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Invasion of the Baby Snatchers

January 6, 2009 permalink

Caitlin Herman and Nathaniel Postma grew up in foster care in British Columbia. As they were both approaching emancipation, they fell in love and last November Caitlin gave birth to a baby girl, Gwendolyn Postma.

So did the family live happily ever after? Not with social services on the ready! The girl was seized from the delivery room at the age of eleven hours, and is now in the custody of the province. According to the British Columbia MCFD, a childhood in foster care prevents the development of the skills necessary to be a good parent.

In the sci-fi movie classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, aliens abducted humans one at a time and reincarnated them as aliens with the appearance of the human victim. In social services, families are turned, one at a time, into permanent foster families by condemning all future generations.



Nathaniel Postma and Caitlin Herman
Nathaniel Postma and Caitlin Herman are fighting to get their daughter returned from government care.
Evan Seal / The Leader

Surrey North Delta Leader

Couple's baby apprehended at birth

By Sheila Reynolds - Surrey North Delta Leader, Published: January 05, 2009 1:00 PM, Updated: January 06, 2009 12:07 PM

It was less than an hour after midnight on Nov. 16 when Annaliese Gwendolyn Postma entered the world.

She arrived weighing 7 lbs.15 oz. and was 51 cm. long with a full head of brown hair.

Parents Caitlin Herman and Nathaniel Postma were thrilled to meet their daughter.

"I was actually the one bawling my eyes out when she came out," recalls burly Nathaniel.

But less that 12 hours later, confusion, anger and sadness would overshadow their happiness.

Before lunchtime, a nurse came in and took Annaliese from her mom's arms. The nurse didn't say anything or answer Caitlin's questions as she wheeled the child out of the room in her bassinet.

Nathaniel had been sleeping nearby but awoke to the ensuing chaos as several social workers and RCMP officers entered the maternity room at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

The baby was being seized, the parents were told, and taken into the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

The dad, according to government documents, was agitated and volatile, even the next day. But his child was being taken, he argued, of course he was stressed.

Caitlin and Nathaniel are both 19. They were in foster homes much of their own lives. Both "aged out" of care earlier this year.

Caitlin, whose birth mother abused drugs and alcohol, was put in foster care at birth. Over the years, she has been diagnosed with myriad mental health disorders, including fetal alcohol syndrome, neonatal abstinence syndrome, attention deficit disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression.

Nathaniel lived mainly with his grandmother until age 14 when he began having anger management and abandonment issues, and she could no longer care for him due to her own health issues. He's since suffered from anxiety, depression and psychosis. He remains close to his grandmother.

Both have also been on medications for years, although Caitlin went off them prior to becoming pregnant. She has since followed up with her psychiatrist and a letter written after her Dec. 11 appointment says the new mom "does not require any medication at this time."

Nathaniel says he manages his symptoms without the pills but does have a prescription for a low-dose anti-psychosis medication.

When the couple met more than a year ago, they fell in love quickly and decided to have a baby together.

But six months into the pregnancy, in July 2008, someone placed a child welfare call, expressing concern about the pair's ability to care for a child. Their many diagnoses were cited, as was the fact they'd not been taking their prescribed medications.

A social worker didn't meet with Caitlin and Nathaniel until late October. A report provided to The Leader by the couple says the worker was concerned about the sanitary state of the one-bedroom apartment, noting there was cat hair, the carpets were dirty and there was a sour/stale smell. It also outlines Caitlin's admission that she has mood swings and smoked pot during her pregnancy. (Caitlin says she smoked very little, and only to stop nausea to allow her to eat). It also talks about verbal arguments and the teens slapping one another, but they say it's always in fun and never escalates to physical fights.

The report references collateral checks with family and professionals indicating concerns about the pair's mental health issues, as well as "the conflictual nature of their relationship and maturity/developmental ability to safely and effectively parent and (sic) infant."

A source also told the worker Caitlin drank and used drugs prior to knowing she was pregnant and predicted she'd go back to using in order to cope with the stress of being a new parent.

Sitting on a couch in their small but tidy apartment with family and friends, Caitlin and Nathaniel talk openly about their past, their troubles, their mistakes and their plans for the future.

Their baby, they vow, would be safe and loved and well-cared for in their home. While they are both on disability assistance and earn a combined $1,500 a month, they've budgeted for their daughter's needs.

"I've been around newborns since the age of 10," Caitlin says. "I do feel I'm one of those people that was meant to have a baby."

Nathaniel believes he's a "natural" when it comes to fatherhood.

They're currently allowed to visit their daughter in her Coquitlam foster home three times a week. Annaliese weighs close to 11 pounds now. Caitlin breastfeeds during her visits and pumps her milk during the week.

But the bassinet in the couple's bedroom remains empty at night, except for a blanket bearing their daughter's photo. No overnights with the baby are allowed.

On the change table beside the bed is a pale pink Christmas stocking they filled during their supervised holiday visit. They await the day Annaliese can come home to stay.

Kids only apprehended when 'immediate' threat: Ministry

Decisions to seize children are always a last resort, according to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

Only when a child protection concern is raised – be it through a hospital, a family member or a neighbour – does the provincial body step in.

Caitlin Herman and Nathaniel Postma wonder why, if they were viewed as such risky parents, they weren't offered supports – such as parenting or anger management classes – prior to the baby's birth and apprehension.

While a complaint was made in July, a social worker didn't come to their home until October, just weeks before the baby was born.

A spokesperson from the ministry could not speak about Annaliese's case specifically, but said the ministry often works with parents and parents-to-be on self-help skills and specific tasks such as meal preparation and money management.

"Our first goal would always be to try to put those supports in place where that's a possibility, but in some cases, there are immediate child protection concerns which outweigh those goals," he said, noting the approach is the same whether the child is born yet or not.

"Children are only removed when there's an immediate threat to the child. Unless that threat is apparent, we would not act to remove the child."

Nathaniel and Caitlin can't understand how their newborn would be in any danger, but say they weren't offered any assistance prior to the baby's birth.

Having been in foster care her whole life, the young mom says she would have attended any courses or counselling to assure her daughter would come home from the hospital with her.

"I know what it's like and I never wanted that for my daughter. Had they given me the choice – I would have done anything."

The couple has since registered for a parenting class that begins this month and they are looking for a relationship counselling course that doesn't have a waiting list.

Last month in court, the province applied for a three-month extension to the temporary custody order for Annaliese, but the couple's lawyer contested it. Both sides are now scheduled to sit down and discuss the case during a conference scheduled for Feb. 19.

Source: Surrey Leader

Invasion of the Body Snatchers