Newsmakingnews.com published a report on the high profile imprisonment of three-year-old Alexis by DSHS child “protective” services in Washington State. A story posted on October 20, 2008 detailed the involvement of California FLEA Terence Colyer who volunteered as a CASA volunteer in Alexis’s case. A November 8, 2008 article by this reporter detailed Terence Colyer’s resignation from this case. (Click.) However, it was later determined that Colyer’s attorney Andrew Sachs was asked to remain on the case by CASA, apparently to deal with any future issues that might arise as a result of King County CASA Supervisor Linda Katz’s support of Terence Colyer.
Senator Pam Roach, (R – WA) posted in depth blogs detailing the neglect and abuse endured by the little girl she called “Lisa”. Under the care of foster mother Linda Gallez the fragile child has suffered two black eyes, a bruised jaw, a bruised back, sores in her mouth, a split lower lip, food stuffed up her nose and most recently Alexis has been hospitalized with rotavirus that resulted in bloody diarrhea and a protruding anus.
DSHS has repeatedly covered up Alexis’s condition. This agency, charged with protecting vulnerable children, has altered and “lost” internal communications detailing the abuse of this defenseless child.
The dependency judge on this case, Justice Catherine Schaffer, attempted to blame one of the two back-to-back day care facilities to which Foster parent Linda Gallez takes this child daily for the black eye inflicted on Alexis. This same judge lamented the fact that the infamous Terence Colyer resigned as CASA. During a court hearing Justice Schaffer also tried to blame the biological mother for the savealexisnow.com (Click.) web site that is highly critical of both Gallez and Colyer. Apparently the judge received this information from social worker Summer Blauvert who privately questioned the mother about that same web page. The obvious bias of Judge Schaffer was clearly demonstrated when she recommended termination and stated in open court that she would be in contact with the parental termination Judge Ronald Kessler who had ruled on October 22, 2008 that Alexis would not be separated from her mother at that time. Judge Kessler stated that the state’s job is to work toward unification of mother and daughter. However the mother will have to appear before Judge Kessler again on December 19, 2008. What reason would Judge Schaffer have to contact Judge Kessler except to somehow influence his decision on this case?
In the interim DSHS Cheryl Stephani, Assistant Secretary over Children’s Administration announced that she will be retiring effective December 31, 2008. Under her care her underlings falsified records on this child’s abuse, hid reports favoring Alexis’s mother, grandparents, aunt and uncle from the court, and routinely covered up the misconduct of her own employees. Her retirement was announced December 2, 2008. Her retirement income will cost the taxpayers over $100,000 a year. Interestingly, that is almost the salary DSHS is paying its newly hired spin doctor Thomas Shapley, former editorialist for the Seattle Post Intelligencer. Shapley coached Cheryl Stephani for the interview that will air this evening on KONG-TV, Channel 16 at 10:00 p.m and KING-5 news at 11:00 pm.
Award winning investigative reporter Susannah Frame of KING5.com will air her report entitled “Foster Home over Family Home?” Ms. Frame has been working on Alexis’s story for about a month, as Senator Pam Roach details in her report below:
Doug and Anne Marie Stuth, my wonderful Enumclaw, WA constituents who have been going through hell at the hands of CPS, are the subject couple in the Tuesday night KING5 TV airing of "Foster Home Over Family Home?"
Investigative reporter, Susannah Frame, has been working on the story for about a month. She and a cameraman were here at the farm several weeks ago. She spent a couple of hours with the ombudsman (the person who would not demand a copy of the altered email regarding the child's black eye). There was so much to tell them.
This is a must see for all who have been following this blog. In this the names of the individuals involved will be revealed…………In this, you may see the grandparents at their home. They were videoed in their cozy Enumclaw, WA home. They showed the cameraman the bedroom where their granddaughter had slept. The door has been closed. The room has been left untouched since their granddaughter was taken.
The grandparents, Doug and Anne Marie Stuth are truly wonderful people. This reporter has been in touch with them for many months after an unidentified source contacted me requesting that I look into the theft of their grandchild by DSHS. The story about their beloved grandchild and her mother, their daughter, is heart wrenching.
Here in Sacramento, California two children that should have been rescued by Child Protective Services were shot to death in by their father who killed their mother and committed suicide after CPS had removed the 14 year old daughter from the home but left the two younger children in that same dangerous situation.
Less than one week later a 16-year-old boy in Tracy escaped from the home of his alleged abusers bearing the scars of emaciation and beatings. He was covered in soot, wearing only shorts and still wearing a chain around his ankle. He had long been under the “care” of CPS in Sacramento who had, in fact, placed him in the care of one of the three charged. She had previously abused him.
The difference in Alexis’s case is that there is a chance for DSHS, the court and the public to intervene and rescue this child. There is still hope that she will be properly returned to the care of her mother and to grandparents Doug and Anne-Marie Stuth who truly love this little girl.
Virginia McCullough © 12/9/08
Picture in headline: Karl Brulloff. Italian Woman with a Child by a Window. 1831. Watercolor on paper. The Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow, Russia Click to enlarge
11:46 AM PST on Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Click for more at King5-TV
ENUMCLAW, Wash. - From day one Doug and AnneMarie Stuth of Enumclaw adored the new baby in their home.
"It was a very exciting time. She was the center of our world," AnneMarie Stuth said.
But the Stuths aren't the baby girl’s parents; they're her grandparents. Their troubled teenage daughter had her at 16. Then she relied on her parents to help raise the baby.
"I was the first one to hold my granddaughter and I was the first one to kiss her,” Doug Stuth said. “So yeah, we have a tight bond."
When the baby was 9 months old, things unraveled. The teen mom moved out of her parents' home along with the baby. While living away from the Stuths, the baby lost weight. A doctor's appointment led to a call to Child Protective Services. The doctor reported the teenage mother let her child get dangerously thin.
“It’s like your whole world comes crashing down,” AnneMarie Stuth said.
Enumclaw police put the child in protective custody with the Stuths right away.
The grandparents raised the child for months and received glowing reports. One officer of the court wrote: "She's fortunate to have her grandparents as a safety net."
"Our granddaughter always came first,” Doug Stuth said. “She’s a little baby. She needs someone to protect her and take care of her and that’s what we did.”
Reuniting the baby with her mother was the goal. Caseworkers placed the two in transitional housing for young moms. That didn't work. The teenager got kicked out of the programs and lost her daughter again.
But this time, instead of going back to grandma and grandpa, state workers put the baby in foster care.
The Stuths were devastated. The child’s daycare providers gave them heartbreaking reports.
“(They tell me) that she cries for me," Doug Stuth said. “You have no idea (how hard it is)."
Why didn't the baby go back to the grandparents? Most people would think there must be something very wrong with them, such as reports of abuse or neglect. Perhaps they have criminal records, drug problems, or a history of unemployment? None of those things are true.
So we dug a little deeper. The King 5 Investigators looked at hundreds of documents written by people making decisions on the case.
A court-appointed advocate for the baby wrote the Stuths were selfish, hyper-critical, and were derailing their daughter's parenting efforts. One example cited over and over in legal papers: They gave the child a pacifier, or binky, which was against the young mom's wishes.
"You would not believe how many times that darn binky was brought up in court and in paperwork over the stupid binky!" AnneMarie Stuth said.
A social worker also wrote the grandparents refused to financially support their daughter. But we have copies of dozens of cancelled checks which show the Stuths were giving their daughter money.
They were also accused of being unwilling to drive the child for visits with the mom. But mileage reimbursement records show the state was paying the grandparents for driving hundreds of miles a month so the child could see her mother.
"I've never seen people so hell bent on destroying one family,” AnneMarie said.
Washington law is clear: If a child can't be with parents, relatives must be considered before foster care.
"The department (DSHS) is making greater efforts, absolutely," State Family and Children Ombudsman Mary Meinig said.
Meinig’s office investigates dozens of child custody complaints from relatives every year. She says DSHS is doing better at placing kids with relatives, but that state workers are not always following the law.
"When you have children who are not at risk and they are bonded to their relative, you want them there,” Meinig said. “You don't want them re-traumatized by removing from relatives."
The Stuths think they were flagged as trouble-makers because they complained, a lot, about what was happening. They even called their senator, Pam Roach, who rattled cages in Olympia over the case.
"I'm trying to right something that I think is wrong," Sen. Roach said. “I think it’s important that the state realize that it’s doing something very damaging to this little girl.”
Roach lobbied to get the Stuths visits with their granddaughter. They’d been told by the child’s court advocate there was a court order forbidding them to see her. But we’ve found there was no such court order. They should have been allowed to see her all along.
"It's heartbreaking why any state would want to step between a family tie like that and try to sever that bond," AnneMarie said.
A judge ordered there should be visits and last month KING 5 was there for one of them. The child, now 3 years old, lit up upon seeing her grandparents in the parking lot where the supervised visit was to take place.
"To see the excitement in her eyes and know how we feel inside,” AnneMarie said, “there's no way to put that into words."
DSHS officials couldn’t answer specific questions about the Stuths' situation because it’s part of an ongoing case. But speaking in general terms, Cheryl Stephani, who heads up all child welfare programs at DSHS, told us: “The first requirement is that any placement be in the best interest of the child.”
Stephani also says custody cases are never as simple as they appear.
"It's easy to sit back and say, oh, I know exactly how that should have gone,” Stephani said. “But when you're in the midst of it, there really are a lot of folks who have the best interests of the child at heart but there are a lot of different viewpoints."
One high ranking DSHS official thinks the case hasn’t been handled correctly. We've obtained an internal state e-mail where the administrator writes: “If we don't (place the child) with a relative there will be a lot of explaining to do."
Later this month a judge is expected to rule on the fate of the little girl. The young mother is fighting to get her back, and the grandparents support that goal. State social workers have pushed to have her adopted by the foster mother, saying the little girl is very bonded to her now.
During this turbulent year and a half, the Stuths have left their granddaughter's room untouched in their Enumclaw home. Her clothes, toys and blankets sit empty in a pretty pink room. It’s hard to go in, so they usually have the door closed.
"You look at different things and you remember, where you got it, where you were, how much she loved it," said AnneMarie. "It's a piece of your heart and life gone."
To read why we did this story, read Susannah Frame's blog.