Are Blind Parents a Danger to Their Babies?

April Peveteaux

blind couple had baby taken awayIn this heartbreaking but complicated story, a blind couple was just reunited with their baby after the newborn was removed from their care for 57 days by the state of Missouri.

Erika Johnson and Blake Sinnett brought baby Mikaela into the world on May 21 in Independence, Missouri. Blake was able to "see" his baby daughter's birth by touching her crowning head.

But after a nurse noticed that Johnson was having trouble breastfeeding, and the baby had turned blue, she wrote on the chart:

"The child is without proper custody, support, or care due to both of (the) parents being blind, and they do not have specialized training to assist them."

Instead of services being made available, such as specialized training, the Missouri Department of Social Services removed the baby from the parents' custody.

From the moment of baby Mikaela's birth, social workers were present and asking Johnson questions such as how would they take the baby's temperature, and how would they get the baby to the doctor. Even as Johnson satisfactorily answered these questions, it was not enough.

There are certainly many challenges to parenting blind, but having navigated the world themselves as blind citizens, both Johnson and Sinnett know how to call a cab and 911 or locate household items that are for use in a blind home, such as a talking thermometer. They aren't the first blind parents, and will not be the last, as was shown by the support the couple received from blind organizations as well as sighted children of the blind. As Johnson said:

"I needed help as a new parent, but not as a blind parent."

How horrifying that their new baby was ripped out of their arms for 57 days when the state decided they were not capable of raising a child. When the first step is to remove a baby rather than direct parents to helpful programs, organizations, or tools, something is deeply wrong with the system.

Sinnett and Johnson cannot get back those early days with their beautiful baby, but Johnson says she's not bitter, just overjoyed to have her baby back in her arms.

Do you think baby Mikaela should have been removed from her home because her parents are blind?


Image via Kansas City Star

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