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Children Returned After Publicity Barrage
December 11, 2014 permalink
Cleave and Erica May Rengo have three children including twins, Morna Kai Grace and Daniel Clemente, delivered through home birth October second. Shortly after the birth of the twins the state sent workers suggesting a hospital check for the twins and prescribing steroid creams for the eczema of the older boy Levi. The parents refused to follow orders and the state took all three children into custody. The story appeared initially on the website Medical Kidnap, then spread to the mainstream press. In December a court ordered the children reunited with the parents, but still subject to state supervision. The parents did not want to send their babies to a hospital where they could be exposed to infectious diseases. During a month and a half in foster care, Levi has acquired pneumonia. Two articles are enclosed.
The parents are not married according to the laws of the state of Washington. (The state continues to call the wife Erica May Carey). Instead, they took their vows before God. There may be a lot more such couples in the future, conscientious objectors opting out of civil marriage in favor of God. The civil marriage contract can be breached by either party at any time, using the courts to turn the life of the other party into a nightmare. Worse yet, that kind of marriage contract provides no respect at all for the bond between parent and child. The religious marriage is for mutual support of the partners until death, and makes it their right, duty and privilege to produce and care for their own children.
Couple fights for custody of children after home birth
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Erica May Carey and Cleave Rengo haven't applied for a Washington state marriage license, but they said their vows before God.
"We just prayed and invited God to bless our relationship so we'd have a family built on a firm foundation," Rengo said.
They'd only known each other a matter of hours before they decided to spend their lives together. Soon after, they conceived their first son.
Almost immediately after his birth, Carey was pregnant again. This time, the couple's Christian beliefs influenced their decision to have an unassisted home birth.
"I've done a lot of research about other women who have done it and they said the spiritual experience was so much more wholesome," Carey said. "It was just us. We wanted to preserve that sanctity and sacredness in our birth."
To preserve the sacred space of her womb, Carey never even had an ultrasound. It wasn't until immediately after the birth of their second son that the couple realized a twin daughter was on the way.
"I said, 'Erica look!' and she looked at her belly. There was an outline of a small baby in her belly. That's when I discovered we were having twins," Cleave remembered.
The young couple now had three children, all under the age of one year. Erica breastfed all three. Soon after, however, paramedics showed up when someone reported the birth.
According to Carey and Rengo, the paramedics suggested taking the newborns to the hospital for a check up, but they refused, worrying about the twins' health with fragile immune systems among patients fighting disease.
The next day, CPS showed up for the first of several visits.
Officers noticed the 10-month-old's eczema, the couple says, which they treated with natural remedies like probiotics and coconut oil.
They say CPS pushed them to switch to steroid creams, which the couple refused as well.
"It's a very harsh treatment and can have very negative side effects. It can cause damage to bones, the muscular system and liver," Carey said.
"They wanted the authority in my household. I told them, 'I'm a Christian and God gave me the authority in my household'," Rengo said.
Soon after, CPS took all 3 children.
In a petition filed Tuesday, the couple's attorney calls the seizure "unlawful, unconscionable, and inexcusable." Though there were calls to the home about domestic issues prior to the children's birth, the petition claims no evidence of "clear and present danger," rather that CPS is trying to impose their standards of "proper parenting."
Except now, as the petition continues, the couple's oldest son not only has eczema, he is also "suffering from pneumonia" while in state custody.
"That's our flesh and blood," Carey said.
Rengo and Carey missed their son's first birthday last week, and they see their children only once a week.
"Every time it's like torment to my soul when they pull them away from my breasts," Carey cried. "Those are my babies. They're our children. They have no right to them."
DSHS sent the following statement to KING 5:
"Due to confidentiality, we cannot discuss details, except to say that a court determined a child's safety required removal from the home.
No policy of Children's Administration would allow a child to be taken due to a home birth. A home birth is not in any way a child safety risk factor in the view of Children's Administration."
Source: KING-TV Seattle
Judge returns kids to Bellingham parents
Three Bellingham children taken from their parents will be allowed to go back home, but they are still under state protection. Alison Morrow reports. KING
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- Three Bellingham children taken from their parents by CPS are now home, but they are still under state protection.
Erica May Carey and Cleave Rengo appeared in court on Friday. Within an hour after the judge's ruling, they picked up their 1-year-old son and 8-week-old twins from the Bellingham CPS office.
"It's amazing," Carey cried. "There were times I was overwhelmed with doubt."
The state's case against the couple focused on domestic calls to police and their medical choices.
The judge called the couple's home "chaotic" and "unstable." He ordered both parents to seek counseling as part of the conditions of the children's return.
Two of those concerns over medical choices for their children include the couple's refusal to take their newborn twins to the hospital after paramedics had recommended a checkup immediately after the babies' unassisted home birth. The couple also stopped using a recommended formula for the children to gain weight and instead went back to using breast milk.
"They projectile vomited that formula and it made them very sick. It's not meant for babies, it's meant for cows," said Erica May Carey in court.
"If I had the choice, we would have chosen to keep them inside the house due to the sensitivity of the newborn baby to outside contaminants," said Cleave Rengo in court.
The couple attributes many of their choices to their Christian beliefs, including their decision to have an unassisted home birth for their twins as well as using probiotics, coconut oil and other natural remedies to treat their 10-month-old son's eczema instead of the recommended steroid cream.
The wife says she made several calls to police about the couple's arguments believing they could help find mediation.
The state has said it would not take children from a home because of a home birth.
It has been about a month and a half since the children have been living with their parents. The couple missed the one-year birthday of their oldest son. Now their attorney says that son, who was diagnosed with eczema and is now in state custody, is also suffering from pneumonia.
While the state attorney's office confirmed in court that CPS originally visited the couple's home when they refused a paramedic's recommendation to have a hospital check-up for the newborns, the judge said his decision to keep the kids under state shelter care had nothing to do with home birth or the use of natural remedies. His biggest concern is what he called an unstable, chaotic home environment.
The parents have been ordered to see counselors and follow other instructions to care for their kids.
"I definitely want to be a better parent," Rengo said.
Source: KING-TV Seattle
Addendum: Continued harassment by CPS caused the family to flee on January 27, 2015.
Bellingham family flees CPS order
Letters from DSHS have remained untouched for days on a Bellingham counter. Bassinets nearby are empty, and the grandfather of the missing babies has left his Bible open ever since.
"I'm more concerned as time goes by," Bruce Rengo said.
Rengo hasn't seen his son, daughter-in-law or 3 grandchildren since Tuesday. The couple had a scheduled visit from CPS that morning, he says, but 30-minutes before, packed the car and said they planned to visit a friend.
"I should've paid better attention to the fact they packed pretty heavily," Rengo remembered.
He never heard from them again. CPS obtained a pick-up order the next day, giving them the right to seize the kids immediately
Now, Bellingham Police are looking for them.
According to Rengo, his son, Cleave, and daughter-in-law, Erica May Carey, fought a lot. Police were called 3 times last week. The couple was stressed, he says, with 3 kids one year and younger. He believes weighed heavily on the court's decision to seize the kids in late October.
The couple blamed CPS for disapproving of their unassisted home birth and natural health treatments. They gained national attention from groups that supported their medical decisions.
About 6-weeks after, a judge returned the kids to their parents under a shelter care order. CPS agents would regularly visit Cleave and Erica, who also had to attend several classes on parenting. Cleave was also ordered to attend anger management and domestic violence classes.
Rengo says the couple did not follow through with court orders and feared they'd soon lose their children again.
Though DSHS would not comment specifically on the case, officers are concerned the children are in danger of neglect or abuse.
"I'm frustrated. Distraught. I'm worried about my family," Rengo said.
Rengo worries the couple has no money, no plan, and not enough food for the children. He hopes they return soon.
"Come home. Come here," he said. "Turn the children over to CPS. That's the best they can do right now."
After fleeing to California the children were forcibly returned to Washington.
In this and other similar cases, police sidestep extradition laws by bringing no process against the family. They simply informally remove the children, compelling the parents to return to a court in a foreign jurisdiction.
Missing Bellingham parents caught in California
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -- California Highway Patrol confirms that the parents of three Bellingham children involved in a child welfare case were located in Aptos, Calif.
Cleave Rengo, 23, and Erica Carey, 29, were found near Rio Del Mar, where they had been spotted earlier in the week. According to CHP Sgt. Grant Boles, Child Protective Services was also on scene and have taken custody of the three children.
Carey was arrested after head-butting and kicking an officer, but Rengo was not arrested.
"She head-butted one of our sergeants and kicked a sheriff's deputy," CHP Officer Brad Sadek told KSBW.
Rio Del Mar is south of San Francisco.
Washington state's CPS says Rengo, Carey and their young children disappeared in late January during a dispute with the agency.
Earlier, the children were temporarily removed due to state concerns over a chaotic home life, including repeated contacts with law enforcement, the infant twins being underweight and whether the children were receiving adequate medical care. After a hearing, a court commissioner returned the children to their parents Dec. 5, saying he was giving the parents a second chance but warning them to cooperate with CPS.
Rengo's father, Bruce Rengo, lived with the couple and said he last saw them January 27 when they said they planned to visit a friend. They packed the car and never returned.
On Jan. 28, CPS obtained a court order to place the Rengo children in protective custody.
Sources close to the couple say the family left Bellingham with very little money, gas, or food, and that they received donations along their 1,000 mile route to Santa Cruz County.
"My Facebook, my e-mail, my cell phone - it all started going off," said Billy Fisher.
Fisher has never met the Rengo family personally, but he's been involved with raising support for their case. He shares a similar story, described on his website, Fight4Lilly.
The toddler spent 307 days in foster care because of what he calls unfounded allegations made by his ex-wife. Since then, he's become an outspoken advocate for better defining CPS authority.
"You have your kids taken away from you, it's a fight or flight," FIsher said.
In the Rengo case, the flight rallied CPS critics. Online comments on several websites ranged from, "Run and don't look back,"
"Is there an underground network where they can be safe? I hope there is!" and "Has a fund for the family (not the legal team) been set up?"
During Fisher's custody battle, complete strangers donated thousands of dollars to support his fight to bring Lilly home. He believes it's likely that the Rengo case sparked a similar rally cry of CPS critics.
"These people are out there to help these families they feel are being abused by the government," he said.
Rengo supporters claim CPS got involved after the couple's unassisted home birth. They used natural remedies like probiotics and coconut oil on their son's eczema.
How exactly the Rengo family made it across three states with three kids and very few resources may surprise family, but it doesn't surprise Fisher.
"People wanted to send them money and house them," he said. "Everybody's upset they got caught because everybody was hoping they'd never be found."