Advocates Rally To Support Blind Parents
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 6, 2004
REDWOOD CITY, CALIFORNIA--Disability rights advocates from California and around the world have come to the aide of a Redwood City couple who were threatened with having their newborn taken away because they are blind.
Adelina Zepeda, 22, and her husband Marco, 31, became proud parents of little Rivaldo on Friday at Sequoia Hospital. Soon after he was born, a nurse reportedly watched the nervous new father struggle with fastening a diaper. The couple then asked hospital officials if a nurse could come to their home over the weekend to check if everything was okay.
Within hours, two social workers from San Mateo County Child Protective Services showed up and asked the new parents how they planned to take care of Rivaldo.
The couple then signed a form allowing CPS to place the child in foster care if they could not come up with a plan to have sighted friends or family members check on them every few hours. The couple, whose primary language is Spanish, said they misunderstood: The form was read to them in English, and was not made available to them in Braille.
County officials allowed the Zepedas to take their baby home temporarily, on condition that someone sighted check on them every few hours.
After the family got home Saturday, Mr. Zepeda posted a message about their situation to an Internet network of blind parents. That message prompted support from local advocacy groups and the national media.
As of Monday, the couple was being represented by Berkeley-based Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund attorney Arlene Mayerson, who immediately met with CPS officials.
"I asked for two things and didn't get a response," Mayerson told the Mercury News. "What are the charges against them, and will you close the CPS investigation . . . They're saying, 'All we want to do is help out.'"
The Zepedas said they were confident there would be no more problems with county officials.
Margie Donovan, of the California Council of the Blind, told the San Mateo County Times that discrimination lawsuits were going to be filed against the county and the hospital.
"The damage has been done," said Donovan, herself a blind single mother.
Donovan said the council wants every CPS and hospital employee to go through disability-awareness training, and for the social worker to be put on administrative leave.
"It's not fair what they did," said Marco Zepeda. "Right now what I want is to recuperate from the stress that we have, so we can live and enjoy this boy."
"Blind parents of newborn find support"(San Mateo County Times)