[Updated March 5]. A warrant is out in Wichita for the arrest of a mom who testified about her case at a legislative hearing last year. The charges? That she saw one of her children for 30 minutes, and tried to see the child a second time.
Last year we reported stories from parents and grandparents who had problems with placement and removal of children by the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS). Those parents travelled to Topeka to testify at a hearing of the Joint Committee on Children’s Issues.
One of those testifying was an abused mom, Cecillia Arnold. She had her parental rights severed even though the state never found wrong doing. Even though she had been the victim of domestic abuse for which her her abuser spent about 2 years in jail, she lost custody of her children for reasons she does not understand.
Here is part of the exchange between Arnold and State Rep Bill Otto at that hearing:
State Rep Bill Otto (R-LeRoy): “Your rights are severed?”
Arnold: “My rights have been terminated … I have no rights to my children. I have not seen them since March. I filed an appeal that didn’t go anywhere. I’m here today because I want my children back.” …
Otto: “Where was your lawyer?” …
Arnold: “I had court-appointed attorneys … I feel I could have done a better job representing myself” ..
Otto: “This should not happen to anybody … I’m so sorry.” …
Arnold now lives in another state to avoid direct Kansas SRS authority over her.
In a telephone interview on Sunday Arnold said that the State of Kansas garnishes her wages for child support even though her children are in foster care and she cannot visit them. She does not mind the payments since she feels an obligation to her children, but really wants her children back.
Arnold said that after the Nov. 30, 2009 legislative hearing she spent a few days in Wichita with her family before returning home.
While visiting a school with a relative, Arnold had an encounter with one of her older daughter. Before that, Arnold had no idea what school her children attended since they were in foster care and she lived in another state.
She said she was happy to see her child and took 30 minutes to be a mom during that chance encounter.
Arnold said she tried intentionally the next day to see her child again but she was not allowed to. She said it is her understanding there are now two warrants out because of the chance visit with her child. The Sedgwick County Sheriff issued an arrest warrant for her, Arnold said.
Police were looking to arrest her at a relative’s funeral earlier this month, Arnold said. In a telephone interview, Arnold’s mother, Monica Arnold, said she knows the police have been watching their house in case her daughter visits.
This week in Topeka child welfare issues will be part of House Federal and State Affairs Committee hearings. Monica McGill said she and her husband will try to attend those hearings and speak on behalf of their daughter.
Arnold said that with limited leave from work, and fear of being arrested in Kansas on the warrant, would keep her from the hearings, but she would like to attend to explain her case.
Last week Arnold’s picture and case were one of the “Featured Felons for this month” of the Sedgwick County Sheriff:
The “interference” mentioned above was for talking to her child who was in foster care.
Listen to Arnold’s testimony at the Joint Committee on Children’s Issues hearing on Nov. 30, 2009:
We interviewed Arnold on Nov 30, 2009 after the hearing in the office of State Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D, Wichita) at the Capitol:
Arnold’s parents, Albert and Monica Arnold, appear in the video above at 2:18.
Her parents traveled to Topeka again on March 4, 2009 to speak to the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs. Since there was not enough time on the agenda to allow their testimony, we interviewed them after the hearing:
In a telephone interview Friday, Cecillia Arnold said had good parents but as a teenager she became pregnant. She does not understand why her parents were also denied custody.
Arnold described maturing a lot through the legal process and admits she was not always respectful of the district attorney and the courts as a teen. She wonders if the Sedgwick County District Attorney is treating her now the same way as when she was 16, even though she has matured a lot since then. Arnold is now 24 and wants a different district attorney to review her case.
Arnold laments not having more money to fight her case in court to win custody of her daughters.
Her dad’s final words in the video above: “We don’t have money.”
- State Sen. Julia Lynn grills SRS Secretary about contracting irregularities: “It just smells bad”, Kansas Watchdog, Dec 6, 2009.
- Legislators reflect on two days of heaings about children’s issue, Kansas Watchdog, Dec 5, 2009.
- Compelling stories from parents and grandparents about problems with placement and removal of children, Kansas Watchdog, Dec 4, 2009.
Contact: Earl F Glynn, [email protected], KansasWatchdog.org