Local Woman Advocates for Custody of Daughter, Ensuring Equality in Parental Rights for Black Parents

Mocobizscene- Aziyrah Peters and the administrators at the Hospital for Sick Children Pediatric Center in Northeast have been in disagreement for months regarding the medical care provided to her daughter, Ramyah Peters, for pulmonary hypertension.

Ever since Ramyah was born and diagnosed with the condition, her mother, Peters, has rejected traditional treatments. Instead, she has embraced homoeopathic medicine, a form of treatment that relies on natural and holistic remedies not acknowledged by the medical establishment.

Although doctors advised against it, Peters managed to remove Ramyah from the oxygenation machine. However, her custody of Ramyah was lost when she tried to stop the doctors from administering ambrisentan, an oral medication that can cause facial swelling, difficulty breathing, and fatigue.

Peters has a hearing scheduled with the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) in April, which happens to be around Ramyah’s second birthday. While waiting for the hearing, she diligently attended childcare classes as required by CFSA. Peters had already started this process before losing custody back in December.

“It has been a very stressful time for my family. The hospital has not been understanding,” Peters expressed. “I strongly opposed putting Ramyah on the medication, but they insisted it was the only option available.”

“They don’t care,” Peters expressed, frustration evident in his voice. “It feels like they’re bullying me and coercing me into doing things their way. They even went as far as contacting CFSA on me. It’s disheartening to see that they’re not providing the support I need.”

A Snow Day Protest in Front of a Medical Center 

On the morning of January 16, while District sidewalks and streets were being cleared of snow by shovels and plows, Peters and a group of individuals gathered on the steps of the Hospital for Sick Children Pediatric Center to hold a protest.

Peters, in an interview with The Informer, revealed that she took the initiative to orchestrate an act of civil disobedience after discovering that hospital administrators had arranged a visit between Ramyah and a same-sex couple from Russia. According to Peters, this couple was in the process of becoming foster parents, while she was still negotiating custody with the CFSA.

Standing outside the Hospital for Sick Children Pediatric Center, Peters later expressed her joy upon learning from hospital officials that the foster parents would no longer be visiting the facility. This was seen as a triumphant outcome.

At that point, she and a group of local mothers, D.C. Council member Trayon White (D-Ward 8), and representatives of the ADS Collective and Parent Watch stood in front of the Hospital for Sick Children Pediatric Center, holding signs.

The signs displayed a variety of messages, ranging from photographs of Ramyah with her birth parents to slogans like “Stop CPS from Medical Kidnapping” and “Medical Kidnapping: A Threat to the Black Family in America Today.” There was even a sign that read “Support Masculine Heterosexual Black Men.”

When Peters saw Ramyah that morning, she described her baby girl as healthy and full of life. She mentioned that Ramyah has always been this way, despite doctors’ claims that she was too sick to leave the hospital and that her condition was life-threatening at one point.

According to Peters, Ramyah was put on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) immediately after birth. ECMO involves surgically connecting a person to a cardiac and respiratory support machine. Despite doctors’ advice against it, Peters managed to have the ECMO removed.

Peters Fights for Respect of Black Families and Religious Beliefs 

Peters faced a similar struggle regarding Ramyah’s prescription medication, as she was worried about its impact on Ramyah’s reproductive organs and, ultimately, her future. In her ongoing custody battle for Ramyah, Peters aims to advocate for the preservation of the Black family.

As a practicing Muslim residing in Washington, D.C., Peters emphasizes the misconception that arises when individuals assume someone is uneducated. He believes these assumptions fail to acknowledge the power of a united community.

In 2021, Catholic Social Services (CSS), an adoption agency based in Philadelphia, received unanimous support from the Supreme Court. The agency, by its religious beliefs, declined to collaborate with same-sex foster parents.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in the majority opinion, stated that the city of Philadelphia’s denial of an exemption to CSS from the local nondiscrimination policy violated the free exercise clause of the First Amendment. This clause is intended to safeguard religious practices.

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito expressed his dismay when Chief Justice Roberts chose not to challenge a 1990 precedent, Employment Division v. Smith, which permitted Philadelphia to deny CSS’ exemption from the nondiscrimination policy. In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts, aligning with certain anti-LGBTQ organizations, stated that the “narrow” reasoning behind his decision would only result in temporary effects.

In recent years, there has been a growing movement advocating for parental rights, which encompasses individuals from different religious affiliations. These individuals have been actively working to ensure that schools seek parental consent before educating students about LGBTQ topics.

Peters is determined to fight for the rights of birth mothers and fathers to keep custody of their children.

On January 16, Peters received support from various individuals, including Ward 8 Council member White and Jenise “Jo” Patterson from Parent Watch. They highlighted the importance of countering government control over people’s lives, as emphasized by Jen Gilbert from the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, as reported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

“The system is making decisions on behalf of our parents and our community,” White expressed. “We possess greater intelligence than they give us credit for, and united, we can emerge victorious in the battle against the attack on our children. It is imperative that we exert every effort to ensure Ramyah receives the appropriate care and reunites with her family.”

Patterson went a step further in the conversation by advocating for the implementation of laws that safeguard parents who encounter obstacles similar to those experienced by Peters.

Patterson confidently asserts that Ramyah’s presence is undeniable, despite the initial intention to terminate her life support. He questions the inability of institutions to acknowledge the significance of empathy and compassion, urging them to recognize the reality of the situation. Patterson also emphasizes the need to refrain from subjecting families to further distress by having social workers act against their best interests.

A Mother with Similar Experiences Speaks 

Child neglect, according to D.C. law, refers to the failure of a parent to provide a child with necessities such as food, shelter, supervision, education, or medical care. The Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA) is obligated to investigate any reports of suspected child abuse or neglect thoroughly.

When CFSA’s Child Protective Services receives a report, a social worker is dispatched to investigate. This investigation involves interviewing the parents, all the children in the household, and any other relevant parties.

The CFSA determines the appropriate course of action based on the social worker’s investigation results.

The CFSA spokesperson did not provide a comment on Peters’ case. However, they did mention that in custody cases, the agency collaborates with parents to develop a case plan that focuses on addressing the specific behavior issue that led to allegations of abuse and neglect.

According to the CFSA spokesperson, collaboration entails seeking services that effectively address the identified issues. It is important to note that while the court ultimately decides whether a child can return home, both the child and parent are provided with legal representation.

Children’s National Medical Center, the partner entity of the Hospital for Sick Children Pediatric Center, declined to comment on Ramyah’s condition, citing patient privacy. They also did not provide any information about the options parents have for exploring homoeopathic treatment or the details of the Russian couple’s planned visit.

Titania L. Best, a mother of three, has personal experience with the dangers of interacting with CFSA. Over 30 years ago, Best found herself under the custody of the state after her mother’s outburst, which was prompted by Best’s incessant crying as a baby, led to a complaint from a neighbour.

Best, who is now 33 years old, shared that the cycle persisted when she had a confrontation with CFSA a few years ago. According to The Informer, she revealed that she came close to having her children taken away by the system while they were investigating the domestic violence she was enduring.

According to Best, CFSA had a chance to assist a frightened and struggling parent by offering housing and resources. However, they resorted to what she referred to as drastic actions.

According to Best, a Northwest resident, it is crucial to support parents by providing them with the necessary resources. Best emphasizes that removing a child from their home should not be considered before offering adequate support. Best shares their experience with CFSA, stating that instead of helping them access services for mental well-being, CFSA prioritized finding a next of kin and sought solutions that aligned with their own beliefs and the existing system.

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MBS Staff
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