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Kicked Out of the Maternity Ward: An Interview with Jodi Ferris

January 13–17, 2014   |   Vol. 118, Week 6

Jodi Ferris gave birth in a hospital parking lot and was forced to stay outside as hospital staff took her baby away without explanation. How could this happen? Listen in, on this week’s Home School Heartbeat.

“They wouldn’t let me see her. And when they took her out of the room, they wouldn’t tell me where they were taking her.”—Jodi Ferris

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Imagine delivering your baby in an ambulance in a hospital parking lot! Now imagine that you were kept outside while the hospital took your baby. Join host Mike Farris on today’s Home School Heartbeat, as he talks with Jodi Ferris, a mother who experienced this nightmare for herself!

Mike Farris: Our guest today is Jodi Ferris. We’re not related, but we like each other. Jodi’s a homeschooling mom from Pennsylvania, and she sought HSLDA’s help after her newborn daughter was taken in a so-called emergency custody seizure shortly after she was born in June of 2010. Jodi, welcome to the program.

Jodi Ferris: Thanks, Mike.

Mike Farris: Jodi, would you please share with our listeners what happened to you that night at the hospital?

Jodi Ferris: Sure. We had planned to have a homebirth, but we ended up going to the hospital because I went into labor two and a half weeks before my due date. So, we decided to call an ambulance just in case the baby came while we were on the way, which turned out to be a good thing because she was born in the ambulance. Once we were inside the hospital, the hospital staff separated us. Then we were given conflicting information about our daughter’s health. That afternoon, a social worker and two police officers came to the hospital and took our baby and kicked me out of the hospital. My husband and I spent that night sleeping in our car, and less than 24 hours after delivering a baby, we were in court. The court ruled in our favor, and we went back to the hospital to spend some time with our daughter.

Mike Farris: Jodi, we really appreciate you being with us. We’ll have more of your story all this week. I’m Mike Farris.

Mike Farris: So, Jodi, let’s set the stage. You’ve just given birth, and then they’ve taken your baby away. What were some of the thoughts going through your head at this time?

Jodi Ferris: It was really unusual for me to experience being separated from my daughter right after she was born. The first few minutes at the hospital, we were in the same room, but they wouldn’t let me see her. And when they took her out of the room, they wouldn’t tell me where they were taking her. She had spent her entire life up to that point inside of me, and I felt responsible for making sure that she was okay and that she had someone with her to love her and to welcome her into the world. It was heartbreaking to have people prevent me from doing that for her. And, as the day went on, things just got more and more confusing.

Mike Farris: We should understand-hospital staff should be required to deal respectfully with people who choose alternative forms of healthcare, and that was a real part of the problem. They just didn’t like the fact that you had told them that you intended to have a homebirth. By taking your case, Jodi, HSLDA hopes to set a precedent for better care for everyone in the future. I’m Mike Farris.

Mike Farris: In the minds of some hospital staff, social workers, and some law enforcement personnel, parents are suspect number one right out of the gate. Jodi, what was the reaction of the hospital staff to you right after your daughter was born?

Jodi Ferris: The initial reaction was chaos and me being separated from my daughter. At first they told me that I wasn’t allowed to see her because she had almost died and they were still working on her. What I didn’t know at that time was that my husband had arrived at the hospital and was actually with our daughter. I was with the staff being told that our daughter was very sick and my husband was watching the nurse give her a bath. When he and I later compared stories, we started asking questions and different staff gave us different information on how she was doing. The more questions we asked, the more evasive the hospital’s answers got. And this went on for over an hour before I was even allowed to see my daughter. But when I did, she was beautiful and she was healthy. The only thing was that she was really hungry.

Mike Farris: Jodi, it’s just inconceivable that a hospital would tell you your daughter’s almost dying while she’s over in another room having a happy bath in the presence of your husband.

HSLDA continues to work hard to protect the rights of parents to direct the lives of their children in all areas, including when they’re in the hospital. I’m Mike Farris.

Mike Farris: Jodi, in your case, you simply wanted information about the medical care being offered to your newborn. Yet the hospital staff refused your request and became increasingly combative. What do you think prompted this escalating conflict?

Jodi Ferris: I think the hospital staff took our wanting information as a challenge to their authority. One nurse told us that she took our questions as a personal attack against her qualifications as a nurse. The hospital’s attitude was, "We’re the experts, so just do what we tell you."

Mike Farris: Jodi, how does that make you feel when you can’t ask questions about your own child?

Jodi Ferris: It bothers me that the doctors and the hospital were offended by our questions and used the so-called emergency removal to override our decisions just because they disagreed with us. I have a friend that volunteers as a court-appointed special advocate, and she said to me the next morning, "Right now, the doctors have her and they can do whatever they want to her. Even if the court gives her back, the damage is already done. So, ultimately, they have nothing to lose." And she was right. We won in court, but by the time we got back to her, the hospital had already done everything we objected to.

Mike Farris: Parents should feel confident that their wishes will be respected when they’re receiving healthcare for their children. Officials should give parents credit for having their own child’s best interests at heart. I’m Mike Farris.

Mike Farris: Jodi, there’s no doubt that after an emergency birth in the ambulance out in the hospital parking lot, the treatment you received later was inexcusable. From your perspective as a mom, what are some of the things that could have been different to make you feel comfortable and respected?

Jodi Ferris: As a mom, my concern isn’t about my being comfortable, but about my child’s needs being met, and about my ability to make responsible decisions to meet those needs. The doctors and nurses needed to recognize that when parental consent is required, it’s required because parents are responsible for making those decisions. And when there’s a hospital policy that dictates what a parent has to consent to, then I didn’t really get a chance to give consent at all because they wanted their policy to be followed. The hospital also should have allowed us to get a second opinion like we requested from a different medical facility, especially since the disagreement we were having involved hospital procedures.

Mike Farris: Jodi, you had really good points that you were raising, really good questions you were asking, and the doctors just needed to talk to you and listen to you and realize you’re still the parent of this child. Thank you for having the courage to stand up. I’m Mike Farris.

Jodi Ferris

Jodi Ferris is the mother of four toddler-to-teen daughters. In between reading stories, teaching math, and doing laundry, she volunteers with ParentalRights.org and the Convention of States Project.

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