Tennessee Court Seeks to Terminate Parental Rights for Young Sister of Down Syndrome Baby Euthanized by Vanderbilt Hospital
by Health Impact News/MedicalKidnap.com Staff
It has been just over a year since the death of Baby Steffen Rivenburg Jr. at the hands of Vanderbilt Hospital, Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) and Judge Wayne Shelton’s court. Since his tragic, senseless death, his family has been fighting DCS and the court for custody of Baby Steffen’s older sister, Annalise.
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On Monday, July 9, parents, Steffen Rivenburg Sr. and Patricia Thornberg, will again go to court over custody of Annalise. Maybe. They were supposed to have court on Monday, June 11. When they went to court that day, they were told that court was cancelled.
They again went to court on June 19 for a scheduled foster care review board hearing. When they arrived on that date, they were told that court was changed to July 23. They later received documents in the mail telling that that court was to be held on July 23.
Quite by accident, they learned that the July 23 hearing has been moved to Monday, July 9. Steffen’s mother, Lisa Rivenburg, the unofficial family spokesperson, told Health Impact News that they called the court this past Monday, July 3, about filing some paperwork. That was when they learned that their court date had moved up 2 weeks. If they hadn’t called the courthouse, they never would have known about the date change.
The hearing will presumably address motions filed by DCS, including a “Motion to Ratify Per Plan and Motion to Review Permanency” for Annalise.
On June 11, 2018, DCS filed for termination of parental rights over Annalise. The family has 30 days to respond to the TPR filing. They hope to address the filing in court on Monday, July 9.
This behavior by the courts is but one example of many told to us by parents who are fighting for their children. It is not at all uncommon for the dates and times for visitation, doctors appointments, and court hearings to change – all without any notice to the parents. It is another reason, on top of many, that parents and grandparents are immensely frustrated with the child welfare system.
The consequences of not stumbling onto the date changes can be devastating. In the case of a Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) hearing, “failure to appear” can result in parents losing custody of their child – forever.
Lisa Rivenburg says that they have been working night and day to prepare paperwork. They are working pro se, representing themselves in court. The judge will be the same one who presided over the death of Baby Steffen last summer.
The hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. at the Juvenile Court of Montgomery County in Clarksville, Tennessee. When Lisa spoke with someone from the court, she says that they told them to be early and that the hearing would likely go quickly. This calls into question the ability of the family to have their side be heard and to assure due process. Lisa believes that:
They’ve already made up their minds.
The entire situation seems vastly unfair to her. She brought up the situation at the border and the masses of American people who are fighting against the separation of parents and children. Parents who try to enter the country illegally seem to be able to raise money quickly and to gather massive crowds fighting for them.
Where are these American people for us?
I just don’t understand how they get away with this.
She and her family vow never to give up fighting to bring Annalise home:
What level of cognitive dissonance do these people have that they kill my grandchild and now they take the remaining child?! They cannot have Annalise!
Some advocates were planning a rally at the Clarksville courthouse for July 23. The Rivenburgs hope that some people will be able to come to the courthouse this Monday morning instead.
June 8 marked a year since doctors pulled the plug on Baby Steffen and injected him with a fatal dose of propofol, the “Michael Jackson drug.”
Prayer Vigil in Honor of Baby Steffen
Advocates and mourners gathered at the Nashville capitol that evening for a solemn Candlelight Vigil. They came from places like Ohio, Florida, Alabama, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Connecticut to show their support for the Rivenburg family and grieve the loss of Baby Steffen’s life.
The Rivenburg prepared a written statement that was read at the vigil:
On behalf of the Rivenburg family, we would like to thank all of you for coming today and those that have traveled many miles to be here as well as those who worked to put so much effort into making today happen.
Without all of you, who have been there for us, who have helped guide us, who have prayed for and with us, who have heard our pleas, our cries and our story through others, today would just be a distant memory, although not so distant for us, as we still live it every day.
Sadly, there are others like us. They have also experienced unimaginable loss in some way.
The loss of a child by death is a hard cross to bear. Parents should never have to bury their children.
The loss of a child living, or a parent, as even our elders are being taken from us, and to not be able to see them, equally so.
Children, parents and families are suffering daily and at times there feels like no hope is available to undo all that has happened.
To all of you who have said we are a sign of strength and hope to you, know that you are a sign of strength and hope to us as well. Your beacon of light in our darkest moments is forever appreciated.
Today as we remember BABY STEFFEN RIVENBURG JR., let us also remember all the children and family members that were and are forever taken and let us continue to be the voice for the ones who have none or who have lost theirs.
May we continue to help one another, pray for and console one another and stand up for ourselves and each other and we continue to move forward to heal and make change.
Let us also celebrate the life of BABY STEFFEN RIVENBURG JR. and the joy he brought to his family and others in just the small amount of time he was here.
Thank you again for coming today.
How You Can Help
The public is invited to come to the Montgomery County Juvenile Court at Two Millennium Plaza, Clarksville, TN, 37040 on Monday, July 9, at 10:30 a.m.
The Senator for their district is Dr. Mark Green. He may be reached at (615) 741-2374 or contacted here.
Their state Representative is Representative Joe Pitts. He may be reached at (615) 741-2043 or contacted here.
Supporters have set up a Facebook page for the family called Reunite the Rivenburgs.
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