By Michael Ramey
Five-month old Sammy Nikolayev, known to many as “Baby Sammy,” is home after successful heart surgery to repair a congenital birth defect. While his parents rejoice in his recovery and homecoming, they continue to chafe under violations to their parental rights by Sacramento County’s Child Protective Services (CPS).
The story began in mid-April when Sammy’s parents, Alex and Anna Nikolayev, took him to Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento, California, with flu-like symptoms. When talk turned to addressing his heart surgery, Anna got nervous because of errors she was already seeing in his care. “We got one mistake after another; I don’t want to have my baby have surgery in the hospital where I don’t feel safe,” Anna told a local news reporter.
But that’s when the trouble really began.
Unable to secure Sammy’s release, Anna and Alex took him anyway, and drove straight to neighboring Kaiser Permanente. Bound by California law, the staff at Sutter Memorial reported the unapproved departure to CPS and the police, who sent an officer to Kaiser to meet the family. After consulting with the parents and with attending physicians at the second hospital, the police officer cleared the Nikolayevs to keep Sammy. The doctor also cleared Sammy to return home, and the drama should have ended there.
Instead, police and CPS workers came to the Nikolayevs’ home the next day, Friday, April 24, and took Sammy into protective custody. They returned him to Sutter hospital, allowing Anna and Alex only brief and closely restricted visits over the weekend.
A judge on Monday, April 29, ordered Sammy returned to his parents’ custody, but with several stipulations, directly violating the couple’s right to direct the upbringing and care of their child absent a showing of abuse or neglect. Among the restrictions, Sammy was to be transported to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford for his surgery, and CPS workers would continue to monitor Sammy’s progress with intrusive home visits.
Sammy was transported to Stanford on May 1, and his scheduled surgery took place on Friday, May 10. Everything went as well as it could, and on May 16 a now-recovering Sammy returned home with his parents for the first time since his removal by police force.
But the parental rights violations continue.
The parents returned to court on May 28 hoping the case against them would be dropped. At the hearing, the family’s lawyers asked the judge to schedule a trial as soon as possible. The sooner a trial could take place, the sooner these clearly innocent parents could put this mess behind them.
CPS wanted another 60 days to observe the family through more invasive home visits. The judge ordered a trial for his “first available date” – July 29 – giving CPS the 60 days they wanted to continue to harass the family.
California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly does not like the treatment the Nikolayevs have received. “They have committed no crime,” Donnelly told reporters on May 1. “Why are they not free to determine what is in the best interest of their child?”
In the interest of finding answers to this and other questions, Donnelly is calling on the State Legislative Audit Committee, of which he is a member, to begin an audit of CPS. “Whatever they do,” Donnelly complained, “they’re allowed to operate in secret, and they’re accountable to no one.” [As of June 5, 2013, the Legislative Audit Committee confirmed Donnelly’s request and the state’s auditor is beginning an audit of CPS in three counties, a process expected to take five to six months.]
For now, Sammy is home with his parents, but they must allow CPS officials into their home to monitor every detail of how they care for their son. No charges have ever been filed against Anna or Alex.
The Bigger Picture
Such state intrusion should be unheard of in America. Instead, it is becoming more commonplace – and it could get worse.
That is why ParentalRights.org champions the Parental Rights Amendment (PRA). The PRA would establish in the text of the U.S. Constitution that “[t]he liberty of parents to direct the upbringing, education, and care of their children is a fundamental right.” This would include the right to seek a second opinion and to make medical decisions for one’s child as long as the decision is not abusive or life-threatening.
The PRA, which is being championed by Rep. Mark Meadows in the U.S. House, currently has 14 congressmen signed on to be original cosponsors.
Cases like this are also why we oppose ratifying such United Nations treaties as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which would make the government responsible to ensure “the best interests of the child” in each and every case. This would put every parent in the same place the Nikolayevs occupy now – with court and government workers positioned to scrutinize and second guess every decision parents make.
Unfortunately, proponents of the CRPD are working to get it into the Senate Foreign Relations Committee later this month, with an eye on full Senate ratification by July 22. But to protect children with disabilities by protecting their parents’ rights to direct their care, we must prevent this treaty’s adoption.
1. Call your congressman and ask him to sign on as an original cosponsor of the Parental Rights Amendment. (Because we are gathering original cosponsors, there is no bill number yet.) To sign on or to see the text, his staff can contact Patrick Fleming (Patrick.Fleming@mail.house.gov) in the office of lead sponsor Mark Meadows.
To find your congressman’s contact information, visit ParentalRights.org/States and click on your state. Or you can call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
2. Visit ParentalRights.org/CRPD to learn more about this dangerous treaty. Educate yourself to the dangers, and then download information sheets so you can educate your friends and family as well.
3. Visit ParentalRights.org to support their efforts to protect parental rights from government intrusion and from international law.
4. Pray for the Nikolayev family.
We will continue to monitor Baby Sammy’s case as it unfolds. Thank you for taking action with us to help make his one of the last such cases in America!
(Michael Ramey is Director of Communications & Research at ParentalRights.org. Reports at natomas.news10.net provided the primary source material for this article.)
We at FPM want to urge you to support the efforts of both HSLDA and ParentalRights.com at the national level to protect our God-given rights as parents.