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Mother Protects Daughter
March 24, 2009 permalink
A Kansas homeschooling mother has gone to jail to avoid revealing the whereabouts of her daughter. All of the comments on this story in USA Today are supportive of the mother.
Kan. mom jailed for contempt
By Roxana Hegeman, Associated Press Writer
WICHITA, Kan. — A homeschooling mother whose daughter was removed from their home following a mistaken truancy report was jailed for contempt Friday after refusing to say where the 14-year-old has been since fleeing state custody in October.
Bambi Baker-Hazen said she was invoking her right to protect her daughter, Ashton Baker, from what she called abuse in the state's child welfare system. The girl had spent 47 days in the Wichita Children's Home before running away Oct. 6.
Baker-Hazen told Sedgwick County Juvenile Court Judge Tim Henderson that when she tried to return Ashton to the home, the girl threatened to jump out of the car. She said Ashton had lost a lot of weight and had burns on her arms allegedly inflicted by other children at the home.
"She was hysterical, upset," Baker-Hazen testified. "She said she could not take it anymore."
Baker-Hazen said Ashton is safe, but she repeatedly refused the judge's admonitions to answer questions from deputy county prosecutor Ron Paschal about the teen's whereabouts.
"Take me to jail," Baker-Hazen told the judge. She was arrested for contempt and led from the courtroom in handcuffs.
Henderson said Baker-Hazen would remain jailed until she discloses the girl's location. He set another hearing next week but said he would hold the session anytime she was ready to talk.
"My desire is not to lock you up," Henderson said. "My desire is not to punish you."
Baker-Hazen's husband, Jeff Hazen, said following the arrest that he felt "torn apart" but supported his wife's decision not to reveal the girl's location, even if it meant going to jail.
"As strongly as she feels about this - she may die there," he said.
Stan Kenny, Baker-Hazen's lawyer, said Ashton "is more afraid of the state than her family." Kenny said he had never had a client voluntarily go to jail, adding that the mother "sincerely believes in what she is doing."
Paschal and the girl's biological father, Paul Baker, both declined to comment after the hearing.
State welfare officials first became involved with the family when a Wichita middle school - apparently misplacing the homeschooling notification faxed by the state - reported Ashton as truant.
Their problems escalated while the mother was out of town seeking substance abuse treatment and mental care services, claiming in her testimony that she was unaware of the state's involvement.
Ashton was placed with Baker, her biological father, but police picked her up and put her in the children's home when Ashton ran away from her father to go back to her mother.
"Why are they torturing a child for something she has not done?" said Twyla Kreiner, the girl's maternal grandmother.
The family went public with their problems in October, contending the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services did not make reasonable efforts to keep the family together.
But in court Friday, Henderson noted that the girl was out at 3 a.m. and had admitted to drinking alcohol.
He rejected a defense suggestion that he guarantee Ashton's placement with Kreiner, who has already been approved for foster care. The judge said he does not have that authority nor does he know the condition of the runaway girl.
Child advocacy groups have long contended Sedgwick County authorities are too quick to remove children from homes.
According to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, Sedgwick County's removal rate of 6.3 children for every 1,000 children in the county far exceeds the national rate of 4.1 children. The group contends the county would be the "child removal capital" of America if off-the-books placements of short-term removals were included in the figures.
Source: USA Today