The family that touched so many hearts... is now one of the reasons for a non-profit emerging. "Involved at the Dream Center" as promised in the original launch of this gofundme... whatever funds were left-over would be going toward helping others. As the Support Team has done for the Ziegler family.
This was the story...
Imagine having your newborn baby taken away from you because of a falsely reported phone call to Child Protective Services and what that would feel like. And now imagine that they will not give your child back to you, despite years of jumping through hoops to prove that you are a worthy parent, with no evidence to the contrary.
As a mother of two children, I can’t imagine a more terrifying world to live in...and yet, I’ve seen it happen to someone else. I’m here to share that story with you.
Before going into the story, it seems fair to briefly tell you about who I am. Besides being a mother of two wonderful grown children, I am a doctoral student with an M.S. NDR (negotiation and dispute resolution), a B.S. in social science/psychology and an associate degree in criminal justice. I have over 20 years of volunteering in non-profit organizations and currently, I work as a Professional Mediator and Life Coach (www.aktionnow.com) I only share this because it helps to know that my education level and field of study qualify me to make these assessments and hopefully brings credibility to the story.
I have been volunteering my time with a family as their life coach/mentor. I met them in May 2016 when I was volunteering at the Department of Human Services (DHS) Child Protective Services (CPS) in Bend, Oregon. My position was to monitor parent visitations for families that had their children in the State of Oregon’s custody.
I met Amy and Eric when I was the case worker required to observe them during home visits with their nearly 3-year-old son, Christopher, every Friday. Each visit was for three hours, which provided a lot of interaction for me to observe and document. I quickly discovered that this family had no problem at all taking care of their son. They showed loving attention, were attentive to his needs, and at this point had been fighting faithfully in court for almost three years to prove to CPS that they were capable and loving parents. For those of you doing the math, yes, Christopher was removed from them when he was only days old.
In my professional opinion, after multiple sessions observing Amy and Eric interact with their son for hours on end, I found no reason they should have had their child taken from them and placed in the State’s care. Any reasonably trained and educated CPS worker should have arrived at the same conclusion, as I documented in the session notes of every visit.
The couple demonstrated competent parenting skills with Christopher, had no history of abuse or neglect, and expressed a deep desire to have Christopher returned to them to raise him along with the mother’s twin boys. I would also add that it was apparent from their body language and how they treated each other that the couple was in love, and while that is not a requirement to be a parent, it’s a big bonus for a child.
So why was a newborn baby taken away from his mother and father? As the caseworker assigned to the family, I learned their story…
Seven days after losing her own mother, Amy Fabbrini (the mother in this story) gave birth to Christopher at home. She was unaware that she was pregnant. Amy suffers from kidney issues (which she says is a genetic thing passed down from her family), causing intense pain at times. She had associated the symptoms of pregnancy with the disorder. After helping with a surprise delivery of his new baby boy, Eric (the father), immediately called 911 and had mother and baby brought to the hospital. Both were in shock of this and were understandably probably affected by this traumatic event.
Amy had been living with her parents and her two twin boys after a divorce with the father of the twins. After losing her mother to Alzheimer’s and the surprise addition of a new child, Amy told her father of this event; to hear him tell her that she may not bring the infant back to his home. She was forced to make the decision to move with her twin boys in with her newborn child’s father, Eric. What happens next is what I believe to be a traumatic panic, her grieving father, dealing with the recent death of his wife and now losing the companionship of Amy and the twin boys, called CPS and falsely reported neglect, after he had already known about a falsely reported call from Eric's roommate (after an argument that they had). It sounds confusing but this is the mess the couple was in days after the infant had arrived, without having a chance to settle in as a new family, get adjusted to the idea of a new baby, or get the house ready for such an event, they were dealing with negativity - rather than excitement of a precious little baby boy.
Sadly, CPS took infant Christopher, and he has been in foster care ever since. At the time that they took the infant, they also took Amy's twin boys and gave them to her ex-husband who had not really been involved with the boys much. Amy lost all three of her boys within a week after her loss of her mother to Alzheimer's. She was not given grievance counseling or condolences to this day from CPS. Additionally, the parents have complied with all of CPS’s requests from the beginning. There was no abuse. There was no neglect. There was no alcohol or drug use. CPS has simply claimed that they are “retarded” (yes, that was actually the term used by a CPS worker) and that they do not have the intelligence to raise a child.
When I questioned this supervisor assigned to the case, he replied with derogatory remarks about the father and mother. I asked why the couple had not been given their child back. His reply shocked me.
He said, “Eric is retarded, fat and lazy - he doesn't even brush his teeth. There is no way that I am allowing them to have Christopher.”
The way that this supervisor spoke about the parents was anything but professional. It was then that I realized that this couple had been up against a powerful agency that seemed to have little or no accountability.
After I had spent almost three months observing this family and reporting weekly on my observations, we learned that none of the reports I had submitted to CPS were given to the court or the attorneys representing each parent. Eric continually asked his attorney to get copies of the reports that I had submitted. After no reports were produced by CPS, Eric’s attorney asked me if I would be willing to testify in court regarding my observations of the visits. I agreed.
While on vacation in California, I testified telephonically in court on behalf of Eric and Amy to report my observations that were in the reports which could not be obtained from CPS by either attorney. I reported the interactions that I observed between Eric, Amy and their son, Christopher. I told the judge that I did not understand why CPS had not returned this now almost 3-year-old child back to his parents.
Just a few days after I testified in court, I was notified from CPS that they “no longer needed my volunteer help” because they “had recently hired someone for the position.” I was asked to come in and return my key to the building along with all equipment that CPS had given me to use while I was in an observational role.
When I got back from my vacation, I met with the supervisor and turned everything in. During that meeting, I asked for clarification as to why I was being released [just days after my testimony] from a “volunteer position,” and why I was being treated so differently by him that afternoon. He only replied with “we have a new hire for your position,” and then said, “I will need to walk you to the door; you now have no clearance to walk freely.”
As I walked to the door (which was approximately a football field away in distance), he walked behind me. The feeling from him was cold as if I did something criminal. His demeanor was completely opposite of how he used to conduct himself in my presence. Prior to the testimony, I gave in court, the supervisors would tell me how thankful they were to have me and my expertise.
I decided to continue to work with the family as a life coach and mentor, volunteering my time to help them get their son back. Their case with Christopher is currently back in the county courts, after going to the appellate courts and the supreme courts of Oregon. CPS has moved toward adoption, permanently removing the child from them and terminating their rights as parents.
Eric has a normal high school diploma and tested in the middle of his class. Amy also has a normal high school diploma. The two of them have newer vehicles, a three-bedroom, two-bath house and live in Redmond, Oregon.
Recently, Amy gave birth to another healthy boy, named Hunter. Even though this new baby is viewed as a “new case,” CPS came into the hospital and took Hunter from his parents. They did not do any investigation to see if this child was at risk. They simply took him.
When the worker arrived, he was not even prepared to take the newborn infant. He had to ask the hospital for diapers, wipes, blankets, an outfit, formula and did not once ask the nurses about the care of the infant with the parents. I had spent hours with the family in the hospital, and they kept hourly records of their child (e.g., when he nursed, when he wet the diaper when he had a bowel movement, etc.). They were very caring, attentive, happy, and in love with their new baby boy.
The night before CPS came to take the child, they informed me that they were coming to take the infant. I offered my home to CPS for the child, and that I would provide 24/7 observation with the family in my home, and that I would work from home to give this mother a chance to bond while CPS did their “investigation.” They refused.
The next morning, I emailed the case worker peer-reviewed journal articles explaining the neuroscience regarding the trauma that occurs to an infant when it is taken from his mother, and how the first several weeks are a very crucial time for nutrition (from breast milk), bonding and attachment development. He emailed me back with, “Can I call you?” However, he never called. He came that day at 2:00 pm and took the infant.
In court the next Tuesday we pleaded to have the child returned to me as a caregiver so that Amy could nurse and bond with the infant. The judge agreed to have CPS perform a background on me and encouraged the infant to return to the mother with 24/7 monitoring until CPS was done with their investigation. To this day, they still have not performed a background check on me. I have sent probably 20 emails. We are now asking for an expedited court date and want to expose this case. It is criminal and inhumane what CPS is doing.
Sherrene has now established a non-profit helping people in the community where Eric and Amy reside. They are currently still fighting to bring Christopher home 100% of the time. But they do have custody of Hunter. Recently they gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Danica. She and Hunter live with Eric and Amy - as we continue the fight to bring Christopher home. They are on a reunification plan, however they have been on this plan for almost 8 months now. Please continue to support this family and others like them by giving to the non-profit established in their "fight-memory"
We are hopeful that this CPS case will be done and gone soon! With Christopher back with his parents and siblings that he loves so much.
Thank you for all of the support and prayers.
We look forward to keeping you all on as partners in this growing organization. If you would like to continue to follow them and now this non-profit the links are below. The family still has a special area on Sherrene's website: www.aktionnow.com
The facebook page:
The family also has a facebook page that Sherrene still manages for updates
The non-profit established: Involved at the Dream Center
Thank you all so much! This non-profit description and drive can be found on the aktionnow website in a drop-down link, on facebook as above link is displayed, or you can email email@example.com for more personalized answers to your questions. Thank you all again.
(If you notice the hyphened name, to all who have been following from the beginning, I was quietly married in November 2017 - there was no time for a wedding since becoming involved in the process of helping Eric and Amy since summer of 2016... but I was able to marry a special and amazing man during a difficult and challenging couple of years for me. There are always roses to smell, even if there are thorns near by. ~Sherrene J Hagenbach-Winters) #pljproject peace love and joy to you all.
- William Hunter
- Jarrett Garty
- Kristine Andarmani
- Elaine Fillmore