Story and interview here.)

“Best Interest of the Child” Now Means “Child Trafficking”

In reporting on these Medical Kidnapping stories for 3 years now, we have observed that the concept of “best interest of the child” has come to mean what the government determines is the “best interest” for the child, and who they determine is best suited to be the parents of that child.

This is simply legal “child trafficking,” and if you think we are over-exaggerating this horrible situation, we encourage you to read our investigative reports on legal child trafficking happening every day throughout the United States:

The U.S. Foster Care System: Modern Day Slavery and Child Trafficking

Child Kidnapping and Trafficking: A Lucrative U.S. Business Funded by Taxpayers Called “Foster Care”

There are multiple reasons why this is happening in the United States today, and current laws protect the child traffickers. For more information on why this is happening, see:

Medical Kidnapping in the U.S. – Kidnapping Children for Drug Trials

Child Sex Trafficking through Child “Protection” Services Exposed – Kidnapping Children for Sex

From Child Protection to State-sponsored Child Kidnapping: How Did we Get Here?

Judge Peter B. Swann’s opinion in this current case seems like a breath of fresh air to us, as he establishes the fact that being an imperfect parent is not grounds for abusing one’s constitutional right to parent:

Adoptability is a commonly proven benefit of severance, but it is not on its own sufficient to overcome a parent’s constitutional rights. Lawrence R. v. Ariz. Dep’t of Econ. Sec., 217 Ariz. 585, 588, ¶ 11 (App. 2008) (holding that adoptability does not equate to best interests)

The Department must show that there is a substantial likelihood that the parent will not be capable of parenting effectively in the near future, not that someone with better parenting skills may be able to care for the child. See Roberto F., 232 Ariz. at 53, ¶ 38 n.11.

If a parent’s ability to parent the children has been established by parent-aide services, there is a bond between the children and parent, and the parent has attained a safe and stable living situation, then the children’s adoptability, household stability, and the ability of their current placements to meet their needs are subordinate to the fundamental rights of the parent in determining best interests, unless severance removes a detriment caused by the parental relationship.

A parent’s rights should be preserved “when the parent grasps the opportunity [to reunify with a child] quickly, diligently, and persistently” and without failure. In re Pima Cty. Juvenile Severance Action No. S-114487, 179 Ariz. 86, 101 (1994).


Problems in Arizona: All Foster Children Now Part of Class Action Lawsuit Against the State


Image by Children’s Rights, an non-profit group that is one of the groups representing the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Arizona by Foster Children.

As we have reported many times here at Health Impact News, statistics clearly show that children put into the foster care system suffer from abuse and harm far more often than they do if left in “troubled” homes. See:

Foster Care Children are Worse Off than Children in Troubled Homes – The Child Trafficking Business

In 2015 a federal class-action lawsuit was filed against the directors of the Arizona Department of Children’s Services and the Department of Health Services by ten foster children in Arizona.

The children in the lawsuit are represented by the groups Children’s Rights, the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interestand Phoenix law firm Coppersmith Brockelman PLC.

In October of 2017, U. S. District Court Judge Roslyn Silver granted class-action status in the litigation against the state, and expanded the class from 10 foster children to all 17,000 children currently in foster care in Arizona.


Arizona has the highest rate of children taken out of their homes and put into foster care of any other state in the U.S. Are we to conclude from these statistics that Arizona has the worst parents in the United States warranting such a high rate of removal?

Ultimate Solution is to Repeal Laws – End Federal Funding for Foster Care and Adoption

While this ruling in Arizona is a step in the right direction, we must note that the Arizona appellate court was bound by current laws that give Child Protection social services, such as Arizona Department of Child Safety, authority to operate.

And as this ruling and opinion show, even within the limits of their own laws, children are being illegally kidnapped from their families because of widespread corruption.

The greater constitutional issues of the very existence of these social services that abuse parental rights, often with complicit law enforcement, is addressed here:

Does the State Ever Have a “Right” to Remove Children from a Home?

We agree with the late Georgia Senator Nancy Schaefer, who fought hard to expose the corruption in Child Protection Services, and who declared that the system was too corrupt to fix, and needed to be abolished.

Senator Nancy Schaefer: Did her Fight Against CPS Child Kidnapping Cause her Murder?

Former Director for the Baltimore City Department of Social Services Molly McGrath Tierney has expressed similar sentiments:

Baltimore Child Welfare Director: Foster Care is a Bad Idea – Kids Belong in Families

Medical Kidnapping Stories from Arizona