Testimony on October 26, 2001
Vickie L. Burris
P.O. Box 256
Belle Plaine, KS 67013
On Friday, October 26, 2001 Ms. Burris traveled to Topeka, Kansas to the State Capital Building and testified before a committee which comprised of two members from the State Legislative Research Department, four members of the State House of Representatives and four members of the State Senate. Copy of her Testimony.
Good morning. My name is Vickie Burris. I am a lifelong resident of Kansas. My home since January 1987 nearly 15 years ago is in Belle Plaine, Kansas. I have been an employee of Raytheon Aircraft first known as Beech Aircraft for over 23 years. I am a single mother of three children.
I am here today in regards to my daughter who is now 16 years of age. I began having difficulties with my daughter in December 1999. My daughter had always been a student in good standing in the Belle Plaine School District. She was a cheerleader at Belle Plaine for 4 years. Her behavior and personality had suffered a sudden, drastic change. I contacted my insurance company to see where I could obtain services to help my daughter. My insurance company sent us to Charter Hospital in Wichita, KS on January 5, 2000. My daughter was evaluated and diagnosed as severely depressed and oppositional. She was admitted.
On January 11, 2000 my insurance company contacted me due to problems with Charter Hospital overdosing my daughter without authorization to give the drugs. My daughter was transported by ambulance from Charter Hospital to Via Christi St. Joseph Hospital in Wichita, KS. It was then determined that my daughter was in need of long term residential care. While trying to get that type of placement my daughter attempted suicide while in the hospital.
My daughter was moved to Larned State Hospital on February 10, 2000. Within 30 days the staff at this hospital beat, drugged and restrained my daughter. Upon notification of this incident I removed her from this hospital and transported her back to Wichita, KS to Wesley Hospital for emergency treatment. I filed criminal charges with the Wichita Police Department against Larned State Hospital and its workers. I took my daughter back to my home upon her release from Wesley Hospital. Within 48 hours my daughter received a visit from some of her peers in the community which was followed by a phone call from another undesirable peer. She became distraught and asked me if she was going to have to go back to school in Belle Plaine. I told her that school plans had not been made at this point and that we would discuss this after our appointments with our family doctor and the Sumner Mental Health Center. These appointments were scheduled for the following day. My daughter became extremely agitated and ran out of our home. My neighbors and I attempted to follow her and bring her back home. We were unsuccessful in locating her. I came back home and called the emergency phone number for Sumner Mental Health Center. They contacted the Belle Plaine Police Department who eventually picked my daughter up. She was found when she came back to my house within the hour.
The Belle Plaine Police Department transported her back to Wichita, KS to ComCare who evaluated her and transported her back to Via Christi St. Joseph. Again I started my endeavor to find placement and help for my daughter. On April 5, 2000 I called a meeting at Via Christi St. Joseph. Those invited and attending were Dr. Mukhtar Shah, Joyce Auckofer, Director of Nursing for Via Christi, St. Joseph, Terri Westfall, Via Christi, St. Joseph, Kris Wilson, Via Christi, St. Joseph, Larry Roth, Sumner Mental Health Center, Michelle Davis, Social Worker, Wellington SRS, Eloise Reeves, President of NAMI CAN, Nancy Strickland and myself. I presented the attendees with a letter to Dr. Shah and the staff at Via Christi in regards to my daughter’s care, medications and contact with a particular nurse Pamela Crocker who seems to have followed my daughter from Charter Hospital. I also presented these same individuals with a copy of my concerns, issues and problems regarding my daughter and her current and ongoing care. At the conclusion of this meeting I was assured by Michelle Davis of SRS and Larry Roth of Sumner Mental Health that they would work together to provide the needed services for my daughter. These services were to be in the form of SED Waivers and Wrap Around Processes that were to be made available without my child being taken into SRS custody. I made sure that there was no mistake about this. Michelle Davis went so far as to add that her supervisor Jonell Ala and the Sumner County Attorney had committed to providing my daughter any and all help needed without a Child in Need of Care petition. Their reasons for this are as follows:
On April 24, 2000 I was notified by Pamela Crocker, the Via Christi St. Joseph nurse that my daughter had been taken into the State of Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services Custody as a Child in Need of Care. Apparently my insurance company ceased paying for her hospital care due to the fact that her doctor, Dr. Mukhtar Shah, failed to provide proper information to the insurance company. In essence my daughter was taken from me like a thief in the night. The State of Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services claimed that they had a right to take her due to financial reasons. Several individuals have informed me that this is illegal. According to Kansas Law the SRS can not take a child away from their parents for financial reasons. Why was this done?
My daughter was then transferred from Via Christi St. Joseph to PrairieView Hospital in Newton, KS. While in PrairieView, Michelle Davis, Wellington SRS and Lena Grill, Youthville without my knowledge approved numerous off-site lengthy visitation and unlimited contact between my daughter and Pamela Crocker, the nurse who had followed my daughter from Charter Hospital to Via Christi St. Joseph. These visits were approved by SRS and Youthville case workers with the knowledge that I had actions pending against this individual in regards to my daughter. Gail Unruh-Revell, Therapist at PrairieView, stopped these visits when my daughter returned from one of these visits with a new wardrobe and a sapphire/diamond ring. Ms. Revell then brought this situation to my attention. I contacted Detective T. Walton of the Newton Police Department and filed a complaint against Pamela Crocker and her actions with my minor child. Detective T. Walton seized these items into evidence. When my daughter was informed that there would be no more contact with Pamela Crocker my daughter “cheeked her meds” for one week and ingested them along with nail polish in a nearly successful suicide attempt. I was not notified of my daughter’s suicide attempt or hospitalization for 3 days. My daughter was returned to PrairieView to the hospital side and placed in a locked bare room without even a bed or clothing for 21 days. She was fed her meals on a tray on the floor as one would feed an animal. Upon my knowledge of this suicide attempt I contacted her father and we proceeded immediately to PrairieView to check on our daughter’s welfare. We were denied even making visual confirmation that she was alive or even in the facility. During my daughter’s 4 month stay at PrairieView I was allowed one supervised visit with my daughter. Peg Burkholder, PrairieView Children’s Unit kept her arms firmly wrapped completely around my daughter during this visit so that my mother, myself and my friend Nancy Strickland could not make any form of contact with my daughter.
In August 2000 my daughter was transferred from PrairieView to a foster home outside of Argonia, KS. It took Linda Street, case worker at The Saint Francis Academy 3 days to notify me of this move. While in this foster home my daughter suffered a severe asthma attack and was taken to a hospital after being seen by an ambulance crew. I was not notified of this medical situation until 3 days after the fact. I am still not aware of what hospital she was taken to. This placement lasted approximately 30 days. Linda Street the caseworker informed me that my daughter had been moved to a shelter in Winfield, KS. The caseworker also stated that if she had known the things she knew now the family would never have been considered for foster care placement. Linda Street also assured me that they would never be foster parents again. I have still not been provided the details behind these statements.
From the shelter in Winfield, KS my daughter was placed at the Eastridge Facility in Winfield, KS. It is difficult for me to identify my daughter’s exact length of stay due to no notification upon arrival or departure from this facility. It appears to have been a 7 month stay. During my daughter’s stay at Eastridge I was initially allowed no contact.
In November 2000 my daughter’s paternal grandfather suddenly passed away. I contacted Janet Slanker in regards to this death. I asked for permission for myself and paternal family members to visit my daughter and inform her of her grandfather’s death. I was told by the caseworker Janet Slanker that under no circumstances could I or the grandmother see my daughter and that the 3 aunts would need to flip a coin and decide which one of them would be allowed to visit and notify.
Due to the fact that my daughter was not allowed to make contact with myself or any other family members while at Eastridge. My daughter went through the Winfield High School counselor regarding her personal abuse at Eastridge. Winfield High School notified Winfield SRS and charges were filed. I do not know the outcome of these charges. Wellington SRS and The Saint Francis Academy still deny knowledge of these events.
While at the Eastridge facility I received insurance information that reflected several different doctors prescribing my daughter an overwhelming amount of different drugs for a 21 day period. These drugs were received from various doctors, medical facilities and pharmacies in different surrounding towns. Prior to a court hearing shortly after receiving this information my attorney and I approached this subject with Janet Slanker and Karen Golle of The Saint Francis Academy and Leslyn Allen-Thompson of the Wellington SRS. When asked why my daughter was receiving so many drugs. Janet Slanker stated that my daughter was only taking 2 drugs and the reason there were so many drugs on the list is because there were other children at the Eastridge facility who did not have the benefit of insurance.
Approximately in April 2001 my daughter was moved from Eastridge to an anonymous foster home. I was not notified of this move until long after the fact. The Saint Francis Academy and Wellington SRS case workers still refuse to provide me with information regarding my daughter’s actual whereabouts.
In a SRS/The Saint Francis Academy report to the court for the August 27, 2001 court hearing it is recorded that my daughter became drunk at the foster home while the foster parents were away for the weekend. This prompted yet another move for my daughter to a temporary foster home and then on to another foster home. I have been told that she is placed in the El Dorado area and another time I have been told that she is in the Potwin area however her actual location still remains undisclosed to me. Earlier this year I and my ex-husband filed a motion with the court for an Immediate Return of Custody regarding my daughter pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C.1901 et. seq. My intent was to regain custody of my daughter and place her with her paternal aunt in Evergreen, Colorado. This would enable her to get necessary mental health treatment for an Indian child in Denver, Colorado and still be living with family.
On August 27, 2001 Jonell Ala reported to the court that the paternal aunt’s home study had been completed and processed through Inter-State Compact and was not approved. I requested an evidentiary hearing in regards to this due to conflicting information being provided to the court. The report that Jonell was reading from that had been provided to Judge Graber reflected conflicting information. The paternal aunt had been approved for placement of my daughter. My request for evidentiary hearing has not been acknowledged.
My daughter is Navajo, she is registered on the Navajo Roll and does have a Certificate of Indian Blood. The Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 U.S.C. 1901, et. seq. was never even considered or any part of it acknowledged in this case. The SRS, Youthville and The Saint Francis Academy informed me that they were tired of hearing about it. At one point I again asked the question “How can you do this to my child when she is a registered Indian?” The social worker, Jonell Ala responded with a shrug and asked, “Do you really think the Indians want her?” I have provided a copy of the Indian Child Welfare Act as an attachment to my written testimony which I submitted prior to speaking today. My hope is that you will utilize this copy that I have provided and investigate this case thoroughly, objectively, honestly and fairly. In the past I have provided copies to the SRS social workers involved in my daughter’s case. What prompted me to take this action was Jonell Ala telling me during one of our meetings that she had never seen a copy.
While in the care of the State of Kansas my daughter has attempted suicide once again, she has been given numerous different psychotropic drugs at one time thus creating a state of what appears to be chemical restraint. She has been further abused physically, mentally and emotionally by the State of Kansas and the workers at the facilities she has been placed. I and the rest of the family have been denied contact with my daughter many times. There have been several instances of criminal charges being filed against several individuals who have abused my daughter while in the custody of the State of Kansas.
I initially contacted SRS to obtain financial assistance to enable me to provide my daughter with Long Term Care that was deemed necessary by her attending psychiatrist. Shortly after this initial contact SRS by seizing my daughter has violated numerous State and Federal laws. Over an 18 month period SRS has placed my daughter in a psychiatric institution, an adolescent care facility, numerous foster homes and shelters. While SRS claims that reintegration with the family is the goal it could be nothing further from the truth. I feel my daughter has been kidnapped and made victim of the rawest forms of abuse in the hands of the SRS and its private agencies. In addition the family has been victimized and abused as well. My daughter should have NEVER been taken into SRS custody. Although I have diligently tried to regain custody of my daughter over the past 18 months my requests have fallen upon deaf ears. Every child must have access to community-based, culturally-appropriate services, which help them grow up safe, healthy and spiritually strong - free from abuse, neglect, sexual exploitation and the damaging effects of substance abuse.
A solution? How could I even possibly provide you with a solution for a system complete with agencies that feel quite confident in continually abusing families and defying the laws? I do feel that there should be an external quality control process that would be applied to each and every individual case that would ensure that children like mine don’t fall into the hands of the SRS and their private agencies making them victims to the Gestapo tactics being utilized. As far as a solution for my family I would request a thorough, external, unbiased investigation into the actions of the SRS agency and its private agencies with this committee’s commitment to a fair and prompt resolution.
Thank you for this opportunity you have provided me today. Attached to my written testimony I have provided a timeline of events, which represents a brief overview of the past 18 months. I will appreciate your cooperation in this matter. Please feel free to contact me if you should require any further information or documentation in regards to my situation.
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