A little girl named Alexis might wake up in her own bed in the home of her loving grandparents before too long. If this happens, and hopefully it will happen very soon, then the fact that Seattle has been inundated with snow and freezing winter temperatures will not matter to the family. The love that will surround that little girl will keep her warm forever. The young mother Lisa who had her child at age16 and the amazing grandparents have done everything they could to bring the beautiful, bright eyed child home.
Yesterday their dedication, faith and love apparently turned the tide in this story of a struggle that pitted the State of Washington and all of its resources against grandparents Doug and Anne-Marie Stuth and mother Lisa Lieberman. The power of Child Protective Services nationwide is overwhelming and the ability of these agencies to intrude into the private lives of all citizens is unlimited and unmonitored. More alarming that abusive power is most often used against the youngest and most vulnerable of our citizens. These children have no voice other then those the court allows to speak for them. In the case of this little girl the fact that an understanding judge saw through the charade speaks volumes.
Yesterday in the courtroom of Judge Ronald Kessler the house of cards that DSHS (Department of Social and Health Services) had built up to steal the child from her family began to crumble. Judge Kessler handles parental termination trials usually brought by DSHS, the equivalency of California’s Child Protective Services (CPS). The two-day trial which began Tuesday, January 6, 2009 had been held at the insistence of DSHS so that the agency could terminate the teen-age mother’s parental rights. Mother Lisa had refused to sign away her parental rights to her child so that the state could pick a stranger to adopt Alexis. When DSHS originally took the little girl from her mother, because she had allowed the baby to get too thin, Alexis was placed in the loving care of her grandparents who received glowing reports from the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
However, by the time the child was 2-years-old the politics in the CASA organization had changed. A new CASA from California named Terence F. Colyer was placed in a position of power over the little girl and the family that loved her. Terence F. Colyer was not licensed to practice law in the state of Washington but he had earned quite a negative reputation when he was a practicing attorney in Marin County where he was a member of the Family Law Elite Attorneys (FLEAs). (Click. California FLEA Terence F. Colyer emerges from under the CASA Rock in Washington State 10/10/08.) DSHS took the grandchild away from Anne-Marie and Doug Stuth and placed her in the care of a single foster parent named Linda Gallez. CASA Colyer began an intense war degrading the grandparents at every opportunity. In the meantime DSHS controlled the young mother, using the permanent theft of her child as a weapon to force her to undergo a series of tests and classes and isolating her from the love and support of her parents and her child. In effect CASA and DSHS worked together to deprive little Alexis of those she loves most. It also robbed the grandparents and mother and the entire maternal family of their ability to support and care for the child.
CASA Colyer put his total support behind the foster parent. DSHS did not do a thorough background check of Linda Gallez or they would have determined that this woman had an ongoing restraining order against a man she alleged invaded her home with a gun. Instead of doing their job of researching potential foster parents, DSHS and CASA Colyer ignored Linda Gallez’s background, including the fact that one of her brothers shared her home address and phone number. That brother admits in a posting on the internet that he had “a dark past”. Research uncovered criminal actions in two counties that reflect felony and misdemeanor charges involving vehicles.
CASA Colyer became the voice for the fragile child and in the Juvenile Court of Judge Catherine D. Shaffer. Colyer filled the judge’s ear with character assassination about the grandparents and the mother. In several instances Colyer used the very same arguments he had used when he was a member of the FLEAs in Marin County, California. One example that stood out in the memory of grandmother Anne-Marie was that Colyer made a huge issue of the grandparents allegedly undermining the mother’s parenting by allowing the grandchild to use a pacifier or blinky against mother Lisa’s wishes. Terence Colyer had used this very same argument against Deborah Planet in her custody battle with San Rafael car dealer John Irish in Marin County Superior Court. Irish had hired Colyer to represent him in both of his divorces. Planet was his second wife. Deborah Planet told this author that “No pacifier for my son Landon. It was part of my court order and Colyer drilled me on it at the first trial when I was denied an attorney and was before Judge Lynn Duryee. I think Colyer realizes that would be a hot button for any parent. He used this argument to impose supervised visitation on me and my son.”
When the press published this information, DSHS screamed in court that the media had no right to publish this material.
It is important to realize that this type of uncontrolled power must operate behind closed doors for it to continue. The operating budget for DSHS in Washington State is $2 billion every two years, according to Washington State Senator Pam Roach. If DSHS can continue to operate in secrecy, these billions of dollars will continue to be funneled to those agencies who have perpetrated tragedy after tragedy. The state of Washington, like the state of California, has paid out millions of dollars to the victims of their Child Protective Services. CPS is misnomer. In countless instances the children they seek to protect by removing them from their families end up abused or dead. Those children that CPS leaves in the custody of abusive parents end up abused or dead. Every state protects this rogue agency by allowing CPS to operate in utter secrecy. Often the judges of the state courts condone the actions of the executives and employees of this billion dollar agency by issuing orders that protect these highly paid individuals by granting them absolute immunity.
Therefore, agencies like DSHS, CPS and CASA continue to expand, draining more taxpayer money while exercising total control over children and the families that love them. The techniques used by CPS and its “sister” agencies includes character attacks, imposing unrealistic and often impossible requirements on young mothers, isolating family members from one another by not allowing contact, supervised visitation for mother and child and financially stripping the family of their assets to deprive them of their right to fight. This is exactly what happened to Anne-Marie and Doug Stuth, mother Lisa and little Alexis. They became nothing more then objects to play with and had been reduced to gnats that, it was thought, could not possibly wage a fight against the state and its autonomous agencies.
But, in spite of all odds, the Grandparents Stuth and mother Lisa continued to fight for this little girl. Slowly doors began to open. State Senator Pam Roach (R – WA) began to post updates about the Stuth case on her blog Pam Roach Reports in August of 2008. Newsmakingnews.com began to report about the involvement of CASA Colyer and his attorney Andrew Sachs in October of 2008. Another site SaveAlexisNow highly critical of CASA, the foster mother and DSHS, also appeared on the net.
During the third week of October 2008, the first termination trial was held before Judge Ronald Kessler. The judge determined that no termination would take place at that time, even though the state used up three full days attacking mother Lisa and the grandparents.
Then in November 2008 the Senator reported that CASA Colyer had resigned from the case. No reason was given for his departure. But it was reported that CASA requested that his attorney Andrew Sachs remain in place. Judge Catherine Shaffer agreed and went a step further, when she lamented in open court that she had never worked with a finer CASA then Terence Colyer. (Click. FLEA Terence F. Colyer resigns as CASA in Washington state case 11/8/08.)
Amazingly none of the medical history of Alexis would be entered into any court record. This, in spite of the fact, that since the child was placed under the care of Linda Gallez, she had been seen by a doctor more then 15 times and hospitalized once. Alexis suffered two black eyes, sores in her mouth, a split lip, a carrot stuck up her nose, a temperature of over 103, abrasions to her forehead, a bruise to her upper buttocks, uncontrolled bloody diarrhea and a prolapsed colon apparently the result of rotavirus. The doctors who saw her also reported that she was losing weight, not eating well and her hair was falling out. The doctors and DSHS sought to place the blame on either Child Haven or Kinder Care, the back to back day care centers that Linda Gallez placed the child in daily. There are no records indicating that either the doctors, CASA and/or CPS/DSHS examined the possibility that the foster parent could be responsible for the continuing medical problems of the child. In fact there is some evidence that there was a cover up put in place to protect both the foster mother and the agency. The public became aware of this when Senator Roach reported the child’s medical problems on her blog. She also reported that DSHS was blacking out sections of reports that documented these problems, and finally DSHS could no longer locate memos detailing the medical history of the child.
Of course, that was not the only thing that DSHS concealed from the judges in this case. DSHS and CASA worked together to conceal the positive home inspections of both the grandparents and an aunt and uncle who were hoping to take custody of Alexis. Terence Colyer and CASA never gave these interstate reports by the respective state’s CPS agencies to the court. The reports expired because they were kept secret by both CASA and DSHS.
At this point the public began to ask what type of connections the foster mother had that enabled her to escape any meaningful investigation. Posted comments asked if there might be a payoff involved or if Colyer and Gallez knew each other. Foster mother Linda Gallez sought to get even by filing a request for a Senate ethics investigation against Senator Pam Roach.
Ignoring this track record, DSHS continued to push for parental termination. Then came November 17, 2008. The same day that little Alexis was in the hospital recovering from rotavirus and denied visits by her mother, Judge Catherine Shaffer ignored state law and declared mother Lisa to be an unfit parent. Then Judge Shaffer went a step further and said she would voice her recommendation for parental termination to Judge Ronald Kessler.
With the help of the media and Senator Roach the grandparents were finally able to have supervised visitation with their grandchild. During that visit, investigative reporter Susannah Frame and KING5-TV cameraman was present and caught the little girl’s face as it lit up when she realized her grandparents were there. During later supervised visits with her mother Alexis would sob for her grandparents until Lisa took a picture out of her wallet of all of them together. Then Alexis would hold the picture and calm down. The visitation supervisor took down everything that was said and done and took it back to her controllers. Amazingly DSHS continued to argue that Alexis had “bonded” with the foster mother and parental termination should be the result of any court trial.
On December 2, 2008 Cheryl Stephani, DSHS Assistant Secretary over Children’s Administration, announced she was resigning effective December 31. No reason for her departure was given. On December 7, 2008 Senator Roach reported that the Children’s Administration under DSHS has lacked accreditation normally issued to agencies in compliance with criteria set out by the National Council of Accreditation. Finally, on December 22, 2008, DSHS Director Robin Arnold-Williams resigned to work as the Director of Governor Gregoire’s Executive Policy Office.
On December 9, 2008 the first program on KING5-TV aired and the public got their first look at the wonderful grandparents and their beautiful grandchild. The picture of Alexis greeting her papa and grandma said it all and the public clearly understood. The response was overwhelming with readers pouring in many comments and the majority clearly condemned the actions of the state agencies. King5-TV followed that story up with another one on January 6, 2009 stressing that the current trial before Judge Kessler could sever all relationship between the child, her mother and her grandparents.
The very next day Judge Ronald Kessler issued his ruling and gave Alexis a New Year’s Miracle. In part, his order read:
The department and the dependency court in an attempt to get Ms. Lieberman on track to parent failed to adequately consider the legal obligation to consider relative placement. I understand the reason for it, but I think it was in error.
Judge Kessler gave Anne-Marie and Doug Stuth one week to file the necessary papers to obtain custody of their grandchild. The atmosphere in the courtroom was one of stunned disbelief. The agencies' representatives and Alexis's family members could not quite believe what they had heard.
When this writer talked to Anne-Marie last night she was in tears and told me that she had been crying continuously since Judge Kessler issued his order. She is concerned for her daughter and her feelings and feels that this event has changed all their lives forever. PaPa Doug Stuth was out rounding up the funds necessary to pay for the attorney to file the papers. All are hoping to be reunited with their little girl as soon as possible.
There is one final note to this happy story and that is what happened to the foster mother, Linda Gallez. King5-TV reported that Alexis was apparently moved out of the Gallez home last Tuesday, January 6, 2009, the first day of the trial. It is also reported from several sources that the infant boy, also under the care of Ms. Gallez, was hospitalized but his condition cannot be determined at this time. Today Senator Pam Roach reports that during the hearing before Judge Kessler the new CASA on the case let slip that Alexis had been removed from the foster parent’s home the night before, thereby making a liar out of the state who had testified that the child had bonded with the Linda Gallez and that it would be in the best interest of the child that she remain in her care. In her January 7, 2009 blog the Senator concluded by saying that apparently the foster parent had her foster license pulled.
One can only conclude that torture is not the private domain of terrorists or governments. Those who actively participate in the theft of a child from a loving mother and responsible grandparents and the extended family the child is born with and entitled to, are also guilty of torture. Hopefully these grandparents, the valiant mother Lisa and precious Alexis have set a precedent on how to fight and reunite.
Virginia McCullough © 1/8/09