please take me home.
April 16, 2010 5:23 PM   Subscribe

Noah Kirkman was stopped by the police while riding a bicycle without his helmet... He then spent the next two years trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare... trying to go home. The Kirkman family has been locked in Kafkaesque bureaucratic limbo since a misunderstanding ruined an idyllic summer vacation in small-town Oregon in 2008. posted by infinite intimation (23 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is about the scariest thing I can imagine. I think I'll go look for more videos of kittens playing with iPads.
posted by digitalprimate at 5:27 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]

oh lord. so messed up.
posted by GuyZero at 5:28 PM on April 16, 2010

Someone I know had a similar experience.
Her daughter's (non custodial father) father brought their daughter to the US without the mother's permission. Despite this clearly being illegal, US courts were unwilling to return her daughter to Australia, and the daughter has lived in the US ever since.
posted by compound eye at 5:40 PM on April 16, 2010

Why does it seem like all of these "judicial nightmare" stories always have one asshole judge who doesn't give a shit about common sense. Isn't there any kind of oversight for this kind of thing?
posted by amethysts at 5:44 PM on April 16, 2010 [6 favorites]

The long nose of the law...
posted by dancestoblue at 5:47 PM on April 16, 2010

I like how the mother managed to have the last say in the comment section of the first link, before it was closed down.
posted by edgeways at 5:53 PM on April 16, 2010

They also have the common denominator of "evil drugs"-- as if it's not more evil to take a child away from the only mother he's ever known and put him in some random family because, OMG, marijuana, evil!!!!

If the state had the power to put adults with a new spouse in a different country against their will because that spouse might be alcoholic or addicted, people would suddenly understand that this is profoundly wrong. We get that people's spouses aren't interchangeable but suddenly with kids, we think that if the mother might possibly use drugs-- even if there's absolutely no evidence of physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect-- it's "better" to swap him out to some strangers. WTF?
posted by Maias at 5:59 PM on April 16, 2010 [2 favorites]



But. We do know that we don't know everything. We can't the judge and Family Services people can't say anything at all. The court one and only concern in child cases is supposed to be 'the best interest of the child', and I think, they usually do have reasonably good intentions.

But also they don't like to let go of something once they have their hands on it. And then they don't see that they are the only ones not act in the best interest.

posted by Some1 at 5:59 PM on April 16, 2010

What's hard to understand in a case like this is the delay. One thing seems obvious: That an extended process to determine where the boy should be, is in nobody's interest, least of all the child's. I can understand (and disagree with) the judge saying that the mother is unfit to care for the child, so he should stay in foster care, or go to the stepfather and not leave the country, or whatever. What I can't figure out is leaving everything hanging like this. If a judge's decision is all that required, what's holding him up?
posted by fatbird at 6:06 PM on April 16, 2010

fucking hell.
posted by Lutoslawski at 6:32 PM on April 16, 2010

What's holding the judge up? Who knows... Where is the child's lawyer? Has the child's lawyer taken any action to get the hearing moved up? If family has been approved by authorities on both sides of the border, why isn't Child Protective Services' lawyer trying to take action to get the hearing moved up?

What I can tell you is that CPS cannot release the child until the judge orders the child released even though the family has been approved and it sounds like the mother has completed her court mandated foster care plan.
posted by onhazier at 6:34 PM on April 16, 2010

a misunderstanding ruined an idyllic summer vacation in small-town Oregon
This is pretty much the plot of First Blood (except Washington state instead of Oregon).

posted by kirkaracha at 7:02 PM on April 16, 2010

The Kirkman family has been locked in Kafkaesque bureaucratic limbo since a...

Now, are you referring to Kafka's literary work The Trial or his literal work as a bureaucrat?
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 7:24 PM on April 16, 2010

I feel like there's a lot of information missing here. The comment section on that first link has several really important questions that need to be answered -- i.e. why the US has this kind of power over a Canadian kid, and why there haven't been appeals, etc.
posted by spiderskull at 7:52 PM on April 16, 2010

I like how the mother managed to have the last say in the comment section of the first link, before it was closed down.
posted by edgeways at 5:53 PM on April 16 [+] [!]

I like how the mother says that she sent Noah to Oregon in the comment while the article states that she took Noah to visit his stepdad. I also like how no one seems to have spoken to the stepfather about this case. There is too much left out of the story and too many conflicting reports for me to believe this actually happened. But something like this did happen almost exactly ten years ago in the battle over the custody of Elian Gonzalez .

Here are a few other articles I found that discuss the Kirkman case:

Foster Boy Mired in Red Tape

Complicated Custody Case Crosses Borders

Repatriation Disputes Affected by Lack of a Treaty

US Judge Expected to Rule on Return of Boy
posted by inconsequentialist at 8:33 PM on April 16, 2010

From inconsequentialist's third link:
Once a local court steps in and asserts its legal powers over the child, that most likely trumps many international rules, she said.

This is part of the problem. American lawyers know so little about international law that they think states and localities are not bound by America's commitments with respect to international instruments.

America's internal legal defects are America's problem. No one living within the borders of the USA can or should expect other countries to care that Americans can't meet their commitments under international law because of local or state statutes.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:12 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I like how the mother says that she sent Noah to Oregon in the comment while the article states that she took Noah to visit his stepdad.

According to the local paper, she took the kid down to Oregon for a vacation, then left him with his "stepfather" for the summer

The "stepfather" is not a legal guardian so, after finding the boy wandering and returning the him home several times, the police called DHS.
posted by madajb at 10:57 PM on April 16, 2010

1adam12, that's a really strange reading of the case. No international agreement requires what you seem to think it does, short-circuiting a case because it crosses borders. There is no "full faith and credit" clause between the US and Canada.

I really feel there are missing pieces here and the mother, while sincere in her desires, does not come off looking particularly unassailable. That is, the court obviously had concerns and somehow these have failed to be met despite obvious routes to resolution that she could take if things were as ready to conclude as she claims.

While Oregon's system far outstrips the interest that most Wisconsin counties would take in a similar case -- around here you have to, I dunno, actively injure a child before this would come to a court let alone foster care -- I would tend to believe they would not keep a child in the foster care system merely to selfishly retain jurisdiction. There must be something unaddressed, and likely confidential. It may be a stretch and I'm reluctant to go here, but the mother may be taking advantage of an ability to say whatever she likes, while the officers of the court are bound by law to disclose as little as possible.
posted by dhartung at 11:00 PM on April 16, 2010

Bathtub Bobsled: "The Kirkman family has been locked in Kafkaesque bureaucratic limbo since a...

Now, are you referring to Kafka's literary work The Trial or his literal work as a bureaucrat?

That's Kafkaesque.
posted by stbalbach at 11:04 PM on April 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Better quality CNN version of the CNN clip. She answers the questions asked in the 'comments' at CBC (there is a video at the top of the CBC page also).

The Oregon Child Services group's press release is read on the CNN clip also, to get an idea of what they are saying (not much, as per law).

Calgary Conservative MP Rob Anders said he has volunteered to escort the child back to Canada if asked and has discussed the return with people from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office. But he said he’s not willing to lean on a U.S. judge to make a decision, nor ask his counterparts south of the border to do so.

“I’m not sure at this stage whether Canadian politicians or American politicians really have much sway over the judge,” he said.

“It’s kind of his call, and we’re just hoping he understands that everybody is on-side.”

No one from the Oregon child welfare agency was available to comment on the case Friday, but officials have previously said the Canadian and U.S. governments would work together to assist the Kirkman family.

Ilisa Rooke-Ley, Noah’s Oregon lawyer, said the judge has indicated he has jurisdiction over Noah and has the right to keep him in the U.S. until he feels it’s safe and in his best interests to go home.

“Family members are always considered before anybody else, and we’re hoping that will be the quickest solution, that Noah can go home to grandma and grandpa ...,” she said.

Kirkman said she thinks the judge might be hung up on her personal beliefs. She has edited marijuana-related magazines and calls herself an anti-prohibition activist. She also has a criminal record for growing medicinal marijuana for her husband, a crime for which she was sentenced to 10 hours of community service.

She said she took Noah into the U.S. to be with her stepfather, passing through the border easily, but was refused entry the last time she attempted to visit, despite letters from the state child welfare agency and the governor.

From the Judges biography
on the local judiciary website..

He served as Presiding Judge of the Circuit Court from 1996 to 2000, and currently sits as the Juvenile Court judge hearing all juvenile delinquency and dependency cases. In Juvenile Court he created the state's first juvenile drug court.

He ordered her to complete psychiatric assessments, home studies and parenting classes — which she did.

Lisa Kirkman seems to be a vocal advocate of reform for Drug Education Programs, she advocates treating drug addiction medically, rather than with police/enforcement techniques... from this clip, she also opposes the "police as educators" role that police have assumed in the last 30 years.

The child was, and still is receiving (working and achieving) "A" grades.
Do we care about someone having life sustaining food, or love, care and compassion? - and what is it that people need to live life well?

Via Via
Hon. Dan McTeague (Pickering—Scarborough East, Lib.)
For two years, Noah has been bounced back and forth between several foster parents and schools, yet this outrageous judicial detention of a Canadian citizen continues.
posted by infinite intimation at 11:38 PM on April 16, 2010

How could this go on for two years? Who dropped the ball, or who decided that, you know what, I'll just get to that case tomorrow? Meanwhile, how many actual cases of neglect or child endangerment aren't being focused on because of all the work this fracas has caused? Gah. As the mom mentioned in the comments under the article, members of the police have told her they regret involving Child Services. Poor kid.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:38 AM on April 17, 2010

Why is an American Judge allowed to legislate their morality on a foreign person?

There is no justifiable reason not to "trust" Canada to treat it's own citizens with the utmost regard for life liberty and security of the person (It's in their constitution act; yep, just inside the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, three inches below 'legal rights', it's called section 7 [please read it Judge Kip Leonard])... So why is someone being held away from their home country, for visiting without being able to perfectly clearly describe his own "legal/immigration/guardianship" in a perfect manner.

This seems to be relevant to this case.
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty developed by the Hague Conference on Private International Law that provides an expeditious method to return a child taken from one member nation to another. Proceedings on the Convention concluded 25 October 1980 and the Convention entered into force between the signatory nations on 1 December 1983. The Convention was drafted to “insure the prompt return of children who have been abducted from their country of habitual residence or wrongfully retained in a contracting state not their country of habitual residence.”
Why will he not send the child to Canada's Child Services...

As inconsequentialist, not of no consequence noted, as President Clinton says here... he doesn't regret his decision involving Elian Gonzales at all.

This is from the "local paper" link above.
"Last spring, Leonard ordered Lisa Kirkman to undergo a psychological evaluation. She saw a Calgary psychologist who recommended that she undergo dialectic behavioral therapy, or DBT, to treat borderline personality disorder. Court records say Kirkman has not done that. Kirkman said it would cost $200 an hour and must be undergone for a year, which would cost $20,000. DHS offered to pay for half, she said. But she cannot afford $10,000, either, she said."
This is relevant, this rises outside of normal "judicial purview", and surely this woman is doing no "worse" by 'talking' to the public than forcing this sort of "test" on someone; she is countering insinuations and insidious accusations with her public responses after two years of this hounding and hunting. $20 000, $10 000… this much money is unreasonable… this is a LOT of money. And seriously? A mother who's child is being held in another country for this long? Does anyone think that they could be a mother in this situation and "pass" such a "test" for "emotionality"?

I felt like I was watching "the changeling" again while I was reading the "local paper" link. -sick.

For those who are talking about Laws, Lawyers, Legalities... this is something that is connected to one of the biggest issues of the day for Canada. The Supreme Court just made a ruling in a related case, and the Federal Government has held it's line, and is maintaining their newly created policy of officially not assisting some people who face legal problems abroad.
It's not a far step to see why he and his government maybe comfortable leaving certain Canadians to fight for themselves abroad, effectively creating a two-tiered citizenship that discriminates against racialized Canadians. Examples abound: from Abousfian Abdelrazik, stranded for six years in Sudan, to Bashir Makhtal who was picked up in Kenya and sent to his native Ethiopia where he faces life in prison for allegedly belonging to a separatist group, to Huseyin Celil, a Uyghur Canadian human rights activist serving a life sentence in China after being convicted of political dissidence. While these three Canadians were abandoned by Ottawa, the case of Suaad Hagi Mohamud captivated headlines for the fact that Ottawa first created her problem -- then abandoned her.
-Ashifa Kassam(Editorial on some of the shifts initiated by Mr. Harper.)

"In a 9-0 ruling, the court effectively dared the Harper government to ignore its finding that Canada and the United States are violating Mr. Khadr's right to life, liberty and security under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "
-Globe and Mail.
(which led me to this, official summary of findings by the supreme court of Canada in Canada (Justice) v. Khadr, [2008] 2 S.C.R. 125, 2008 SCC 28. the Omar Khadr case.)

Macleans has a recent article about Liberal Party Leader Mr. Ignatieff's response.
"...That used to be what we were saying, the Liberal government said in 2004, the previous government, at least we pointed out that he was a child soldier. We’ve also said we think that this is a test case in the indivisibility of Canadian citizenship. Many Canadians, including myself, take a very serious view of the accusations against Mr. Khadr. But he’s a Canadian citizen and you don’t pick and choose here, you defend them all. Otherwise no one’s citizenship is worth very much. That’s the key issue..."

In other words, the only people who could do anything to convince anyone to have made this move faster is the Federal government; meanwhile, it is the policy of the current Federal government not to seek the return of Canadian Citizens even when they are being held in situations which are not up to the standards of the Canadian legal system, and Constitutional Rights. The only change this woman had was to make someone at the Federal level aware of her situation. There simply is no other way of countering the Judges 'insistence' that she was not "fit to be a mother" - despite the fact that she is still raising her daughter.

I am wondering when they will realize that this is also a "test case in the indivisibility of Canadian citizenship".
posted by infinite intimation at 12:31 PM on April 20, 2010

Anab Issa's 25-year-old autistic son, Abdihakim Mohamed, is stuck halfway around the world in Nairobi, Kenya, stateless and without proper care, while she fights to prove he's a Canadian citizen so she can bring him home.

Sound familiar? It's yet another story of a lost Canadian, among scores abandoned by the federal government and dumped among the world's stateless pariahs.
Via the star.
posted by infinite intimation at 9:12 PM on April 21, 2010

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