Help The Infant & Toddlers in Oregon

Help The Infant & Toddlers in Oregon

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Sherrene Hagenbach-Winters started this petition to New York Times and

Infants and children are still at high risk of removal, in the state of Oregon. The Oregon Child Welfare's infant removals from the hospital is alarming and suspicious.

In 2016 I helped parents who had low IQ's reunite with their infants. The parents were not reunited until their first born was nearly 5 years old. Their second son was removed during the time the first born was in the state's care, and returned at 10 months old. The children had been removed from the parents, just days after their birth - simply because the state believed their IQ to be too low. Yet these parents graduated from High School with a standard high school diploma. The father had a license to drive, owned his own home, and had a consistent job working. It was a high profile case that made a lot of news. The family was reunited after nearly 5 years of court battles. I first met the family when their first born son was nearly 2 years old. Once this family was finally reunited, a law was created in Oregon to restrict DHS from removing children from their parents based on disability alone.

Additionally, I filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), and was granted the approval to investigate the case above. A 'voluntary agreement,' (review here) was established between Oregon Department of Health and Human Services and the OCR, but only after the state of Oregon tried to seal documents. Their attempt to cover up their discriminatory behavior delayed the process, and after nearly a year of investigations and negotiations - the 'voluntary agreement' had been signed by ODHS.

Later a 2019 audit was released on ODHS by the Secretary of State's Office.

However, the new law in Oregon, the 'voluntary agreement' between the ODHS and the OCR, and the 2019 audit has yet to stop Oregon DHS from continuing their removals of infants from parents with disabilities. It has not prevented continued discrimination and prejudice behavior against parents from caseworkers, the DOJ, and the court system.

This petition is needed to bring awareness once again to the Oregon DHS/Child Welfare system. Here is another urgent story needing media attention:

Nicki Houston is a mother who has had a difficult life, she was raised in a foster home herself in Oregon. She explains that she has experienced a lot of neglect from DHS and abuse/neglect from the foster homes that she had been raised in. DHS failed to keep her in a safe and healthy foster home, she did not have a lot of support in school, like she should have had - if she had received a foster home that cared about her success or caseworkers showed any compassion. Therefore, Ms. Houston has had some educational difficulties, language hardships, and times of poverty, as a result of her experience in foster care.

Jumping forward, and at 25 years old, Ms. Houston became pregnant. She was so excited and looking forward to being a mom. Ms. Houston's desire was to keep her daughter out of the foster care system, with high hopes to give her daughter a life she could never have as a child. However, Ms. Houston was denied this privilege to raise her infant daughter because of her disability and hardships that were created by Oregon DHS. After a preliminary home study I had completed with Ms. Houston, it was evident that she is more than capable of raising her daughter. She is kindhearted, street-smart, hard-working, very organized, clean, has taken college courses, she is willing to keep a strong support system around her, and really just wants to give her daughter a good life. Ms. Houston so far - has not been able to see her daughter for more than ONE hour per week. Oregon DHS removed her infant from the hospital because of her disability and lies that were made by caseworkers. Ms. Houston is a qualified ADA parent, who deserves to be treated fairly and with dignity. Her rights were terminated in Feb, 2022. Ms Houston is appealing, and it is currently at the appellate court in Oregon. Ms. Houston and her daughter Sophia, need your support!

What makes this case even more horrific is that when Ms. Houston was going to trial - she asked a mother (Mary Casey) who had previously had her infant removed from the hospital and recently been reunified with her daughter, to testify for her case. See, both parents had the same caseworker - lived in the same county, and both had lived in foster homes. The caseworker not only lied about both parents in her court reports, but she continually talked down to them, restricted visits, lied about how the visits went, and had continually denied them their disability advocate to help them. The public defenders refused to work with their disability advocate. Neither public defender truly fought for them in court, neither public defender fought to increase their visits with ODHS.

When this mother, Ms. Casey, had agreed to testify for Ms. Houston... within days Ms. Casey had a child abuse charge call against her. Suspicious right? This all happened within days of the agency and the AAG discovering that Ms. Casey was going to testify for Ms. Houston's trial. See, Ms. Casey had just been reunified with her daughter (Selma) after her daughter had spent nearly 2 years in foster care and on the verge of adoption. They were reunified the summer of 2021. Ms. Casey has now had 2 child abuse calls against her since she agreed to testify in February, 2022. The state of Oregon uses intimidation, retaliation, and other unlawful strategies to keep children in foster care, including strategies to stop parents from uniting with one another. The discrimination and prejudice needs to stop.

The children in our state deserve to be with their parents. Infants do not need to go through unnecessary trauma and live a life in a stranger's home, when their parent wants to raise them. Especially, when there has been NO abuse and NO neglect charges.

Imagine being a parent who never abused or neglected your infant. Never even had a chance to - let alone, only had excitement to bring your infant home. Then just days after going through the painful labor and delivery of your infant, with all the excitement in the world to bring your infant home with you... you are told that you cannot take your new baby home. The reason?... simply because you are different, you have a disability, and then there are usually a few lies sprinkled in the removal so that the court will approve.

Now, imagine going to court and listening to caseworkers report lies and ugly things about - when they don't even truly know you. You NEVER abused your child, and you never neglected them. In fact, you had a baby shower, and your home was ready for you to bring your infant home to. I could not imagine this! So, as the advocate for all of these families, I am asking that you please sign this pledge to help us hold the Oregon DHS/Child Welfare agency accountable for needlessly interfering with the lives of these infants and their parents.

We need either complete systemic reform in the Child Welfare agency... or we need to eradicate it completely. Something needs to change! We want Oregon to be held accountable for removing infants from their parents, from discriminatory behavior, and from committing perjury in court. There are plenty of services to help parents - if they need extra supports. Traumatizing families is not the answer.

If you want to learn more about how you can help these families in Oregon please sign this petition and reach out to us if you have questions.

Peace to you,

Sherrene Hagenbach-Winters

235 have signed. Let’s get to 500!
At 500 signatures, this petition is more likely to be featured in recommendations!