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November 13, 2003
We're From the Government, We're Here to Help

A Minneapolis couple who called for medical advice after a home birth nearly lost custody of their children -- and now they're suing the city and the police:

As they had with many of their eight other children, Daniel and Karen Mathias chose for Karen to give birth to Gabriel in their Minneapolis home last Christmas.

Their call to a hospital the next day seeking advice on the newborn's eating behavior ended with child protection workers phoning, police knocking on their door and what the couple contend was a forced trip to a hospital. ... A hospital staff member who called back that evening "became agitated" on learning the baby had been born at home and insisted that he be brought in immediately and examined.

Karen Mathias didn't believe it was necessary. The baby appeared happy and healthy. She said in an interview that she intended to take the child in the next day. Hours later, a child protection worker left a message at their house, and then police arrived with an ambulance following, the suit said. Police said they had been told that the Mathiases were "not feeding their children."

After paramedics responded, the police demanded that the couple bring their newborn to Hennepin County Medical Center. Once at the hospital, the doctors found no problem with the baby, but the police still tried to take the baby to a foster home anyway. Apparently, social workers and law enforcement feel that it's appropriate to take away a one-day-old baby with no medical issues and no evidence of neglect.

As Karen Mathias said, "I wouldn't be calling a lactation consultant if I were really intending on starving my child to death." Think about that; she calls up the hospital the day after the birth and tries to talk to two lactation consultants wanting to get her baby to eat. If she intended to starve the newborn, why would she call the hospital looking for lactation advice? The social worker started the entire string of events by hysterically jumping to an illogic conclusion, and the police, instead of using some common sense, compounded the travesty by treating the Mathias' as if they were the first couple to neglect children by seeking medical advice.

What does the county say?

Hennepin County Public Affairs Director Carolyn Marinan said, "We get thousands of calls each year [from] people who suspect [child neglect or abuse], and we are mandated to look into those. I would hope that people understand that," she said. "There's nothing more vulnerable than a child."

But do they get these calls from the abusers themselves? Asking for medical advice?

There is no doubt that many children are endangered, neglected, and abused; it's a sad and tragic fact that a small percentage of adults think that children only exist to absorb their hate, rage, or indifference. That doesn't excuse what happened here. Note that last comment from Marinan: "There's nothing more vulnerable than a child." This truth is often used by people who want to bypass due process and parental authority in order to impose their agenda and their belief system onto others. In this case, the Mathiases took the unconventional, but legal, route of home birth, as they had in most cases with their previous children. That would not be my choice, but it hardly qualifies as endangerment if done properly. And when Mathias acted responsibly and sought advice for her child, the city and the police validated her original choice by punishing her with the threat of confiscating her one-day-old child.

They weren't acting on behalf of a singularly vulnerable child. They were sending a message that in their world, children are property of the state and remain with parents only at the pleasure of the government.

UPDATE: According to KSTP-TV, the local ABC affiliate, the reason the Mathiases home-birth is that they don't have medical insurance. That could also explain their reluctance to incur the costs of an emergency-room visit when nothing was wrong.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at November 13, 2003 5:48 AM

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Captain Ed posts the story about a couple who gives birth at home, then calls a lactation expert at the hospital for some breast feeding advice. Before you know it, they're getting calls back from agitated hospital staff and county [Read More]

Tracked on November 13, 2003 9:36 PM

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