Washington Embroiled in Custody Battle Following Unassisted Home Birth

The young parents of a one-year-old boy and newborn twins are petitioning child protective services, claiming the state of Washington unlawfully uprooted the children from their home following the unassisted home delivery of the couple’s infant twins on October 2.

The mother, 29-year-old Erica May Carey and father, 23-year-old Cleave Rengo, chose a home birth without assistance or prenatal care, a decision based on their Christian faith and values. The couple, who do not have a Washington state marriage license but say they took vows in eyes of God, had a 10-month old son at the time of the birth of their twins.

“I’ve done a lot of research about other women who have done it and they said the spiritual experience was so much more wholesome,” Carey said. “It was just us. We wanted to preserve that sanctity and sacredness in our birth.”

While Carey was pregnant with the twins, she refused prenatal care, including an ultrasound. This was done in order to protect her womb from the scan, she says. In fact, Carey was not aware she was having twins until after the birth of the couple’s second son when they realized another baby was on the way.

Shortly after the birth, paramedics arrived at the couple’s apartment. Carey believed a neighbor called emergency services. According to the couple, the paramedics suggested the newborns be taken to the hospital for a medical evaluation. The parents, however, refused, citing their concerns over the twins’ fragile immune systems being exposed to hospital environment. Carey did agree to take the infants to a pediatrician in six weeks once their immune systems were stronger.

The following day, a CPS investigator arrived at the couple’s one-bedroom apartment, which they share with Rengo’s father, for just one of many visits. The investigator voiced concerns over the treatment of the 10-month-old’s eczema, which the couple is treating with natural remedies as opposed to the standard steroid creams, because they believe such creams to be harmful. “It’s a very harsh treatment and can have very negative side effects. It can cause damage to bones, the muscular system and liver,” Carey said. The investigator urged the couple to take the children to pediatrician for treatment.

Though Carey and Rengo followed the CPS investigator’s suggestions by taking her children to a pediatrician — who found all three children to be in good health — all three children were soon removed from their custody. Though the couple feels they lost custody of their children due to their holistic parenting practices, the state cites other reasons, including domestic disputes between the couple and Rengo’s father’s mental health issues.

While many civil rights advocates are outraged following the state’s decision, some parents have criticized the couple’s ability to parent.

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