Sunday, December 01, 2013

Mom loses child to CPS while shopping

The current New Yorker magazine has a story starting:
WHERE IS YOUR MOTHER?
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 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.

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.

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.
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 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.

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 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.

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.

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."
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.

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.

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.
You would think that the British could have just notified the Italian CPS to keep an eye on her.

Update: Here is the New Yorker issue (uses Flash).

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where did you get "while shopping."?

Per the New Yorker article, she left to go to work (she was a computer consultant) after panicking about how many days she had already missed. There's nothing in the article you linked that states anything else.

Also, good on you for googling and finding a secondary source, but it seems totally ridiculous that you couldn't be sure that this computer worker in her 40s wasn't an MTV reality star in her 20s with a different name.

George said...

The kid said "shopping", according to the quote from the New Yorker article. I wrote the headline before reading the rest of the facts.

Anonymous said...

First, if you can find a way to read the article, do.. FYI, New Yorker doesn't pay by the word, it has staff writers on salary, but even if it did, every word is worth reading in this gut-wrenching story.

She jumped through all the hoops possible to get her child back. but it seems to have boiled down to the social workers deciding that her blond-haired son would be better off with a blond-haired mom. Racism plain and simple.

George said...

Okay, I will look for the NY article. Racism is one possible explanation, but maybe there is also an anti-Egyptian bias or the mom said something to annoy CPS.

Also, where's the dad? Probably none of this would have happened if there had been a supporting dad in the picture.

Anonymous said...

Orange County is famous for being pretty racist and an insular backwater compared with Los Angeles.
So it could be an anti-Arab or anti-Muslim bias. or just the incongruity of a dark-skinned woman with a fair-haired child. The kind of situation in which the mothers are assumed to be the nannies.
Of course, you are right, if the father had stuck around this wouldn't have happened. the story only says that he asked her to get an abortion saying that he wasn't ready for fatherhood.

Anonymous said...

interesting case of state vs parents' wishes:

http://www.boston.com/news/nation/2013/12/06/ohio-amish-girl-won-forced-have-chemo/Esf3AVFs9ysDwhknbZHo0L/story.html

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the coverage "Angry Dad"! No I was never on a TV show :-) I hope you are right that one day Anthony will know what really happened and what kind of people adopted him. And that as late as last year I was in family court trying to get visits but the Fords would not let me even speak to him!

You should read the New Yorker article Ms Aviv is an excellent writer. You are right about many of the conclusions you made. I was at work and seriously doubt Anthony even said shopping. The police embellished their report with lies. As to the social workers, I was very nice to them, even bought them food or offered it and even gave an antique Egyptian souvenir to Margaret Jorth, the nut who did most of the complaining and she got free tickets to universal studios from me as well. But some people have no shame. They are plain and simple: EVIL! Oh and my cases are still either in appeal or in district court. I'd like to see the laws change one day. Right now they get to make the call and the court in 99% of the cases gives them whatever they ask for. My story is a book. The New Yorker barely scratched the surface of what me and Anthony have suffered.

George said...

Yes, the CPS and other officials are evil. I have seen it myself. Good luck to you.

Eric Blair said...

Hello George--I happened upon your site after reading the New Yorker article, which is absolutely gut-wrenching and seems to me largely fair. First of all, nobody, including Niveen herself, disputes that Social Services was justified to come in and take her son at the start. As I see it, there were three issues which eventually led to her losing custody:

First, a societal expectation that the first job of Social Services is "to protect the child". What this means in practice is that, once a child is taken away from a parent, she is pretty much guilty until proven innocent. This is not because of malice on their part, but because if they send a child back to a birth parent, and something terrible happens to the child as a result, this makes the news and ends the career of the case worker. "Erring on the side of caution" means terminating the birth parent's relationship with her child. Some of the reasons cited by them for her being an unfit parent do seem pretty bogus--taking Richard out to eat every night, letting him play overly violent video games.

2) Lack of common cultural understanding between Niveen and Social Services. The vast majority of parents who fall into the system do so for one of three reasons--drugs, domestic abuse, or mental illness. None of these were remotely applicable in Niveen's case--rather, she was simply too busy at her job to do what was necessary, and had no support network--no father (he had wanted her to have an abortion), no local relatives, nothing. The case workers don't seem to have known much about this kind of situation Cultural barriers were a big problem--she was forbidden from speaking Arabic during supervised visits to her son, and the style of parenting that the social services people pushed on her was unavoidably rooted in American culture; she and the social services people didn't really understand each other. The article doesn't mention Niveen's gifts to the social workers, but she probably hurt her cause by doing this--in Arab culture that is probably seen as OK or even expected, but over here that is simply an attempt at a bribe.

The third is rather sticky, and something Niveen would no doubt take exception to. Anybody who has worked in the software industry for long (as I have) has known people like Niveen--smart, competent, and dedicated to their jobs, but stubborn and opinionated to the point of arrogance. When working on a software project, you need to make clear decisions quickly and stick to them until proven wrong--which is the right way to do things on a software project, but not in many other areas of life. The problems stemming from the stubbornness are often compounded by a lack of social skills--not everyone who works in software is an introvert, but people who start out introverted tend to stay that way, because there is nothing to draw them out. Niveen is very much of that type, except that she's a woman.

Social Services sees it as their job to make a decision after a year or two, because they believe that a young child should have one place to call home, and one set of parents to call mom and dad. The article goes into some detail about the research behind this, which the author seems less than totally sold on. The bottom line was that "the clock ran out" on Niveen--she had clearly made progress while Richard was with the foster family, but not enough that they felt they could totally trust her (by necessity a very subjective thing), and the time had come when they had to make a decision. He had bonded with his foster parents, as would any young child who had been with them that long, so they felt that was the right place for him. The article does not say anything explicitly about racism, but does mention that Richard looks like he could be a child of his adoptive parents, which was apparently a point in their favor from the county's perspective.

Was this the right decision? I have no idea.

George said...

Eric, you are saying that CPS is prejudiced against innocent parents, Arabs, introverts, strong personalities, changing a bad decision, etc. Those are all bad arguments for separating a child from his parent. I don't see how you can think that this might be a right decisijavascript:void(0)on.

Anonymous said...

http://www.feltstories.com/2010_09_01_archive.html

http://m.bloglovin.com/blog/6055065/orange-county-mom-blog

I found the above blogs interesting. The author is "Shelby Barone" whose blog showcases her impeccable, picture perfect mothering and in photos of family life and occasions the kids are holding retail items showing the brands. In the blog, she writes and photographs her adopted son Andrew, who is 11 years old. I don't know where they live, it looks they are in orange county, maybe Balboa Island.

Do you think they are the same family?

jolie robles said...

Anonymous (2/07/2014 8:21 PM), No, I don't believe those blogs are related in any way to Shelby and Michael Ford, Anthony's adoptive parents. At the time Anthony was placed in their home, they had only one other boy who was a bit older than Anthony.

I wonder what happened to Niveen. The article states she has since had another child, a daughter, and suddenly her presence is lacking online. Not to mention, there isn't any additional information pertaining to her legal pursuits. I suspect she is lying low out of fear and absolute mistrust of the authorities who stole her first child from her, and concentrating on raising her little girl.

If I'm not mistaken, there are only 5 years left and Anthony will be 18, a legal adult. He will know Michael Ford as his dad, and Shelby Ford as his mother....but, I can only hope he seeks out his natural mother, Niveen, despite the brainwashing the Fords will have subjected him to. Shelby has a particularly domineering personality, and Michael is emasculated. I know of them and had opportunity to witness some very disturbing domestic events which made me question their parental fitness.

I hope Niveen is preparing for the day when she can reunite with Anthony and explain everything in truth since it's available online.

jolie robles said...

Anonymous (2/07/2014 8:21 PM), No, I don't believe those blogs are related in any way to Shelby and Michael Ford, Anthony's adoptive parents. At the time Anthony was placed in their home, they had only one other boy who was a bit older than Anthony.

I wonder what happened to Niveen. The article states she has since had another child, a daughter, and suddenly her presence is lacking online. Not to mention, there isn't any additional information pertaining to her legal pursuits. I suspect she is lying low out of fear and absolute mistrust of the authorities who stole her first child from her, and concentrating on raising her little girl.

If I'm not mistaken, there are only 5 years left and Anthony will be 18, a legal adult. He will know Michael Ford as his dad, and Shelby Ford as his mother....but, I can only hope he seeks out his natural mother, Niveen, despite the brainwashing the Fords will have subjected him to. Shelby has a particularly domineering personality, and Michael is emasculated. I know of them and had opportunity to witness some very disturbing domestic events which made me question their parental fitness.

I hope Niveen is preparing for the day when she can reunite with Anthony and explain everything in truth since it's available online.