Over the last three months, Wisconsin legislators have been debating bills to reshape state laws that have the power to break up some families and create new ones. There have been two public hearings and a contentious Assembly floor session over the measures. But stories of parents like Tara van Wormer and their children have been virtually absent from the debate. The bills, including measures that cover adoption and foster care, grew out of an Assembly task force on adoption commissioned last spring. They were introduced as a package to make Wisconsin “more adoption friendly” in the words of the lawmakers supporting them. In short order, Gov. Tony Evers signed the least-controversial bill after it sailed through the state Assembly and the state Senate: Act 92, which expands who is eligible for financial assistance for adopting children with special needs. Several other bills passed the Assembly Jan. 15 after extensive debate, some on divided roll-call votes. They have yet to be scheduled in the Senate. The proposals share a common goal: In order to make it easier for children to be adopted, they would make it easier to terminate the parental rights of mothers and fathers suspected of abuse or neglect.
Wisconsin Doctors Afraid to Bring Their Children to Their own Hospital Due to Fear of Medical Kidnapping
In the days after an NBC News investigation revealed problems with a major hospital’s handling of a suspected child abuse case, members of the hospital’s medical staff criticized senior administrators and demanded changes, according to several people who attended a series of internal staff meetings. The article, published last week, detailed the case of Dr. John Cox, a former emergency room physician at Children’s Wisconsin, who was charged with abusing his 1-month-old daughter, based largely on medical reports from child abuse specialists at his own hospital. More than 15 other medical experts who treated the baby or later reviewed the case concluded that the hospital’s child abuse team made serious errors, but Child Protective Services took her anyway, NBC News reported. The reporting sparked public backlash aimed at Children’s Wisconsin and state child welfare authorities — including from within the hospital. Several physicians told administrators during a series of staff “listening sessions” held in response to the reporting that they had serious concerns about the work of the hospital’s child abuse specialists, and some asked for an external investigation of their practices, according to four Children’s Wisconsin doctors who attended the meetings and spoke to a reporter on the condition of anonymity. Numerous physicians from across the hospital have spoken out at the meetings, attendees said, including cardiologists, neonatologists and infectious disease specialists. At one internal meeting this week, some Children’s Wisconsin doctors told administrators from the Medical College of Wisconsin — which employs physicians who practice at the hospital — that without swift policy changes, they would hesitate to bring their own children to the hospital following accidental injuries, fearing that a medical mistake or overreaction could lead Child Protective Services to break their families apart.
Sara Ambrosini’s story spans many years, two sets of children, and several different case plans. Sara started out believing that the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families’ Child Protective Services (CPS) was a benevolent agency whose intentions were to truly help families in need, but came to realize that CPS and the Juvenile Court system was an adversary that could not be trusted. She never imagined that she would eventually lose all her children to the system that she initially trusted for help. Although she was under a doctor’s care for methadone treatment to detox from a prescription painkiller, the methadone treatment would become a constant subject of "drug abuse" allegations made against Sara to CPS. Believing that no one “inside” the system could be trusted, Sara began researching and learning all she could about the law to equip her in the long legal battle ahead. Sara is still fighting the courts to bring her youngest two children home. She has a final hearing on April 4th, and then Judge Jude is retiring the next day. Here is Sara’s story.