She Fears For Children's Safety While With DSS
By Ed Oliver
August 23, 2001
The mother whose newborn baby was seized by state police and DSS agents from her arms at the Mary Lane Hospital last month, says she fears for the lives and safety of her newborn, Aaron, and her four-year-old, Damien, who are in DSS custody.
Her 5-year-old son, Kyle, died after a Rottweiler attacked him this June while in another DSS foster home.
Atty. Gregory Hession says the snatch from the hospital could be retribution by DSS for the wrongful death suit the mother has filed against the agency.
In an interview with MassNews, Diana Ross from Ware said, “They murdered one child. I am not going to sit back and let them hurt my other two boys.”
Compounding her worries, Ross said DSS placed her infant son and Damien together with two homosexual men who say they want to adopt them. “I told DSS I didn’t want that. I said I think the boys should bond with their mother, not with gay men. They told me I have no say in the matter.”
Ross told MassNews she would have the boys checked out at a hospital for molestation immediately after she gets them back from DSS, particularly after a gay, foster care parent in Worcester County was arrested last month for raping two boys in his custody.
Judge is No Help
Circuit Judge Patricia M. Dunbar decided on August 22 in Hampden County Juvenile Court that DSS could keep custody of the newborn Ross infant.
Atty. Hession told MassNews that Dunbar said that DSS did not meet the burden of proof with the baby and did not make reasonable efforts to keep the child with the family. However, the judge decided that custody of the infant would remain with DSS based on Ross’ previous history with DSS.
“Essentially, Judge Dunbar is saying ‘we don’t care what the law says. There is a problem here and we are going to take the child,’” said Hession, who added, “The department simply wants to take children rather than provide services so the family can stay together.”
Hession said he would have to study the opinion before deciding on any future course of action.
DSS spokesman Michael MacCormack released a statement on the Ross case and told MassNews he did not want to comment further.
“The Department’s decision to file a petition for custody of Infant A. Ross was the result of a careful review of this family’s history, which was incorporated, together with information provided by medical, child welfare and mental health professionals, into a petition filed with the Northhampton Juvenile Court, and led to the temporary transfer of custody of this infant to DSS.
“Cognizant of Ms. Ross’ desire to care for her infant, we are nonetheless mandated to insure that the infant’s safety and best interests are protected in a safe environment. We are grateful that the Court’s decision today affirms the Department’s position on the safety of this child.”
While mindful of the privacy of the child, DSS would not even reveal the identity of the “medical, child welfare and mental health professionals” with whom it consulted. Observers say it sounds like they are all social workers employed by DSS, but the agency will always use a phrase like that to avoid being accountable to the public.
Police Raid Hospital Room
After giving birth on Sunday, August 5, Ross says she was celebrating with her family in her hospital room on Monday. A nurse entered the room and took the baby, saying she had to check his vital signs.
Within minutes a posse of police, state police and DSS social workers swarmed the room and informed the family that DSS had taken the baby due to a 51A report of “neglect,” which had been filed by a nurse only hours after the baby was born. The report alleges that Ross had not fed her baby “the right way” when she was in recovery and had allowed her mother to hold and feed the newborn.
The physician, Dr. Torbin Iverson, entered the mother’s room to see what was occurring and expressed his shock and confusion at the state’s action. He stated that the mother and baby were doing well and he had not seen any problems. It was difficult to understand how the charge of “not feeding right” could be made while the mother was under the care, supervision, and scrutiny of maternity ward staff.
Ross told MassNews, “A DSS social worker told me they had a complaint of neglect and they were taking my baby. They threw a paper on my bed and told me to fight it in court,” said Ross. “I was hysterical.”
DSS Worker Runs Out of Hospital with Police
Ross’ mother Sandra told MassNews that when she drove up to the hospital to visit her daughter, she saw a DSS social worker running out of the hospital with the baby and flanked by state and local police. She said a state policeman prevented her from entering the hospital.
Dr. Iverson told MassNews, “It was unusual for DSS to come in this manner and remove a baby. The times I saw the mother with the baby she seemed okay. She certainly seems to be very concerned and caring and loves her children.”
Dr. Iverson, who is an obstetrician-gynecologist, told MassNews that although he can’t prove that Ross is a fit mother, because it is outside of his field, Ross always kept her appointments and took good pre-natal care of her baby.
A copy of the “Nursing Progress Continuation Notes” from the hospital reveals that DSS told social workers at the hospital to tip them off when Ross delivered her baby.
The records note that after the birth, Ross was encouraged multiple times to hold the infant and the bottle upright, as well as stimulate the infant to stay awake during feeds. “Mother not following instruction,” it says. It also states that the mother did properly clean and change the infant and that bonding was occurring between mother and child.
The nursing notes were relayed by phone to DSS social worker Ann Kochis, according to the notes.
Hospital Was Told What to Do
According to the notes, DSS told the hospital to issue a “51A Neglect Report” against Ross. The hospital informed DSS that they were unable to establish neglect in such a short time, yet, they filed the 51A anyway with DSS social worker Kay Durepo.
“51A form sent to DSS per their request. DSS aware that we are unable to establish neglect in such a short period of time. Form sent regardless,” the nursing records state.
DSS Social Worker Ann Kochis and Area Director Ellen Patashnic at the DSS East Springfield Office refused to comment for MassNews, directing all questions to public affairs in Boston.
Attorney Greg Hession, who is helping to get Ross’ baby back, told MassNews that in order for DSS to take the baby, the law requires either “serious abuse and neglect,” such as broken bones, wounds and starvation, or “the likelihood of future serious abuse and neglect.” He added that DSS “would have had to make reasonable efforts to keep the child with the mother.”
Attorney Alan Goodman told MassNews, “The only abuse that has taken place in this whole situation has been the abuse of Diana Ross, the mother, by this bureaucracy called DSS that is out of control. DSS appears to be an agency bent on breaking up families under the guise of child protection.”
Many observers point to the adoption bonuses that DSS receives from the federal government when it takes a child from its parents and adopts it out to foster parents.
Seized in 1999
Ross’ two boys, Kyle and Damien, were seized in December 1999, after Kyle wandered outside the house. Ross, a single mother, had previously clashed with DSS over similar incidents.
Kyle was born in September 1995 and Damien in September 1997.
DSS placed Damien with a gay couple and Kyle was placed with Linda McNeil and her boyfriend, Eddie Finklea Jr., who kept a Rottweiler in the backyard.
“Kyle told me he loved me and wanted to come home,” said Ross. “DSS told him he was never going home. I promised Kyle I would get him home.
“He told me he got hurt in the foster home. He had bruises on his bottom and legs and burns he said were from a flatiron. DSS told me the burns were from a heater. Kyle told me the people at the foster home locked him crying in the bedroom, while they partied with drugs and alcohol.”
In a shocking story that made headlines, Kyle was attacked and killed by the Rottweiler in June of this year after he wandered into the dog’s unlocked pen.
Ross’ mother, Sandra Daneault, told MassNews that she remembers after they got the news, Diana was distraught and tearfully apologized to a photo of Kyle that she could not get him home like she had promised him.
With the help of Attorney Alan Goodman, Ross, who was pregnant, filed suit against the dog’s owner and has taken preliminary steps to sue the Department of Social Services for wrongful death and emotional distress on behalf of her son.
In an apparent retaliation, Ross’ infant son Aaron was seized from her by DSS at the hospital the day after he was born and just two months after the tragic death of Kyle.
Letters and cards of support may be sent to: Diana Ross, 34 Vigeant Street, Apt. # 2, Ware, MA 01082.
Donations of any size may be sent to: The Ross Legal Defense Fund, c/o Justice for Families, P.O. Box 1560, Cotuit, MA 02635.
Letters and calls of protest should be sent to: Governor Jane Swift, State House, Boston, MA 02133, as well as your local state representative, Congressman (DSS takes federal funding for snatching babies), as well as major media outlets.