WHERE IS YOUR MOTHER?The story is behind a paywall, unfortunately. I doubt that I would have the patience to read it anyway, as the magazine is famous for paying by the word and presenting a overly lengthy and one-sided view.
A woman’s fight to keep her child.
On December 5, 2005, a three-year-old boy named Adam spent the morning in his crib, playing a handheld Spider-Man computer game and snacking on crackers. He began calling, “Mama help!,” a phrase he used when he couldn’t get his games to work. He repeated the phrase at least ten times, but his mother never came. He had been alone for ninety minutes when police officers arrived at the home, an oceanfront condominium in Huntington Beach, California. A fireman climbed a ladder to the second floor, where Adam’s cries could be heard, and pushed open the window. Adam was standing in his crib, his blond hair falling just below his shoulders. A policeman on the ground shouted up to him, asking him where his mother was. “Shopping,” he replied.
The mom ended up losing custody of the boy as he was put out for adoption.
The mom is a well-educated Egyptian-American. Here is the story, as reported in the local Orange County newspaper, with their real names:
The lawsuit has its roots in December 2005, when a neighbor heard a child crying in a Huntington Beach condo. Police forced their way in and found Ismail's young son, Anthony, home alone in his crib.Okay, but even if she was guilty as hell of child endangerment, California law requires CPS to give her a plan for restoring child custody. If she takes the parenting class or does whatever else they say, she should have gotten the boy back within a year. That is how I understand the law, anyway.
The boy, then about 3, was taken by the Orange County Social Services Agency, and Ismail has not had custody of him since. She pleaded guilty in 2007 to child endangerment, and a judge gave her a suspended sentence.
Anthony was placed with foster parents, Shelby and Michael Ford, who later decided to adopt him.
The typical child neglect case is where the parents are busted for illegal drugs, and CPS puts the kids in foster care. But then the parents are supposed to get the kids back if they produce a series of clean drug tests.
I posted a story about a local meth-addicted couple who tried to sell their baby last year for $25 in a Wal-Mart parking lot. According to news reports, they had to be offered a plan to go clean and get the kid back. In that case, they did not get the kid back because they were in prison.
Ismail is persistent, and the authorities tried to set her up for another criminal charge:
Concerned, Ismail met with private investigator Robert Young in November 2009, according to Snyder's opinion. The judge wrote that Young told investigators Ismail mentioned two plans: either having Young find negative information about the foster parents or having him kidnap Anthony so the boy could be taken out of the country.I am not condoning kidnapping and fleeing the country, contrary to some of my readers. She could plausibly argue that she was just trying to ensure that the foster parents were taking good care of her son, and the secret tape recording failed to catch her advocating anything illegal. Apparently the jury bought that argument, and I believe in innocence until proven guilty.
Young called police. A few days later, he brought Detective Neil Schuster, who posed as a partner, to meet with Ismail. Police secretly recorded the conversation.
According to the judge's summary of the transcript, Ismail discussed a kidnapping in the meeting, but did not tell the men to go through with it. Instead, she said she wanted them to uncover negative information about the Fords first.
Police arrested Ismail right after the meeting, and she was held on $1 million bail.
Prosecutors argued she intended to take her son to Mexico, then to France or her native Egypt.
In August 2010, Newport Beach police arrested her again after Shelby Ford said Ismail followed her for several blocks on Balboa Island, in violation of a restraining order. Ismail said she went to Balboa Island often and was not there to see Ford or her son.
A judge acquitted Ismail in December 2010 of violating a court order. A year later, a jury acquitted her of solicitation for kidnapping.
I am still trying to get to the bottom of this. It does appear that CPS and other authorities were out to get Ismail. It is not clear why. Maybe because she is Egyptian, maybe she refused to admit to being a bad mom, maybe a personality conflict, maybe prosecutors were just evil and vindictive, I don't know.
Even if you believe that she deserved to lose her son, it is very unusual to try to entrap her with an undercover cop and tape recorder, and then still prosecute her when she says on tape that she does not want to do anything illegal.
All of her lawsuits have failed, of course:
By then, Ismail had already filed two lawsuits against multiple police officers, two cities, Orange County social workers and her son's foster parents.No, the Fords are not the innocent ones. They filed a lawsuit to gain the adoption of a boy against the wishes of the boy's mother, and I cannot find any papers showing that the mother was unfit.
In the first case, she accused Huntington Beach police of wrongly entering her apartment and conspiring with the Fords and county social workers to keep her son from her. Most of those counts were dismissed. But claims are still pending against the Fords, who have filed a motion to dismiss.
The Fords have adopted Anthony, who is about 11 and doing well, said Katherine Marie Schreurs, a lawyer for the family.
She said the Fords hope to get the lawsuit behind them.
"They were the innocent ones," Schreurs said. "They just had the child placed in their home, and then the county freed him for adoption."
The boy will soon learn that everyone who googles his name, Anthony Ford, will learn that he was raised by horrible people who conspired to steal him from his real mom.
Googling the mom, I find that an Egyptian-American Neveen Ismail was an actress on Oxygen's reality soap, "The Bad Girls Club 2." I cannot tell if it is the same woman or not. The mom also had a blog for a while, but has not updated it.
Ismail did try to bring her case to the US Supreme Court, as she explains in a brief she wrote to influence a later case:
Amicus curiae, Niveen Ismail, is a private concerned citizen and a resident of Orange County,California, who has personal first hand experience with Child Protective Services (CPS) and the juvenile court system. Proceeding in pro per, she petitioned this Court in May 2009 for review. Docket No. 08-10723. The main question presented was whether California’s dependency laws terminating parental rights under a preponderance of the evidence conflicted with this Court’s holdings in Santosky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745 (1982). This Court requested a response on August 27, 2009, and denied cert on November 2, 2009.It appears to me that she had a strong case, but was shut out by the courts.
If CPS has unchecked power, we could end up like the UK, where this just happened:
Social workers in Britain obtained a court order to have a pregnant Italian woman forcibly sedated so her child could be removed from her womb without her consent.You would think that the British could have just notified the Italian CPS to keep an eye on her.
The story, reported by the Telegraph, has raised questions about the powers afforded to social workers in the country.
The woman's lawyer, Brendan Fleming, called the forced operation "unprecedented."
The unnamed Italian national was in Britain for a work trip when she suffered a panic attack, which her family believes happened because she didn't take her medications for bipolar disorder.
Update: Here is the New Yorker issue (uses Flash).