June 27, 2013 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
The Sammy Nikolayev case is moving to a different level. Read about it here (News 10 ABC, 6/25/13).
Sammy is the little baby who was torn away from his mother and father by Sacramento County, California Child Protective Services earlier this spring. Their crime? They sought a second opinion regarding his health care. Sammy, who’s just now seven months old, has a heart condition that, prior to his being taken into foster care, hadn’t needed surgery. But when his parents took him to Sutter Memorial Hospital for flu symptoms, they were told he had to be operated on.
That complicated an already shaky relationship between Sutter personnel and the Nikolayevs. They’d already had a run-in with nursing staff who attempted to give the little boy an anti-biotic despite the fact that he’d been diagnosed with a virus. Then the nurse who attempted to administer the medicine told his mother Anna that she didn’t know what the medication was.
Those incidents didn’t exactly inspire confidence in Sutter medical staff on the part of Alex or Ann Nikolayev, so they picked up their son and took him to a Kaiser facility for a second opinion. That move didn’t sit well with Sutter administrators who look to me like people who’d been caught trying to railroad a child into medical care he may or may not have needed. In short, from here their behavior has always looked like a grab for money that was thwarted by two parents’ responsible behavior.
Once out of Sutter, a Kaiser doctor gave the opinion that Sammy didn’t need surgery. Since the first spate of news stories about the case, no one has said whether he child went under the knife or not.
But what no one has yet mentioned is the obvious fact that, when a little child - or indeed anyone else - is told they need major surgery, the only responsible thing to do is seek a second opinion, unless of course it’s an emergency. Therefore, by any stretch of the imagination, whether Sammy eventually received the surgery or not, what his parents did was the smart, loving thing to do.
But it was not the thing Sutter Memorial personnel wanted them to do, for whatever reason. So, despite an entire absence of any behavior by Sammy’s parents that could conceivably constitute abuse or neglect of their son, Sutter called the police who called CPS. In short order, those state employees appeared at the Nikolayev’s door without a warrant, shoved aside Sammy’s dad, entered the house and took Sammy from his mother’s arms.
Reports of that outrageous behavior spread like wildfire and, to their credit, the Nikolayevs refused to roll over for the demands of CPS. They refused to be intimidated by the State of California and their courage got more than one state legislator involved. That’s resulted in a state audit of the Sacramento County Child Protective Services, which is a good thing. That agency, like all the others, operates in almost complete secrecy, with the unsurprising result that employees routinely trample the rights of parents and children alike.
As I’ve said countless times before, when governments act in secret, they behave badly. The fact of secrecy allows behavior that those who know their actions to be in the public spotlight would never engage in. In short order, that secrecy comes to shield the wrongful behavior of bureaucrats more than it does the stated reason for the secrecy in the first place – the well-being of children. As far as I can tell, it’s an invariable process, and not just in CPS cases either.
The latest in Sammy’s case is that the county has finally said “never mind.”
On Tuesday morning, a Sacramento County Juvenile Dependency Court judge granted the county's motion to dismiss the CPS case against the Nikolayev family. This is something the county had signaled was a possibility at the previous hearing in May. What it means is that Anna and Alex Nikolayev will no longer be subject to visits from CPS, and they won't have to go to trial to stop those visits.
In other words, they’ve finally concluded that the Nikolayevs are perfectly fine parents after all. With any luck, they’ve also discovered that parents’ seeking a second opinion in such a case isn’t child abuse, it’s child protection – something CPS is supposed to know a little about. And, if the parents of Sacramento County are really having a good day, maybe CPS has learned that some parents stick up for their rights and the public is not a bit happy with the agency’s police-state tactics. Those TV cameras can sure shine an unflattering light sometimes.
But the Nikolayev case is just getting started. No, not the one in Juvenile Court that the county just had the judge dismiss. It seems that, in addition to setting the state audit in motion, the Nikolayevs have filed a civil suit against CPS and the Sacramento Police Department.
Medical records show another doctor cleared the baby to go home with his parents. That's why the Nikolayevs said this case is far from over.
"We will force them to compensate this family for the losses, for the harms, for the nightmare that they went through of 48 hours of not even knowing where their child was," [Nikolayev attorney Joe] Weinberger said. "We will take them to task for the police officers who attacked Alex, tackled him, handcuffed him, put him in a police car."
"It's days that you cannot forget what you went through," Anna Nikolayev said.
"We don't wish anyone to come through what we went through," Alex Nikolayev added. "We don't want to see this, and it needs to be changed."
We’ll see what happens in the civil suit as it progresses, but for now, the county attorney had the unmitigated gall to announce that Sammy’s OK because of the abuse he received at the hands of CPS and the police. That’s right, according to him, they’re the ones responsible for his well-being, not his loving parents.
Before moving to dismiss, the assistant county counsel wanted to make it clear that CPS does not recognize any wrongdoing on its part when social workers and police officers entered the Nikolayev home back in April and took the baby into protective custody. In fact, they argue that it's because of these efforts that the boy is in good health today.
If that sounds like “we’re the government and we’re here to help you,” you heard right. In fact, it’s the coward’s way out. Instead of admitting their unconscionable wrongdoing, the county actually claims what it did was in Sammy’s best interests. Here’s a tiny baby, torn from his parents for no good reason, taken away by strangers to an unknown place where he didn’t see a familiar face or hear a familiar voice for days. And all that ocurred while he may or may not have been undergoing traumatic medical procedures. I can’t begin to grasp the emotional effects all that might have had on the little boy.
Neither, I take it, can Sacramento County CPS.
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