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Oregon Keeps Boy
April 1, 2010 permalink
Lisa and Noah Kirkman are back in the news. Oregon still refuses to release the boy so he can return home to Calgary with his mother. In two years of foster care they have isolated him from his Jewish faith.
We gave Lisa's personal account and a press report in December/January.
Calgary mom fights Oregon for son's return
A Calgary mother is fighting to get her 12-year-old son brought home from Oregon where he has been in foster care for almost two years, because of what she calls bias against her past as a marijuana activist.
Lisa Kirkman took Noah, who is Canadian, to Oakridge, Ore., to visit his stepfather in 2008. But during that summer, local police became concerned about the boy's behaviour.
Kirkman says Noah suffers from several mental health problems, including obsessive compulsive disorder and a severe form of attention deficit disorder.
Kirkman told CBC News when police stopped Noah for riding a bike without a helmet, they alerted the state's department of human services, who contacted their counterparts in British Columbia and Quebec, where the family used to live.
Kirkman says that based on Noah's lengthy files in those jurisdictions — including periods of part-time therapeutic foster care in B.C. — U.S. officials took him into care.
Since then, he has been placed with several foster families in Oregon.
"He has a hard time even remembering some of the traditions and things we've done together as a family now at this point because he's been kept so far away from it," said Kirkman.
"They've worked so hard to instill him with a whole different set of values," she added. Kirkman was raising Noah in the Jewish faith, something she says his U.S. guardians have disregarded.
Canadian lawyer says boy belongs in Canada
Kirkman has lawyers on both sides of the border working on her case — Lane County public defender Ilisa Rooke-Ley in Oregon and Tony Merchant in Regina.
Under international legal conventions, when it was decided Noah's situation required the intervention of social services, the Oregon court had an obligation to send the boy back to Canada, Merchant told CBC News on Wednesday.
But Merchant said for some reason, the judge assigned to the case has dragged his heels.
"It almost feels like judicial child abduction," said Merchant. "They don't have any confidence in Canada. It's almost as though they're saying you can't go back to Calgary because it's cold up there. Or you can't go back to Calgary because we don't really understand the strengths and the protections that exist in the Canadian system."
According to Kirkman, it's because of her criminal conviction in Canada for growing marijuana in 2003, her current status as a medical marijuana user and her background as a pot activist.
Kirkman said she believes Lane County Circuit Judge Kip Leonard — who spearheaded the state's juvenile drug court — is biased against her.
He ordered her to complete psychiatric assessments, home studies and parenting classes — which she did.
Meanwhile, Kirkman said she is worried about the home Noah is being kept in. And she has concerns about the new medications Noah has been put on since being in Oregon, she said.
Kirkman contacted U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley on Feb. 12. He told her his office would look into the matter. Calgary Conservative MP Rob Anders has been watching the case closely.
"I think Oregon has actually been wanting for him to return home. It's just a matter of doing so in a manner that they feel is in Noah's best interests," said Anders from Ottawa.
Officials in Oregon refused to comment on the specifics of the case, but said in a statement Wednesday, "The Department of Human Services of the State of Oregon, the Social Services of Alberta and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade are working together to provide appropriate assistance to the Kirkman family."
Lawyers will be meeting with Leonard on April 9, when the judge is expected to set a date for a hearing.
Kirkman is confident her son will be returned to her, but says she finds it too difficult to dwell on, particularly during holidays like Passover.
"I wouldn't be able to continue to fight to get him back because I would be paralyzed with it but I think it'll be the greatest day of my life."