Nelson KaylynnKitrina

Kitrina and Kaylynn at a recent DHS visit. Photo supplied by family.

by Health Impact News/ Staff

An Oregon couple was blindsided when Child Protective Services seized baby Kaylynn, alleging Child Neglect because of their medical marijuana use. Oregon has issued permits for the medicinal use for marijuana since 1998 and legalized recreational use since 2014.

The couple has complied with all state laws, and they don’t understand how the same state can legalize something on one hand while on the other hand, they seize a child from her home for the very thing that the legislators and voters have said that they can do.

This murky and confusing legal climate has left a mother devastated and her baby girl robbed of her family.

No matter what one believes about the legalization, use, or ethics of marijuana, it is clear that families should not be torn apart over differing policies within the same state agencies.

Their Story

Kitrina Nelson is a 24 year old single mother, who recently moved to Vale, a tiny town in Eastern Oregon, known as the “Birthplace of the Oregon Trail.”  With a population of under 2,000 people, Vale is located just miles from the Idaho border.

Kitrina made the move to Vale from Caldwell, Idaho, to be with her life long friend and now boyfriend, Cody Kiser. Cody also happens to be a certified medical marijuana grower under Oregon State’s Medical Marijuana Program, enacted in 1998.

Both Cody and Kitrina are medical marijuana users, benefiting from the medical effects of cannabis to reduce pain in Cody’s back caused by injury from a car accident, and Kitrina’s scoliosis, hypothyroidism, thrombocytopenia (low blood platelets), as well as for her mental health including bipolar, anxiety, and depression. They have chosen medical marijuana over the side effects and addictive nature of the pharmaceutical options of opioids, psychotropic medicines, and other commonly prescribed medications.

Recreational marijuana is also legal in Oregon, after the passage of Measure 91 in 2014, and all residents ages 21+ are allowed to use marijuana for any purposes. Part of the new law also allows each residence in the State of Oregon to grow up to 4 marijuana plants.

After her move, Kitrina began to utilize the recreational laws for her own medical purposes while she settled into her new home and set up her medical insurance for her new state. She had lived in Oregon for only 2 months and had not yet had time to pursue new doctors, or a registry card with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

Cody possesses a registry card as both a grower and a patient. He is approved by the Oregon Department of Human Services to grow up to 12 mature plants for his two qualified patients – himself and his friend.

Nelson Cody cards

Cody Kiser’s Medical Marijuana cards – issued by the Oregon Health Authority

October is harvest time in eastern Oregon. During the summer, Cody had grown 12 plants in his enclosed backyard, as afforded by the state’s 19 year old law. Cody and Kitrina were almost finished harvesting Cody’s latest medical marijuana crop when their lives turned into every parent’s nightmare.

Nelson family photo

Katlynn with Kitrina and Cody at a recent visit. Photo supplied by family.

Kitrina’s 1-year-old daughter, Kaylynn, had been visiting her grandmother during the harvest. She had been gone for almost a week and a half, while her mother and Cody spent their days preparing the plants and medicine with the help of their friends.

Cody had limited space to hang his harvest, and had utilized the space within his small 600 sq. foot home, as he had done for the previous 3 years. Plants were hanging from the ceiling in the basement, as well as in the kitchen and living room.

According to Kitrina and Cody, Kaylynn was unexpectedly brought home by her grandmother on October 17, 2017. Without notice, Kitrina’s mother called and said she was bringing her home and they were on their way from Caldwell, Idaho, located about 45 minutes away.

Cody and Kitrina had not expected Kaylynn’s return for a few more days.

Once she returned home, Kaylynn was put to bed in the only bedroom in the home, one she shared with her mother and Cody. It was a room separated from the harvest hanging in the living room by the kitchen and dining space.

Cody and Kitrina were always within arms reach of Kaylynn, in part because of the small size of the rural house in which they live, which is located a block from local law enforcement.

As expected with a harvest, the house was a bit chaotic. Kitrina and Cody say that the next day the new little family spent the day at the park and visiting friends out of town. That night, they went to bed like any other night.

Reported by a “Concerned Friend”

The next morning, October 19th, 2017, the day started as any normal day. Cody was up first, preparing breakfast on the stove, when there was a knock at the door. It was a Malheur County Sheriff deputy.

Deputy Palagi informed Cody that they had allegedly received an anonymous referral from someone who claimed to be Kitrina’s “concerned friend” about the harvest and some clutter in the home. They were there to do a welfare check, alleging neglect and potential abuse over the drying marijuana plants. Deputy Palagi asked if he could come into the house and look around.

Cody says he showed the officer his registry cards and explained he was a legal grower and medical patient. He let the officer into the home, believing he had nothing to hide.

The deputy took some pictures and allegedly told Cody he didn’t see much of a problem but that he had to clear it with Child Protective Services first. The deputy went outside and contacted the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS).

Department of Human Services caseworker Shannon Casad arrived at the house with other social workers. Deputy Palagi escorted them into the house where they proceeded to take pictures of the house, all the plants, gardening chemicals, and tools, as well as photos of dirty dishes in the sink. (Remember – they came while Cody was preparing breakfast.) Cody says they never asked to go into the home or take pictures.

They just did.

Shannon Casad allegedly made a comment about a single marijuana leaf that had fallen to the floor, and their concern about what could possibly happen if the toddler were to get her hands on the piece of the plant.

The police and social workers woke up Kaylynn, who was sleeping in her baby bed in her mother’s room.

They drug tested her, with negative results.

They allegedly stated to Cody that they couldn’t leave without the child.

When asked why, Cody says they told him the house was “disgusting” and the plants were dangerous to Kaylynn. Since it was Cody’s harvest, and that was the biggest concern, he offered to pay for a hotel for Kaylynn and Kitrina, until it could be cleaned up.


Obvious love between mommy and baby. Photo source: Bring Kaylynn Home Facebook page.

Cody ran quickly to the closest hotel and rented a room.

While he was gone, Kitrina was allegedly coerced into signing a “Family Safety” plan, agreeing to keep little Kaylynn out of the home until the plants were removed.

The couple was forced to move into the hotel room, and were told they were not allowed to be alone with their daughter without an approved relative present – under threat of removal to foster care.

Terrified, Kitrina and Cody complied. Kitrina stayed at the hotel with Kaylynn and Kitrina’s sister while Cody and their friends worked to hastily clean up the harvest mess.

Cody says he followed the law and had been approved to grow his medicine by the same department that was threatening to remove his girlfriend’s daughter.

Billy Fisher, family advocate from the Fight for Lilly Foundation, agrees. He has been a witness to the events as they unfolded.

He points out that the state law and Child Protective Services policy are in direct conflict, and that marijuana is being treated as being the same as heroin.

To CPS, they had the equivalent of a heroin operation, and that is just not accurate. The opioid crisis in this country has everyone on edge. Marijuana and heroin are NOT the same. No one has ever died from marijuana.

The Department of Human Services was alleging possible harm and neglect of Kaylynn because of the marijuana plants.

However, Cody’s research into the science and history of marijuana shows that the toxicity of marijuana is extremely low. According to a report by DEA Administrative Judge Francis Young, it would take an adult consuming over 1,500 lbs in only 15 minutes to induce a toxic effect. (Source)

Desperate for answers to the questions that kept arising, the couple sought out information about CPS and about Kitrina’s parental rights. They learned about the federal funding available for services, the scary statistics of foster care, and the incentives for adoption from foster care. They found the horror stories of corruption that are a reality for millions of families across the country.

On October 23rd, 2017, Kitrina made the decision to revoke her agreement to the safety plan, refusing to agree she had neglected her daughter. She contacted the social worker through email and invoked her right to have an attorney present if the social workers wanted any more contact with her family.

She signed temporary guardianship paperwork, designating several close family friends as temporary custodians of Kaylynn. She left the hotel and waited to hear back from the social worker.

When the social worker hadn’t responded to her email by the next day, Cody’s cousin called DHS for Kitrina and requested the social worker respond to the email.

Kitrina finally received a response and DHS Supervisor Lacy Edmunson agreed to have Shannon Casad meet with Kitrina and her attorney and requested a time to meet.


Kitrina informed her she would be in touch once she had the time scheduled with an attorney. Kitrina made a few phone calls and tried to set up to meet with an attorney for that week.

Feeling safer, Kitrina decided to take Kaylynn home. She wanted to get back to their normal routine. It had already been a hectic few weeks with the chaos of harvest and the intrusion of social workers in their lives. Kitrina arranged to meet Cody at the house and packed their things and Kaylynn into the car.

When she and Kaylynn arrived at the house and were waiting for Cody to arrive, a police cruiser from the Malheur County’s Sheriff’s Department pulled in front of the car, blocking it in.

The deputy claimed they had a pick up order for Kaylynn.  Kitrina wanted to see the pick up order. She pointed out that she had just worked it out to meet with the social worker with an attorney. She said she was confused as to why they would have a pick up order.

When asked to see the order, the deputy said they didn’t have it: “CPS does and they are on their way.”

Family advocate Billy Fisher arrived on the scene and began recording through his Facebook Live feed.

Kitrina wouldn’t let Kaylynn go until the pick up order arrived. Finally, the DHS social workers arrived, pick up order in hand.

When it was given to Kitrina, she says she saw it was dated for the day before. Instead of responding to work out a time to discuss everything with an attorney, the DHS Caseworker Shannon Casad had gone to the court and requested the pick up order.

Kitrina wonders why the social workers had told her they would meet with her attorney when they finally responded, if they knew that they were going to get a pick up order?

Kitrina pointed out the contents of the order were not true. The order alleged that Kaylynn had been left alone around hazardous chemicals from the marijuana grow, that the marijuana was hazardous, and that Cody possessed numerous firearms. Cody points out they were bb guns, not the “dangerous weapons” alleged.

Nelson bringkaylynnhome

Photo from the Bring Kaylynn Home Facebook page.

They were also alleging Kitrina’s mental health had placed Kaylynn at risk, and that Kitrina wasn’t taking prescribed psychotropics. She had told Shannon that she was using medical marijuana to treat her mental health, along with her pain, as she worked to change her insurance to Oregon and find new doctors.

She had also signed a medical release while under duress when she signed the safety plan. The release had given Shannon access to a mental health evaluation that Kitrina had sought out herself months prior and was now using it against her.

Kitrina also noticed that the order wasn’t even signed by a judge. She challenged the order until one of the sheriff deputies ran the block to the courthouse to ensure it was legitimate. He returned and pointed out where the order had been filed with the court.

Kitrina continued to argue it didn’t matter. It wasn’t even signed and it wasn’t true.

Kitrina’s family and friends arrived and showed the social workers the temporary guardianship paperwork, dated the day before the pick up order. They protested the removal since one of the guardians was there and could take her. The social workers took photos of the pick up order and said it would have to be addressed later.

Through much coercion from the armed police and social workers, and understanding they weren’t going to go away and it would traumatize Kaylynn more if the sheriff’s deputies used force, Kitrina reluctantly agreed to put Kaylynn in the car.

The social workers brought over a car seat. Kitrina was shocked because it wasn’t even the right size seat for her 1 year old daughter. It was much too small. When she pointed this out, the social workers asked to use hers.

Kitrina was amazed at the lack of oversight by people who were claiming they were better at caring for her daughter than she was.

At first she objected, objecting again that they were taking her child at all. Then, frightened by the threat of force, Kitrina conceded to their demand and took her daughter to their car with her own car seat.

Not Enough Evidence for Criminal Charges, But They Were Filed Anyway

At the Shelter Care hearing, Kitrina denied all of the allegations. The public defender did not argue against any of the allegations.

The rules of evidence regarding hearsay are not applied in Family Law Shelter Care hearings and the allegations of neglect were enough to keep Kaylynn from her family. Kaylynn remained in foster care.

When the police and CPS first came to the house, Cody says that Deputy Palagi had informed them that there wasn’t enough evidence for criminal charges and that he would not be filing them.

It wasn’t until after the department had already removed Kaylynn from the home, and Cody and Kitrina were speaking with a public defender at the Shelter Care hearing, that the department made them aware they were pursuing criminal charges.

Kitrina and Cody received letters from Malheur County Circuit Court, summoning them to a hearing on charges of Misdemeanor Criminal Child Neglect in the Second Degree.

Cody and Kitrina both deny the allegation that they ever left Kaylynn unattended in the home during the harvest. The time of the harvest was only 2 weeks out of the 12 weeks that Kaylynn had lived in the home, and Kaylynn had only been back in the home for approximately 36 hours when the police showed up at the door. At no time was she allegedly unattended.

At the arraignment, Cody and Kitrina were ordered to do a book and release at the Malheur County Jail. Upon Kitrina’s release, part of her pretrial release conditions ordered by the judge was to “comply with DHS.”

Nelson ComplyDHS

From court documents regarding Katrina’s Child Neglect 2 Charge.

The dependency petition states that the Oregon Department of Human Services requests dependency of Kaylynn Nelson, under Oregon Dependency Law ORS 419B.100(1)(c) which states:

The juvenile court has exclusive original jurisdiction in any case involving a person who is under 18 years of age and:

(c)Whose condition or circumstances are such as to endanger the welfare of the person or of others;

The petition alleges that she cannot adequately parent her child due to her marijuana use and mental health, and it cites the clutter from the harvest. [Would there be the same concerns if her parents were harvesting green beans or tomatoes, or drying peppers in the home?]

Kitrina and Cody both deny all the allegations, and Kitrina points out that there are no actual instances in which her mental health or her use of marijuana has interfered with her ability to be a parent or compromised her child’s safety. There are no police reports or examples of how these things have ever, or could ever, harm her child. Kitrina also points out that the house was not always covered with harvest supplies and products.

Cody points out that the house was not always a mess and suspects that the timing of the welfare check to the harvest is much more than a coincidence. Both Kitrina and Cody believed that a vindictive family member called CPS and timed it to coincide with Kaylynn being returned unexpectedly during the harvest.

Kitrina received an anonymous hateful letter in the mail that they say was obviously from the person who called in the neglect complaint, trying to throw them off of their suspicions. The person has now allegedly come forward and apologized for calling the police on them, saying they didn’t think that things would go this far, or that Kaylynn would be put into foster care.


Kaylynn playing in the living room with her toys before the harvest. Photo supplied by family.

Unfortunately this a common occurrence in many CPS cases. Family members and neighbors have been known to call CPS, hoping to receive the children once they are removed, not realizing that the child is more often than not lost to the foster care system instead – a system which subjects the child to at least 6 times greater chances of being harmed than if they had been left in their own home.

Kitrina says that she has always told the department who Kaylynn’s biological father is, and she speaks with him frequently. He wishes to remain anonymous until paternity has been established legally.

When this author spoke with him, he says that the department allegedly tried to reach him by contacting everyone in his family, except for him directly. And when he called them, they allegedly never called back.

The department has not pursued placing Kaylynn with her own father.

Kitrina and Cody have decided to fight all of the allegations and the criminal charges by requesting due process and impartial hearings where they may cross examine the evidence and the accusers. They say they are now being harassed by the sheriff’s department and believe it is because they are fighting back.

Kitrina’s public defender has allegedly told Kitrina that the department and the judge in Malheur county view marijuana in a certain way and that will not change, despite the laws. He has allegedly told her it is best if they work with the department, but if he must he will attempt to fight it for them. Cody and Kitrina do not have much faith in a fair fight.

In many cases, social workers will attempt to convince the parents to comply with the services requested, without having to actually go to trial.

In what is often called a Family Team Meeting or a Family Safety Meeting, parents are offered assessments and services, and the possibility of their child returning home, if they just agree that they were a risk and follow through with an in-home safety plan.

Kitrina, Cody, several friends and family, as well as Kaylynn’s biological father, all attended such a meeting on December 5th, 2017. Permanency supervisor Michelle Flynn led the meeting, with 3 other social workers and a CASA worker. They said they were there to work with Kitrina to bring Kaylynn home, if she just agreed to the conditions of the Preliminary Action Plan.

The conditions included:

  • Complete a parenting course
  • Complete an A&D (Alcohol & Drug) assessment and follow through with any and all recommendations,
  • Complete a mental health assessment and follow through with any and all recommendations,
  • work with the In-home safety and Reunification Services,
  • work with the case worker to complete a protective capacity assessment and follow through with any and all recommendations.

When Kitrina denied the allegations, refused to agree to the conditions of the plan, and said she wanted to go to trial because they didn’t have any actual evidence of what they were alleging, the social workers tried to coerce her into agreement by questioning her parenting skills because she was willing to leave Kaylynn in foster care for another three weeks. Ms. Flynn can be heard in the audio of the meeting saying:

You’re going to wait 3 more weeks?!

Cody responds that they have:

already stolen her for this long, and they don’t have a case for trial. It could be dismissed. 

Nelson MichelleFlynnSupervisor

Kitrina with DHS and Supervisor Michelle Flynn. Photo supplied by family.

The day after the meeting, Kitrina decided to file court documents and continue the case with out her public defender. Both Cody and Kaylynn’s potential biological father filed Petitions to Intervene and make themselves party to the Family Law case. A hearing is scheduled for December 22, 2017, to hear those motions and Kitrina’s documents requesting to fire her public defender.

A mere two hours after Kitrina and Cody filed their documents, Kitrina received a phone call from her public defender, allegedly with an offer from the District Attorney in regards to her criminal charges.

She says she has not even entered a not guilty plea to the charge. The alleged offer was to plead guilty to criminal negligence of a child, and work with DHS in the family law case, and she can receive 1 year unsupervised probation and a withheld judgement.

Kitrina says she refused this offer because she knows they don’t have any evidence to support their charges and she intends to go to trial.

Kitrina’s family law case is scheduled for an evidentiary hearing on December 28, 2017, in Mahleur County Circuit Court. Kitrina says she plans to fight all of the allegations and to demand evidence of such allegations from the DA. She says she will not give up the fight to bring her baby home.

Cody and Kitrina’s criminal hearings are still pending, scheduled into January and February of 2018.

In the meantime, Kitrina receives only 2 hours to visit with her daughter, only once a week.

Cody and Kitrina are both extremely concerned about Kaylynn’s well being in foster because she allegedly comes to visits with bruises and scratches on her face and neck and injuries she has never sustained before. The injuries continue to occur, despite their repeated requests for an investigation into the foster home.

How You Can Help

A family support page has been set up on Facebook called Bring Kaylynn Home.

A protest rally has been planned for the CPS Juvenile Dependency hearing on December 28th. It will be from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Malheur County Courthouse. The address is 255-299 B St West, Vale, Oregon 97918. For more information, go to the “Bring Kaylynn Home Protest Rally” event page on Facebook.

A petition has been set up through demanding DHS: Bring Kaylynn Home!

The Governor of Oregon is Kate Brown. She may be reached at (503) 378-4582 or contacted here. She is also on Facebook.

Request the Governor’s Assistance with the Department of Human Services here.

Representative Cliff Bentz represents the family’s district in the Oregon House of Representatives. He may be reached at 503-986-1460 or contacted here or on Facebook.

Senator Ted Ferrioli represents their district in the Oregon Senate. He may be reached at 503-986-1950 or contacted here or on Facebook.

Their U.S. Senators are Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Ron Wyden.

Senator Merkley may be reached at 202-224-3753 or contacted here or on Facebook.

Senator Wyden may be reached at 202-224-5244 or contacted here or on Facebook.