With a juvenile court judge denying a motion that could have sent home the Missouri teen being held in the Illinois foster care system after his parent was accused of medical child abuse, his mother is now speaking out against the school and community where her son is currently residing.
“He’s basically in the ghetto. He’s in [an] environment he’s not used to. I didn’t realize how bad it was,” Michelle Rider, the mother of 16-year-old Isaiah Rider, told TheBlaze, explaining that in supervised visits with her son he told her he has been exposed to marijuana and was jokingly shown a gun by a peer he met while living in a Chicago suburb with a foster family for the last few months. “He reported all this information to me and his case worker who was there.”
City-Data.com, a website that tracks various metrics like crime statistics based on what’s available from the public record, lists Dolton, Illinois, which is south of Chicago and is where Isaiah’s foster family lives, according to Isaiah’s mother, as having “high” crime.
Liberty, Missouri, where Michelle Rider lives, is rated as having “low” crime.
Rider also pointed a finger at the school her son would attend if enrolled for the start of the fall semester.
Thornridge High School, according to Great Schools, a website that rates academic institutions, is given a score of one out of 10 overall. Stanley High School in Kansas City, Missouri, the school Rider said her son would otherwise attend, on the same rating scale achieved an overall 8/10 score.
“This has been going on for four months and I have not seen any … there’s not been any justice,” Rider said of the situation, which began after she took her son to Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago for surgery to remove tumors from his legs. “We’ve been waiting for them to do the right thing. It just seems like it’s a very corrupt system.”
The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services told TheBlaze it could not comment on questions regarding the safety of foster families’ neighborhoods or school conditions. When pressed with general questions about this topic, the spokeswoman said she was unable to comment because they were in relation to Isaiah’s case.
Isaiah, who has neurofibromitosis, and his mother visited multiple hospitals and doctors within the last year, looking for treatment for pain and uncontrollable tremors in a leg that he had partially amputated nearly two years ago. It was this hopping from hospital to hospital and other factors that led doctors at Lurie Children’s to get state workers involved, accusing Rider of medical child abuse.
The Chicago Tribune, earlier this summer, obtained a medical report that said Isaiah showed a “a clear pattern of patient improvement when the mother is not around, deterioration when mother is present and continued conflict regarding mother’s insistence that only pharmacological means can be used to treat [the boy's] pain.”
“All attempts to … have [the] mother voluntarily partner with us in [the boy's] care have been futile and met with resistance,” the Tribune reported of one of the records. “In order to best develop a therapeutic medical plan for [the boy], we need to remove the mother from his care at the moment.”
Rider rejected at such accusations, saying she only wanted to get the right care for her son. Isaiah also told TheBlaze in an earlier interview that he doesn’t understand why he was taken out of his mother’s custody.
Randy Kretchmar, Rider’s attorney, argued in court last week that a federal law was violated in Isaiah’s custody case, trying to convince the judge to grant a motion that would send Isaiah home. The Indian Child Welfare Act, which was passed in the late 1970s, “establishes burdens of proof that are higher than those applied in non-Native cases” to remove custody.
The judge did not grant Kretchmar’s motion, the lawyer said, because ICWA, at the time, did not envision the complexity of procedures that now currently exist in the child welfare system to take temporary custody, the lawyer said.
“What the judge decided with regard to ICWA is that procedural standards do not apply to the initial temporary custody hearing,” which is where Kretchmar argued the violation had occurred.
While Kretchmar said he thinks this decision could be appealed, he is working on other angles for their next court date on Sept. 19, which will include several witnesses for Rider and Isaiah’s case.
Ahead of this most recent hearing though, Kretchmar filed an emergency motion to have Isaiah removed from his current placement with the foster family in Illinois. The crux of his argument, Kretchmar told TheBlaze, was that Isaiah’s environment in Dolton was “worse than any conceivable danger even if you find state’s allegations [against his mother] credible. Get him out of there, give him back to Michelle, get it over with.”
The judge denied this emergency motion, but agreed to grant a second motion, which was a cease and desist for any DCFS workers to use their position to interfere with Rider’s due process rights. Kretchmar accused a case worker of trying to discourage Rider from opposing some of the state’s case against her and of trying to obtain information about her own legal strategy.
“He’s attempting to demoralize her,” Kretchmar said of the alleged actions by the case worker. “It’s an abuse of that position.”
Kretchmar and Rider also said that the Missouri Department of Social Services conducted their own investigation and background checks into Rider and her family.
“They are not in agreement with any of this. They have written up [a] report, saying they recommend Isaiah be returned to me at home,” Rider told TheBlaze.
The Missouri department did not return TheBlaze’s request for confirmation or comment regarding their own investigation.
Next month, a judge will begin hearing the reports of witnesses brought in on behalf of Rider and a case made by Illinois DCFS. A date is already set for another hearing in October, Kretchmar said, because it will likely take that much time to continue going through all the information in court.
A document obtained by TheBlaze has DCFS asking that Rider comply with a mental health assessment, any therapy that might be recommended and a parenting assessment. The document ultimately states that DCFS’s ultimate goal is for Isaiah to return home.