US court returns five-month-old baby to Russian couple in custody case
Five-month-old Sammy Nikolaev has been in protective custody since April 24 when police and Child Protective Services (CPS) removed him from his parents after the family had a dispute with the baby’s doctors and took him from a hospital without proper discharge.
The CPS officials claimed they had removed the boy due to "severe neglect."
“After five hours of deliberation and analysis of factual information presented by both sides, the judge decided to dismiss all charges against the parents,” Evgeny Avdoshin, Consul at Consulate General of Russia in San Francisco, told RIA Novosti.
“In line with the verdict, the baby will remain with his parents,” Avdoshin said.
The Russian diplomat added that the parental rights of Alexander Nikolaev, who is a Russian citizen, have been fully respected during the hearings of the case in the US court.
The case attracted wide public and media attention both in the United States and in Russia, stirring criticism of unreasonably harsh treatment of the Russian couple by CPS and police.
Voice of Russia, RIA
A court in Sacramento, California is hearing today a case of young Russian couple, whose five-months-old baby was taken away by local authorities and the police last week.
Anna and Alex Nikolayev took their child to the Sacramento’s Sutter Memorial hospital, with flu symptoms. They were not satisfied with treatment, which doctors had given to their baby and decided to have a second opinion in Kaiser Medical Center. The doctor stated that he didn’t have any concerns for the safety of the child at home with his parents. Just one day later, police showed up at the Nikolayevs’ place with Child Protective Services (CPS) representatives, to take their baby away.
For more on the story I’m joined on the phone by VR correspondent Olga Kuzmina who is on site.
- Many details are quite unclear in this situation. First of all, why was the couple not satisfied with the treatment of the first hospital? What went wrong?
- What happened was the parents took the child to the hospital as they said to get him checked up for flu symptoms. Now the child has a pre-existing heart condition for which he receives regular check-ups every 2-3 weeks, and according to the mother when they took him first to the hospital, a nurse there began to administer antibiotics to the child without prior doctor’s approval. When the doctor came in himself he said that the child will need immediate heart surgery. And the mother said that up until this time they had received no indication from other doctors that their child was in imminent danger, they said the child was happy and healthy and eating normally. So, they took the baby without a proper discharge to receive a second opinion.
- So, they went for the conclusions of a second doctor. How different were the conclusions of the second doctor?
- Apparently the second doctor has a completely opposite conclusion. He said that the child was fine to go home with the parents, he released a child with them and reportedly he also sent a note with them stating that the child was fine to go home which they then showed to police when they came to their house.
- Now who are the two doctors that worked with the baby before? Who observed his condition before or it was the first time in both cases?
- I don’t have information on which doctors are responsible for the regular checkups with the child but according to reports they have a hospital that they visit every 2-3 weeks, the child gets a checkup, they monitor his progress on his heart murmur and apparently they had noticed a kind of dangerous condition before this doctor at Sutter Memorial Hospital suddenly told them that the child needs immediate surgery.
- As I understand, they visited the second doctor, he said everything was ok, they got back to their place. What was actually the official reason for the child protective services to suddenly show up at Nikolayev’s place and take their baby away?
- Apparently, CPS did not give an official reason for taking the child, they only said that they took him because of severe neglect which means apparently that the parents were denying the child treatment. According to the parents the police showed up without any kind of warrant and some say there was an altercation with the father, after which they forcibly took the child away. And US officials have so far refused to comment due to the privacy issues.
- Have you heard any analysts, experts, doctors, anyone commenting on the issues? Do you have any versions why the authorities behave like that?
- So far there has not been much commentary on the issue as it still a fairly fresh development. The only think that really sparks my interest was that the parents were speaking on Russia Today news earlier today and they said that they opened a Facebook page, a support page which was subsequently blocked and they opened a second page to receive support and now it was shut down as well. So, they stated that they think that maybe the government is involved in this, although there is no other reason to believe that at this time.
- If something similar happened to an American family for instance, first of all, is that imaginable? Can you imagine something like that happen to an American family? And secondly, would that be sort of a scandal if something like that happened, or similar cases occur from time to time?
- It would be a scandal, it can happen to any family in the United States as the child protective services work in the interest of the child and if they believe that the child is being neglected in some way, they will cease it although I am not really aware of the legal procedure to do this but they do have to have some kind of substantial reason to believe that the child is being abused or neglected. This would be a pre-scandal case if the child was just taken without any official cause no matter what the child’s family originates from.
Alex and Anna Nikolayev, a Russian couple residing in Sacramento, California, are going to court seeking the return of their baby boy, who has been seized by US custody officials. The trial is scheduled for April 29.
Alex is a Russian passport holder, while his wife is a US citizen. Five-month-old Sammy has no citizenship yet, so Russian diplomats will attend the trial, said Russian children's rights ombudsman, Pavel Astakhov.
The local News 10 channel probed the case and claimed that the couple could have been involuntarily involved in a conflict of interest between two local clinics as well as fallen victim to an error of the custody authorities.
A week ago, the family brought their kid for a routine flu checkup to Sutter Memorial clinic whose doctors unexpectedly claimed that the child needed urgent heart surgery.
Sammy’s parents said they had known about his heart murmur since he was born, and the child was seeing a cardiologist every two weeks but no surgery had ever been discussed. So the parents took the boy to a different clinic, Kaiser Permanente, for the second opinion which didn’t please Sutter Memorial cardiologists at all.
So the next day, the local Child Protective Services came to Nikolaev’s house accompanied by police and took the boy from his parents placing him in the care of Sutter Memorial. News 10 wondered what was the reason for the move and why the Protective Services thought the boy was in danger.
Sammy has been in hospital since late April 24 and Anna and Alex are allowed to see him three times a day.
Anna said that the custody officials claimed the boy was neglected.
The family’s lawyer Joe Weinberger requested papers or grounds for the move from the custody services but was denied this information. The attorney believes the Child Protective Services made a big mistake and are now trying to put the blame on the innocent parents while the kid was the one who really suffered.
The lawyer is 100% sure that he will be able to prove the absurdity of the move and manage to bring the boy back home.
A Russian-born US couple, the Anna and Alex Nikolaev, whose five-month old son Sammy has been taken away from them by the local guardianship and custodianship agency, do hope that they will get their boy back soon.
Their lawyers believe this may happen as early as later today. Russian diplomats have interfered in the situation.
The Russian Children’s Ombudsman points out on his website that the boy was formally taken away due to a story that occurred some two weeks ago, when the Nikolayevs took their son to a Sacramento hospital fearing he had come down with the flu.
But the medical workers said the boy needed heart surgery. To make sure, the parents sought medical consultations elsewhere. These other doctors assured them that the boy was in prefect order.
The Nikolayevs then took their son home, but failed to fill in the discharge form properly. The hospital doctors complained to the guardianship agency about poor parental care, so police turned up at the Nikolayevs’ and took the boy away.
Voice of Russia, NTV
The Consulate General of the Russian Federation in San Francisco, California was notified that the United States had seized a 5 month old baby from parents Anna and Alex Nikolaev, who are reported to be from Russia.
Russian vice-consul Igor Shaktarol said that in the near future the consulate would send a formal request for an explanation to the social services of the State of California.
Police and child protective services in Sacramento, California seized the child after the couple decided that the medical assistance they were receiving at a local hospital was unskilled and inadequate and transferred the baby to another hospital by themselves.
Voice of Russia,