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. 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.
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 to what happened to Baby Steffen in DCS custody.
Baby Steffen's tiny body will be laid to rest on Friday, July 7, in Clarksville, Tennessee. His battle to live has ended, but his family's battle for his big sister Annalise continues. The Rivenburgs still don't have the answers that they seek as to what happened at Vanderbilt once Baby Steffen was taken into Department of Children's Services (DCS) custody. They are waiting for the results of a private autopsy, funded by donations from people who believe that the family deserves unbiased answers. Those results could take up to 3 months. The fate of Annalise may be decided in less than 3 weeks. DCS has requested a hearing to terminate the parental rights of Steffen and Patricia. That hearing is scheduled for July 24.
Tennessee Dad Who Lost Children due to Medical Cannabis that Saved his Life Continues to Fight for Children’s Return Home
Michael Brooks is a Tennessee dad whose children were taken from him by Child Protective Services after he used medical cannabis to treat his Hepatitis C. After conventional medical treatments failed to cure his terminal Hepatitis C, he turned to medical cannabis and soon his Hepatitis C was in remission. But unfortunately, Tennessee DCS used his medical cannabis treatment as a reason to take away his children. His health deteriorated rapidly when he stopped using the treatment in the attempt to comply with requirements by Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) in order to get his children back. He was set to have his rights terminated last month, but his case was continued. Michael took to Facebook Live on June 26, 2017, to record a video for his followers, and it looks like things may be turning around for the Brooks family. His health has begun to improve and there is again hope of his getting visitation back. On Facebook Live, Michael said that he had been taking CBD oil, or cannabidiol oil and Moringa oil for the past two weeks. CBD oil is legal in all 50 states, as it contains almost no THC, the chemical that gets one "high." His body has responded so well that he has been able to throw away his other 20 medications. In the Facebook Live video, Michael Brooks said that he expects to go to court on July 19, and he is hopeful about getting visitation with his children back.
It was the best news ever for Chris and Keshia Turner of East Tennessee. After two and a half years battling Child Protective Services, their children were coming home. On Friday, June 24, 2017, Keshia posted the happy news on Facebook that they were on their way to pick up their children. When Health Impact News first spoke with the Turners more than two years ago, their oldest son Brayden had been taken from them by the Tennessee Department of Children's Services (DCS) after doctors discovered that her son had multiple fractures in various stages of healing. Keshia was accused of Shaken Baby Syndrome and abuse. Keshia told us that she believed that her son Brayden was coming home eventually. Her faith in God was what kept her going, she said, and she trusted that God would one day bring good out of all that they were going through. Then, she gave birth to Carson in September 2015. Because DCS had an ongoing case against Keshia, her 4 day old baby was seized by DCS and placed with his brother. Through it all, the Turners fought hard to get their children back. When we first spoke with the couple more than 2 years ago, they knew that there had to be some kind of medical explanation for Braydon's broken bones and symptoms. However, once a doctor accused the parents of abuse, they said that the doctors stopped looking for answers. But Keshia did not stop looking. She knew that there had to be answers that the doctors had missed.
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.
Civil Rights Abuse? Judge Only Gives Parents 24 Hours to Find Doctor Before Baby is Removed from Life Support
After a long day in court, the Rivenburg family did not get the news they wanted to hear about Baby Steffen. Last week, a judge approved a temporary injunction to keep the 7 month old baby from being taken off life support. On Monday afternoon, Judge Wayne Shelton ruled that Baby Steffen's mother does not have the right to make the decision of whether or not to take him off of life support, and he denied the request to extend the injunction. The family has a short 24 hour, up to 48 hour, window to find a pediatric cardiologist in the South willing to testify that the baby is eligible for a heart transplant and would survive it. Unless they find such an expert, Vanderbilt doctors, not the parents, will decide when to take Baby Steffen off of the life support machine that is keeping him alive at this time.
We asked grandmother Lisa Rivenburg if Baby Steffen is showing any signs of responding to family. She responded: YES! ALL signs! He opens his eyes, squeezes my hand, puts his hands up in the air, kicks his feet. He smiles. He grimaces. He makes his little "Elvis face." She told us that he lifts his hands up when she plays his favorite song, "Awake, My Soul," by Chris Tomlin. He's completely cognizant when he's not heavily medicated. Steffen responds to his family as much as he can while being limited by wires and tubes. Lisa said that he fights the medications that make him sleep. The family has court on Monday, the day before the court order expires that is keeping Baby Steffen alive. They have been told that Vanderbilt Hospital intends to bring in a doctor from their hospital "to say the baby has no chance."
Doctors at Vanderbilt Hospital in Tennessee want to take a baby off of life support Tuesday, May 30. His family is fighting for his very life. They believe that there is still hope for 7 month old Steffen Rivenburg Jr., who was born with heart defects but was not sick until after Child Protective Services seized custody of him and his older sister on February 2. His mother Patricia Tornberg told Health Impact News that, even though he is very sick now: I feel like he can make a turn-around. My husband and I want to give him a chance by keeping him on life support. After baby Steffen was taken from his parents and placed into foster care, he caught a very serious viral infection on February 17 which caused damage to his heart. A heart surgery that the parents were told would not be needed until he was 6 months old became necessary on February 23. That was followed by 3 more heart surgeries and other procedures on his tiny body. Patricia and Steffen Rivenburg Sr. have told the hospital and the Department of Children's Services (DCS) that they refuse to consent to taking their son off of life support, but the doctors reportedly plan to unplug him by noon on Tuesday, May 30th. The family is requesting that everyone call the Governor of Tennessee to prevent this from happening.
Matthew Marble was not even in the state when his 10 month old daughter was hospitalized for abuse. Little Hailey was in the care of her mother and her mother's boyfriend when someone smashed her head into a table. The head injury left her with cerebral palsy, and, due to the alleged actions of Tennessee social workers, the incident left her without her father. Matthew, who is disabled himself, has been fighting to get his daughter ever since that fateful day in June 2013. His parental rights have been severed by the state of Tennessee, primarily due to his disabilities, but he and his attorney Connie Reguli hope to reverse that decision and have filed a lawsuit against the state for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Matthew is not alone in his fight. His family has been by his side throughout the whole ordeal. His aunt Bobbi Dubois contacted Health Impact News to ask for help in telling their story. Bobbi and her husband Will, Jr., have been willing to take care of Hailey and facilitate the relationship between father and daughter, but they have allegedly been blocked by Tennessee Department of Children's Services (DCS) at every turn. The Dubois are certainly well qualified - they have long been advocates for others, and have even been asked by their own state to take in disabled children. Because of his disabilities, Matthew has never claimed that he could parent alone, but he just wants the opportunity to be a part of his little girl's life. However, DCS set up a permanency plan for him which, according to Reguli, was "discriminatory and failed to accommodate his limitations." This story is about a father's right to parent his child. He loves his daughter, and he did nothing wrong. He was not involved in the abuse that happened when she was in her mother's care. DCS knows that, but still they have kept him from his daughter and have demonstrated that they prefer that she live with strangers rather than her own family.