The case that’s dropped jaws all across the U.S. and Canada is finally coming to an end. Judge Kip Leonard is finally allowing Noah Kirkman to return to his native Calgary after two years in foster care in Oregon. Read about it here (Yahoo, 5/29/10).
I and countless others have written outraged pieces about the case. Noah Kirkman is now 12 years old. When he was taken into foster care by Oregon authorities two years ago, he had not been abused; he had not been neglected. No one has ever claimed that his mother Lisa Kirkman (pictured) or his stepfather John Kirkman has ever been anything but a good parent to him. That’s reflected in his grades which are straight A’s despite Noah’s severe ADHD.
No, in their zeal to substitute foster care for parental care, Oregon child welfare authorities decided that Lisa Kirkman had abandoned her son. How did they figure that? Well, he was living with his stepfather in Oregon, that’s how. Make sense to you? After all, John has been the boy’s steadfast and true dad for 10 of his 12 years on this earth. How Oregon child welfare workers and Judge Leonard concluded that a boy, who’s never been abused or neglected in any way and who’s living with his stepfather, had been abandoned is one for the record books. In all the annals of state intervention into families, has there ever been a case more arbitrary or capricious?
Recently, Lisa Kirkman asked what Oregon child welfare authorities do with kids who go to summer camp. She had a point. If a stepfather has no parental authority, does a camp counselor? Can we look forward, in the upcoming weeks, to child welfare sweeps of Oregon summer camps for kids?
In the meantime, we can also enquire as to what’s changed to make the judge allow Noah to return to Canada. Is he in some way less “abandoned” now than he was two years ago? Have Lisa and John miraculously become better parents? I doubt it. I think the extreme level of public and media-based outrage at the highhandedness of the judge and the Oregon DHS forced them to do the obvious – the thing that any non-zealot would have done from the very first day – send Noah home to his dad and move on to real cases of children who suffer from parental abuse or neglect. In other words, Oregon DHS should have done its job.
Amazingly enough though, Judge Leonard didn’t return Noah to John and Lisa; he returned him to his grandparents in Calgary. How that makes sense is anyone’s guess, but it looks suspiciously like a judge trying to make himself look like a little less of a fool than most people probably think. He actually maintains the fiction that the Kirkman’s household may not be the best thing for Noah, although he doesn’t mention why it wouldn’t be.
Whatever the case, I have a couple of pieces of advice for the Kirkmans. First, once your son is beyond the jurisdiction of the Oregon court, bring him home to your house. He can see his grandparents any time and he’ll be beyond the reach of Judge Leonard’s draconian grasp.
Second, talk to an Oregon attorney about suing the state’s DHS under Oregon’s tort claims act. My antennae tell me that there was a lot of negligence involved in the decision to take your son. And you can count on a sympathetic jury. Almost every one on it will sit in court listening to the evidence while the sentence “there but for the grace of God go I” runs through his/her head.
Thanks to Charles and Lawrence for the heads-up.