Baby Returned to Mother Who Was Shackled in Lowell Court Judge Orders the Return; Radical Feminists at DSS Continue Enormous Pressure
Previous related story [below]: Howard Children Are Being Reunited With Parents http://www.massnews.com/581how.htm
By Ed Oliver firstname.lastname@example.org July 17, 2001
The two-month-old baby who was stolen from her mother in February by DSS was returned to the custody of her beaming parents yesterday by order of Judge Robert Belmonte at Framingham Juvenile Court.
The parents, Neil and Heidi Howard of Tyngsboro, are overjoyed at baby Jessica's return, who is now seven-months-old.
The DSS has not given up however. They're still putting the family through a nightmare of threats and harassment. They are obviously very angry that a judge has thwarted their plans. The baby was taken by the social workers after the mother ignored their threats and refused to follow demands to leave her husband and file false complaints of abuse against him.
With the help of pro-family lawyers Chester Darling and Gregory Hession and publicity from Massachusetts News, the Howards are battling to get their children back. But at a tremendous emotional price.
Over $100 Million/Year at Stake for DSS
DSS receives over $100 million/year from the federal government in bonuses for children they take from parents and adopt to others. None of that money goes to the general state treasury. It all goes directly to DSS.
Jessica was born in December and seized by DSS in February this year. DSS had taken the nursing baby solely because it had already abducted the Howard's two boys in November 1999 -- even though a court hearing had never been held on the abduction. A ruling by any court on the two boys has still not been made.
Based upon the unlawful treatment of the family by DSS and the courts, the parents refused to relinquish Jessica when she was born. The DSS claimed a right to seize the child solely because they already had the two boys. When the parents refused to tell DSS where the newborn baby was, they had the mother seized, shackled and forced to climb flights of stairs with the shackles on her ankles and wrists in the Lowell Courthouse -- even though what they had done to the family violated the laws and Constitution of the state.
Judge Belmonte Making Progress
Some progress has been made with the help of Judge Belmonte since February. In May, with the help of glowing reports about the parents by the baby's court appointed guardian as well as bizarre testimony by DSS social workers under cross-examination by Chester Darling, the judge suspended the trial and began an effort to reunite the parents with their baby.
DSS continued to strongly oppose letting the parents have their baby and it subjected the parents to many court hearings, in addition to hearings at the DSS plus counseling sessions, etc. But on orders of the judge, the Howards finally began seeing the baby on frequent visits, culminating in overnight stays at home for several days at a time.
Apparently seeing the handwriting on the wall, DSS decided not to fight and recommended that the agency's temporary custody of baby Jessica be dismissed. The Howards received word from a social worker last week that they could keep their baby, but yesterday in court it became official.
DSS is keeping the case open however. They told the Howards that this was routine and it would be closed in a few months if all goes well at home. But the family has heard stories like that from the social workers before.
Good News About Boys
There is even some good news regarding the boys, Christopher 10, and Ethan 5, who have been living in separate foster homes since late 1999 even though their abduction has never been approved by a judge. Last week, Ethan moved to Vermont to join his brother who moved there in late June. They both are now living together with an aunt and uncle.
But the boys have gone through tremendous trauma, having been unlawfully separated from their family for over two years.
The parents are still allowed only one hourly visit per month. They will have to drive four hours to see them at a Vermont visitation center and they have to pay a fee. The lawyers are trying to get increased visitation.
The lawyers are hoping that when the judge sees how well Jessica is doing and how well the visits go with the boys, that the boys will be reunified later this year with their parents like baby Jessica was.
But DSS remains intransigent that the two boys must be adopted. It appears to be willing to let the aunt and uncle adopt them. DSS will still receive its federal bonus in that event. It told the judge that its efforts to terminate parental rights to the boys should resume "as it appears to be the only way to resolve the issues as they relate to the boys."
The judge will review the situation again on September 24.
Previous related story [below]: Howard Children Are Being Reunited With Parents http://www.massnews.com/581how.htm
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Howard Children Are Being Reunited With Parents 5-Month-Old Baby Begins Visiting Next Week; 'State Kidnaps Children with Impunity,' Says Atty. Darling
How Did Howards Become Involved with DSS? [sidebar, below]
By Ed Oliver email@example.com May 8, 2001
There is a light at the end of the tunnel for the Howard family in the trial to terminate their parental rights.
"We have a court order that anticipates the reunification of the Howard family," Attorney Chester Darling told Massachusetts News.
Custody of the Howard's three children is presently in DSS which wants to put them up for adoption. The parents are fighting to get their children back. They say there is no proof they are unfit parents and the judge appears to agree.
Atty. Darling said, "I'm very disappointed that we have an agency in the Commonwealth that can kidnap children almost with impunity."
The Howard children are Cristopher 10, Ethan 5, and baby Jessica who was born last December.
Judge Robert A. Belmonte ordered a temporary settlement in the matter last week by way of a six-month continuance of the trial in an attempt to reunite the family.
If all goes well, the baby will begin scheduled overnight visits with the parents starting May 14, leading to weekend visits. The parents will also visit the two boys more often according to a new court schedule. The boys will most likely move to Vermont soon to live with their aunt and uncle, and the family and their lawyers hope they will later reunite with their parents.
In the best case scenario, the baby would be home full time on June 18 and the boys would be back home in six months or sooner, say the Howards. But there is not a commitment that the two boys will be coming home. That would only occur upon review. The hope is that things go well after the baby is home and the boys are able to come home later on that basis.
The order states the Howards must attend parenting classes and individual therapy. In addition, Neil Howard must attend the EMERGE batterer's program for an evaluation. In an important and rarely seen stipulation related to that requirement, Neil does not have to sign anything that admits to culpability, which is normally demanded of those who are forced to attend batterers' programs.
There will be a case review on June 18 and another one in six months.
DSS Still 'Kicking and Screaming'
The current belated resemblance to justice could not have occurred if the Howards did not have two hard working pro-family attorneys on their side: Chester Darling and Gregory Hession. Publicity of the trial was also a factor. Most families caught in the oppressive web of DSS and the probate court system are not so fortunate.
Attorney Greg Hession told Massachusetts News, "The Department of Social Services realized it would be in the best interest of the children to begin the process of reuniting them with the parents."
But another courtroom source was not as diplomatic. The source said that DSS was dragged kicking and screaming into the agreement by the judge. A DSS lawyer was even heard shouting in the courtroom from outside in the hallway, "There is no way I will agree with the recommendation to return the baby. I'm not giving the baby back!"
Momentum shifted in the Howard family's favor during the fourth day of the trial. DSS had been putting on its witnesses who merely read from their written reports; but upon cross-examination, they had to explain their bizarre and unsupported accusations about the parents. Trial observers say that Judge Belmonte had heard enough embarrassing testimony from social workers under cross-examination to be persuaded that DSS' judgment was questionable.
For example, DSS allegedly extracted an allegation from one of the boys last year that his parents "cut off his pee-pee."
Three social workers were questioned on the stand about the obviously false castration claim. They said it was an "emotional allegation," rather than a factual or hearsay allegation. They explained their belief that when a child truly and honestly without a doubt in his mind believes that it happened, that means it happened. Although it was proven by a physician that the child's genitals were not cut off, the social workers all agreed that doesn't mean it didn't happen.
Observers also say the judge was angered by DSS' obnoxious behavior in the courtroom. Social workers tried to control the proceedings by asking questions from the stand. The judge had to tell them they could only answer questions from the stand. A social worker even tried to walk off the stand unexcused even though Attorney Hession had just said he was not finished questioning her.
In addition, the DSS lawyer caused the judge to censure her after she asked her witness to skip over reading from her report and to just read her recommendations. The judge reportedly said, "You cannot read those recommendations here. I'm the one who makes the recommendations. I read the reports and the recommendations. It's up to me. I can throw them all out, put them all in, but I'm the one making the recommendations, nobody else."
Besides DSS' bumbling testimony, another important development in the parents' favor was the appearance of a Guardian Ad Litem who was appointed by the court some months ago as a private investigator at the suggestion of the aunt and uncle's lawyer. The Report recommended that baby Jessica be returned to the parents. It also recommended that the boys be taken from foster care and placed with the aunt and uncle in Vermont. The report states that the aunt and uncle are prepared to adopt the boys should the court terminate the Howard's parental rights.
Earlier GAL reports by another investigator were largely a cut-and-paste of DSS allegations with minimal investigation. That investigator had formerly worked for DSS for 12 years. She was grilled on the stand, point by point, and admitted she did very little investigating. She was also questioned about why she did not look into reports that Ethan had bruises covered with make-up and other signs of physical harm while living in a DSS -approved foster home. She said she did not think it was abuse.
Seized Because of Messy House
DSS seized the boys in November 1999 after a visiting nurse sent by the Spaulding Rehab Hospital reported the Howards for having a messy house. The Howards were remodeling at the time and were not prepared for a home inspection.
That initial complaint, plus twisting of comments by Heidi and the children about Neil, later grew into wild allegations of sexual abuse and mutilation of the boys, but without any evidence. The Lowell District Attorney did not consider the allegations credible, but DSS relentlessly pursued the family and later seized their newborn baby Jessica in February this year.
Critics of DSS say the original mission of the agency was to help preserve families, but instead DSS has been following the money by tearing families apart and trafficking in children to expand their bureaucratic empire.
Sidebar: How Did Howards Become Involved with DSS?
Spaulding Rehab Hospital Apparently Caused their Problems
The Howards have lived at their home on an acre of land in Tyngsboro since they bought it in 1991. Neil works as a machinist and Heidi is a homemaker.
They've always been just an ordinary family trying to get ahead - until they had a baby with terminal neurological problems and the feminists at DSS discovered that having a dying baby causes stress in a family and DSS could obtain more children to adopt in order to obtain more federal money.
After the sick baby died at one year, the DSS was so entwined with the Howards that it demanded that a new baby born in December 2000 be given to them to be cared for by strangers.
MassNews has reported how the maternity wards in Massachusetts hospitals monitor new mothers for DSS. (See the August 2000 edition.) The Spaulding Rehab Center in Boston is apparently the one that almost destroyed the Howard family.
The hospitals of the state are also used as recruiters for the new "home visitor" programs which are run by the state and disguised as private agencies. As an example, we reported how Milford Hospital provides the names and addresses of new mothers to a state-run, home visitor program called "Healthy Families," which enters information and observations about new parents gained from visits, into a computer database that is tied to the Department of Health. A home visitor must tell DSS if she thinks she sees a problem.
A former worker for Healthy Families told MassNews that her supervisor would regularly call Milford Hospital to obtain a list of new mothers. The hospital coordinator would also give an indication about who on the list she thought was "high risk."
MassNews wrote in the August, 2000 edition about the vision of C. Henry Kempe, who is credited with helping to launch the modern child abuse industry. He believed that the government is a superior "parent," and he envisioned compulsory home visitation to monitor parents and evaluate new mothers. As we showed at the time, that vision is well on its way in Massachusetts with the Healthy Families program already instituted although almost no parent has any knowledge of it.
Related [online links]: State is trying to terminate Howard family's parental rights Why was mother shackled for not giving baby to strangers? Newborn snatched by DSS from parents who were in hiding Mother put in cuffs by Massachusetts court -- Does feminist Margaret Marshall approve? Neighbors speak well of Howards Hospitals monitor new mothers for DSS 9-year old is told he will never go home before any adoption hearing held Quick return of baby is slipping away as justice delayed again Howard trial delayed ... again
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