“Lindsey was an absolutely wonderful mother…Rico’s eyes lit up whenever he was in his mother’s arms….” ~ Cheryl Nagel, speaking about her daughter
Public comment submitted by Cheryl Nagel, a loving mother and grandmother, to the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) for consideration of the 2017 audit of the Guardian ad Litem program.
Cheryl says her family’s life was destroyed, and the life of her daughter Lindsey cut short, in what she describes as a “brutal siege from the Mayo clinic and CPS in Mower County” that began when her infant grandson was a victim of medical kidnapping and taken into state care. The family fought valiantly to regain custody in a legal battle that lasted two years.
Guardian ad Litem Alice Snater was appointed to represent the baby, named Rico, in court. Cheryl says that Snater discriminated against her daughter, and acted both unprofessionally and unethically. She is speaking out now to recommend changes to the GAL program, using her experiences as an example of its failures, and a reason why reform is so desperately needed.
Read Here for More Information on the 2017 GAL Audit: OLA Guardian ad Litem Topic Selection Background Paper April 2017
January 18, 2018
Dear Ms. Rodriguez,
Thank you for your prompt response to my inquiry about the GAL program in MN. I will be including my suggestions followed by personal notes to back up the suggestion.
Having one’s child or grandchild taken away is debilitating, extremely stressful, and all care should be taken so as not to destroy human lives in the process. I feel our lives were destroyed, as indicated by the fact our daughter Lindsey gave up her life after her infant son Rico was taken, and my husband continues to have PTSD and is unable to work. We had to sell our business in Mower County in 2014, and haven’t worked since.
- The GAL should not discriminate against protected classes of people, for example, people with disabilities. Lindsey’s GAL was Alice Snater, of Mower County. She was elderly, and we feel she discriminated against Lindsey because of her HIV status. Lindsey was born in Romania and was born HIV+. Alice continually brought out the fact that Lindsey should have a will drawn up, in order to convey her personal property to her infant son. Why? Because Alice thought Lindsey would be dying sometime soon. This is an outdated view of HIV/AIDS. People live for decades, very normally in today’s world. Alice’s view of HIV/AIDS permeated every aspect of the court process, and the implication that Lindsey would be dying “soon” had a devastating effect on Lindsey, particularly because it was repeated so often. Even the social workers quoted Alice.Here is one such incident: Alice did a great job convincing the entire HHS department that HIV/AIDS was going to kill Lindsey. At a meeting Lindsey had with Jessica Bittman, one of the social workers, Jessica, said, “Lindsey, you need to become more aware of the (your) disease. Alice Snater, the guardian ad litem, indicated that she believes you should be on ARV meds, and you should have a will, because your life is going to be very short.”
Lindsey had lived for over 20 years drug free. Lindsey told Jessica, “My beliefs about drugs are different than yours & Alice’s, but I am complying with your orders.”
She tried to give Jessica an example: “It’s like if I believed in Jesus Christ and another person was Muslim, and that Muslim person was hired to work in a Presbyterian church – they couldn’t fire the Muslim or do anything just because they believe different than me. You can’t fire someone for their beliefs. You could fire them because they didn’t do the job, but you can’t fire them for their beliefs. But that’s what you’re doing to me. Just because of my beliefs… Pretend I’m working at the church, and I have different beliefs, I’m doing my job, (giving Rico the meds), but I have different beliefs than yours, so you can’t discriminate against me. You can’t fire me.”
Alice Snater did not know much about HIV, and should have known that there are strict guidelines on what medical information you are allowed to share about others, particularly others who are protected by federal law – people with disabilities, for example. Alice violated Lindsey’s medical privacy rights numerous times.
Here’s another incident:
This occurred when Rico was still in the hospital. Obviously, somebody, (was it Alice Snater?), told the foster parents that Lindsey had full blown AIDS, a total fabrication. February 3, 2013, while Rico was still in the hospital, John’s (the father) mom and dad, Patty and Hermen, came down from Minneapolis to see Rico at the St. Mary’s Hospital. While they were visiting, the nurse came in. The nurse told them that the foster parents had been in for a visit that morning, as they often did.
While they were there, the doctors made their rounds, which means there might be 3, 4, 5 doctors who consult with each patient at one time. Well, the foster dad, Ron, decided to take the opportunity to ask the team of doctors, “How do I protect myself and my family when someone with full blown AIDS comes to my house?” He told the group he was the baby’s foster dad, and that the baby’s birth mother (Lindsey) was a hooker and a mainliner. The nurse who was relaying this story said she almost fell off her chair when he asked that! Ron also said he was worried about protecting his children from contracting HIV! (and that Lindsey was a prostitute and a drug abuser!) The question is, HOW did Ron know about Lindsey’s HIV status, and how did he come to believe she had full blown AIDS? She’d NEVER been told that, even by the Mayo doctors! And she was not a hooker or a mainliner – she’s been HIV positive since birth! Speaking of HPPA violations – Lindsey’s HIV status is certainly not the foster parent’s business, and how DID he get that information – from Alice Snater?
2) The GAL should insist both parents be treated equally.
If a psych evaluation is ordered for one, it should be ordered for both parents. Alice insisted that Lindsey have a psychological evaluation, but not John, the baby’s dad. This was particularly humiliating for Lindsey, as she was suspicious of Alice’s motives. Alice felt Lindsey was psychologically unfit to be Rico’s mother. She was driving a wedge between Lindsey & John!
3) The GAL should not try to humiliate the parents to get them to comply.
Rico did return home, but Lindsey was forced to Skype herself giving Rico three medications at 8AM and 8PM every single day. He was on oxygen at night, and was a high maintenance baby. Lindsey kept up this Skyping schedule for over a year. It was grueling. Every morning Rico would be awakened in front of a computer screen – Lindsey had to show the tube coming out of Rico’s stomach, hold up each bottle, show herself dispensing the proper amount of medication, showing herself putting the tubes together and making sure the social worker could see all of this, all while holding onto the baby. There were NO exceptions, even when we attended a wedding in Indiana for a weekend. We drove around trying to find a WiFi, and ended up one time at a Pizza Hut – Skyping Lindsey giving Rico he required meds from the floor of the Pizza Hut! Alice insisted that this continue the entire time Rico was a CPS case.
4) The GAL should not participate or show partiality toward one parent or another, and should not represent one parent against the other in a mediation.
About 2 months after the April trial, John and Lindsey separated, which added more stress for Lindsey, but she continued loving and caring for Rico. Lindsey had to get a new attorney because to avoid conflict of interest issues, as the first attorney represented both parties. The separation caused parenting time issues, and Lindsey’s attorney suggested a mediation, which sounded like a fair way to determine a schedule.
But when Lindsey met her attorney at the mediator’s office, she realized things were probably not going to be resolved in a fair way, because Alice Snater showed up to represent John’s side of the case! Since a GAL is supposed to represent the best interests of the child, why did she show up to represent John? The mediation was trashed because Alice refused to leave.
Note: According to the Rules of Procedure, GALs are prohibited from acting as mediators for cases they are appointed to. See this link, also, for other roles precluded: RULES OF GUARDIAN AD LITEM PROCEDURE IN JUVENILE AND FAMILY COURT
Further, when a GAL acts outside the scope of their duties, they no longer qualify for immunity.
5) The GAL should try to take in the whole story.
The reason our grandson was taken in the first place is because she had a 10-minute disagreement with the pediatrician. After that, she complied with every single thing the doctor ordered. She took her son to over 120 medical appointments in less than a year’s time. She was dedicated to making sure all his needs were met, as any good mother would do. If Alice would have known the whole story, she might have recommended the case be dismissed.
Alice Snater and Mower County totally destroyed our daughter’s morale and she eventually gave up on life.
The first 22 years of Lindsey’s life, my husband and I devoted every minute to trying to build Lindsey up, as we knew the HIV diagnosis would be quite a load for a young girl to bear. We were proud of Lindsey as she grew up and faced normal challenges head on. She was showing remarkable good judgment and was becoming a very smart, savvy young woman.
Alice Snater and Mower County took all that away from Lindsey in just 12 months’ time. All the trauma brought on just tore Lindsey down – she became exhausted from the constant bullying, and the discriminating tactics of Alice Snater. Lindsey gave up, and passed away August 4, 2015.
The GAL system has got to change, and I would urge those who have the control over CPS in Minnesota to understand they are dealing with real human beings with real feelings and real families who really love their children and grandchildren!
You can’t take a child away from its mother – especially when it’s proven the mother is complying with everything the doctor ordered! Our family was totally decimated by CPS of Mower County. We are still struggling to understand how and why our daughter was treated so badly. We lost our daughter, thanks to Alice Snater and CPS of Mower County, MN.
The following statements can be used to clarify parts of Lindsey’s story. They are regarding our daughter, Lindsey Nagel and her son, Rico Martinez Nagel. It is helpful to understand why our daughter reacted to the doctors at Mayo Clinic the way she did, and also why she passed away 3.5 years after her son’s birth.
Lindsey Nagel, our daughter, was born October 15, 1990, deceased August 4, 2015.
She was born in Petrosani, Romania, where we spent a total of 2 months processing the adoption. We brought her home to Minnesota when she was 2.5 months old.
Lindsey Nagel tested negative for HIV in Romania, in December of 1990. Lindsey Nagel tested positive for HIV in USA January of 1991. Lindsey Nagel began treatment for HIV, and was reported to the MN Health Department. Her doctor believed she contracted HIV via transfusion while in Romania. Lindsey Nagel’s mother, Eva, tests negative for HIV. Lindsey’s 3 sisters all test negative for HIV.
When Lindsey was almost 2 years old, and on the HIV medication, AZT, Lindsey became very ill. Mom and Dad take her off the AZT and she fully recovers, and lives 22 more years, drug free. In the meantime, other children listed as pediatric AIDS patients, have die, as verified by her doctor, Kiran Belani, who is still practicing at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.
Lindsey played soccer for 7 years, took swimming lessons for 3 years, played numerous sports, such as volleyball, etc… Was a cheerleader at Redeemer Lutheran for 3 years.
In 2012, she became pregnant and had full term baby boy, December 19, 2012. She was 22 at that time. Baby Rico was diagnosed as being HIV positive the day he was born, even though virtually all babies born of HIV positive mothers test positive for the first 18 months of their lives. Their own immune systems take over around 18 months.
Day 2 of his life, with no parental approval or knowledge, Rico was “accidentally” given a triple dose of Nevirapine, which is known to cause neurological damage, even when it is not overdosed. Dr. Huskins admitted this to us during CARE meeting, otherwise we would not have known. It was an experimental treatment, known as the “Mississippi” treatment, as a young girl from Mississippi was given the treatment and appeared to become HIV negative, only to be found HIV positive 9 months later.
Lindsey has never been charged with anything, nor found to ever have harmed her son, Rico. By all accounts, she was a loving, devoted mother whose life was unjustly cut short.
Former Guardian ad Litem Alice Snater died in June 2015 at age 78. Snater became a GAL in 1989 and served in that position for more than 25 years.
When the Nagel family became involved with the Minnesota Guardian ad Litem program, back in 2013, a formal complaint procedure to file a grievance against a GAL did not exist. Parents (or grandparents) struggled to be heard when they had concerns with guardians, there was no one tasked with taking complaints, let alone investigating them. That has now changed – largely due to the efforts of parents joining together to demand the GAL Board adopt a formal complaint procedure, and develop practices to have complaints heard and investigation. The State GAL Board has since implemented a complaint procedure but the program continues to struggle…the reason for the recent audit.
Read More About Cheryl’s Story:
If you have been separated from a child (or parent) after being taken into custody of the state (including: foster care, group homes, adoption), #TAKEN offers a forum for families to search for each other: America’s #TAKEN Children