Archived Story

Keep kids away from the child chainers

Published 8:47am Thursday, July 28, 2011

Column: Thanks for Listening

Brian and Charity Miller, the Dexter parents who chained their 5-year-old son to a bed, will keep their parental rights.

What!

Yes, as sad as it was to read, Judge Fred Wellmann ruled “all of the statutory requirements to terminate (the Millers) parental rights … have not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Hey, judge, did you see the size of the chain that was used to chain the children, ages 5 and 8, up? The pure fact that these two children were chained up in the first place should have been pretty decent grounds for beyond a reasonable doubt — way beyond a reasonable doubt.

Dear readers, in case you have not been reading about this case, the Millers are accused of chaining one of their sons to his crib from bedtime until morning every night. They reportedly made their two sons stay in their bedrooms most of the time and weren’t providing sufficient food or bathroom access for the boys. The 5-year-old weighed less than 30 pounds when he and his brother were placed with a foster family in April.

However, because the children are members of the Cherokee tribe, the federal Indian Child Welfare Act applies to the case. Under the Indian Child Welfare Act, the petitioner, Mower County Human Services, must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they made an active effort to reunify the family.

Why on earth would we want to reunite these children with horrible parents? I really hope that this ruling will change in time.

One day after this unbelievable ruling, Judge Donald Rysavy sentenced Brian Miller and Charity Miller to one year in jail and three years supervised probation.

Rysavy stated: “My personal observation is, that in 15-plus years as a judge, this is one of about two or three cases where I’ve seen so much potential and actual damage to a child, in this case two children,” Rysavy said during the sentencing hearing. “Mother and father … are not supposed to be jailers and torturers. A home is supposed to be that — not a concentration camp.”

Bravo, I say, to Rysavy.

Apparently now we need to try to reunite these two children with their awful parents. I have a hard time even writing that phrase.

I am holding out hope that this ruling is only temporary until the Indian Child Welfare Act has had a better examination and interpretation. I would be very upset if after a year in jail, this couple would then get to be parents once again.

I am sorry that I am so intolerant toward these parents — wait, er, no, strike that. I am not sorry that I am being unforgiving to these so-called parents, but two children’s lives are at stake. They both had their chance and guess what? They chained up their kids. They starved them. They had their chance.

I want these children to have a chance at a better life. I shudder to think about the nightmares that these two children are still having about their ordeal. I am praying that the court system over the next year does the correct thing and puts these two kids first.

Tribune Publisher Scott Schmeltzer’s column appears every Thursday.