It is another medical kidnapping according to the parents. The Rengos have chosen a wholesome, holistic lifestyle, based in their Christian faith. But CPS has stepped in to override the parents’ decisions. Now Erica and Cleave are living what they call a nightmare, separated from their children for reasons that don’t make any sense at all to them.
Decision to Home BirthIt was only natural for Erica to choose normal, family-centered birth. Erica herself was born at home, and says that her mother was a homebirth educator and La Leche League leader (a world-wide support and education group for breastfeeding mothers). She and Cleave chose a birth-center birth with their first baby, but decided to birth at home the second time. She knew that her body was perfectly designed to work for birth. She believed this was the direction God was showing them for the birth. Erica was very careful during her pregnancy to watch her diet and exercise, in preparation for the birth. She read, researched, and prepared.
She describes her homebirth as “exquisite” and “empowering.” Morna Kai Grace and Daniel Clemente were born into their parents’ loving arms.
The birth was perfect. There were no complications with the birth or afterwards. But Erica and her husband Cleave agreed to allow the local paramedics in when someone called them, in an effort to appease concerned family members who were fearful of their decision to birth at home. That is where their problems began.
The Medical System Gets InvolvedSometime after the babies arrived on October 2, paramedics arrived to find the twins nursing and everybody doing fine. The twins each weighed over 5 lbs, and the paramedics allegedly verified that everyone appeared healthy. The paramedics allegedly recommended that they go to the hospital for evaluation, which is standard procedure for EMTs.
The Rengos say they declined, telling them they didn’t want to expose their newborns to the dirty environment of the hospital. They were planning to follow recommendations they had found, which stated that newborn twins should stay home for the first six weeks of life, to give their immune systems the opportunity to build up.
CPS Shows UpThe parents’ believe that because they chose not to go to the hospital at that time, somebody called CPS. A couple of social workers showed up the next day, and wanted to see all of the children. CPS told Erica that they were “here to help.” But Erica says that is not at all what happened.
When the social worker found some eczema on Levi’s skin Erica told her that she was treating it with some herbal remedies, including comfrey and calendula, as well as applying coconut oil and giving probiotics. She was also doing an elimination diet to try to locate what could be causing the skin condition. Even though it was in the healing process, the social worker became critical that Erica wasn’t treating his eczema with steroids, a treatment option that Erica wanted to save as a last resort because of the side effects. The CPS agent would later testify to the judge that Erica had neglected to treat him completely.
Even so, the eczema was the only thing wrong. Erica says, “right away they found out that the children were not in danger.” The twins were completely healthy; the house was clean; and there are no drugs or alcohol involved.
The Rengos agreed to take the children to a pediatrician, who said the babies were doing fine. The only concern was that the twins were slow to gain weight. At the time, Erica was trying to maintain a supply for three breastfeeding babies. She says she followed the pediatrician’s advice to supplement with formula, and the babies promptly got back on track with weight gain.
This was allegedly verified by a nurse sent out by CPS to check on them.
Erica May and Cleave are holistic in their approach to life and health, preferring natural alternatives, like herbs and diet changes, to medicinal treatments. Those things appear to be options only if CPS is not involved.
CPS Takes Custody of ChildrenOn November 6, CPS showed up at the front door while Erica was softly singing and playing her guitar to her resting babies. When she checked the door, they told her that they were there to take her children, citing neglect for not giving Levi steroids for his eczema, and the home-birth without medical prenatal care with the twins, as well as the allegations of abuse, accusations which Erica had already assured them were completely unfounded. She also had prenatal care, just not with a doctor.
With one baby on her back, the frightened mother fled out the back door with her children to a neighbor’s house, but police and CPS “hunted her down,” and took these breastfed babies from their mothers’ arms. The twins were 5 weeks old.
Erica broke down into sobs as I spoke with her. “My children were safe and healthy with me.” Since they have been taken by CPS, Levi has reportedly had pneumonia, and has reportedly been diagnosed with “behavioral problems” because he screams and cries all the time.
He is screaming, Erica says, because he wants his mom and dad.
Why Are Children with No History of Abuse Being Taken Away from Loving Parents for Medical Reasons?Children who have allegedly not been abused in any way have been taken by CPS from loving parents for reasons so flimsy that it has left the Rengos and their friends stunned. Several of their friends write that Erica is “a great mama.”
“This is not the right thing to do to mothers and children,” Erica emphasizes. “If they thought we needed help, they should have brought help in, not taken the children out. They have suffered and I have suffered since our separation.”
Erica feels that she and her children are being abused by the system. When they separate babies from their loving mothers, she says “they are dehumanizing people. The outcome of that is so much worse than any kind of dispute for medical reasons.”
Cleave and Erica were supposed to have their visitation with their children on Monday, but there wasn’t a social worker available to supervise the visit. Levi’s first birthday is on Black Friday. The day will be black for Erica and Cleave, but for very different reasons than the holiday retailers. They will miss their first child’s first birthday because CPS won’t have any workers available to supervise a visit that day either.
The Stressful Separation of Infants from ParentsErica is a brokenhearted postpartum mother who wants nothing more than to be at home with all of her children by her side. Research shows that infants do not comprehend separation from their mother; they feel abandoned when they aren’t with her. Has it really come to the point where CPS can justify the emotional trauma to the children simply because parents don’t choose to follow every recommendation of the medical associations?
In President Obama’s immigration speech last week, he asked, “Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms? Or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together?”
Yet it is this very nation whose Child Protection Service agencies have ripped tiny babies from their parents’ arms simply for the crime of disagreeing with a medical decision. If this could happen to a family who has only sought the most natural of care, then whose children are safe from CPS? Should this type of apparent medical tyranny be tolerated?
Erica May and Cleave Rengo face a court date on December 2. They don’t know what they will face then. Supporters are hoping that their story will be shared far and wide, and their children can be returned home quickly.
The Governor of Washington is Jay Inslee. His office number is 360-902-4111. You can email him from here.
The parents next court date is December 2, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. at the Whatcom County Courthouse, 311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham Washington.