Abbie, Laura, and Alexis – before CPS. Photo courtesy Odonnell family.
by Health Impact News/MedicalKidnap.com Staff
The Odonnell twins were healthy teenage girls before they went into Michigan state custody 2 years ago at the age of 13. They were talented athletes who participated in national cheerleading and gymnastic competitions. Now, their mother is literally afraid for their lives. Laura Dalton reports that her girls are very ill, but the state seems to be neglecting their medical care. Since they were taken from their home, Abbie has developed anorexia, and Alexis has bulimia – both serious eating disorders that are wreaking catastrophic damage on their bodies.
They got into some trouble, but their family wants to know when the state of Michigan will stop punishing them. Their time away from home and from each other has taken a huge emotional and physical toll on the twins. However, instead of working to get them the help they need, the state seems intent on punishing them even more. At the last court hearing, Laura was told that the girls are to be sent to a facility in Boys Town, Nebraska. All visitation has been cut off, and she is no longer being given information about their condition.
Laura is terrified for her daughters, who are now 15 years old. What she wants more than anything is for them to get the medical care they need.
Health Declining Drastically in State Care
Health Impact News first reported this heartbreaking story when Abbie was lying in a hospital bed in very serious condition from anorexia, a condition she did not have before CPS involvement. The twins are tall – 5 feet 9 inches, but Abbie weighed only 102 lbs when we reported her story in December 2015. She was on a feeding tube and had begun passing out.
See original story:
Abbie before and after CPS. Photo source: Free the Odonnell Girls from cps Facebook page.
The state had planned to place her in Wolverine, a juvenile detention facility where they had already sent her twin sister Alexis. After this story broke, activists made phone calls and worked to free Abbie. Plans changed, and she was sent to an eating disorders facility in Ohio, where she began getting better. She wasn’t with her twin, however.
Alexis remained at Wolverine, where her condition rapidly deteriorated. In just a few months, it was Abbie’s turn to plead for help for her twin. Alexis developed bulimia, and her blood sugar was frequently very low. She experienced episodes of passing out.
See Alexis’ story, written in May:
Their troubles began when the family moved away from the school that the girls had attended since kindergarten. The twins struggled with their new school, and they were having a difficult time adjusting to leaving their old school and old friends behind. Word reached their principal and their mother that they smoked marijuana on one occasion. Laura wanted to nip that kind of behavior in the bud. They were not drug addicts; they made a poor choice.
The school sent Child Protective Services out to their home. The social worker told the worried mother that she needed to file “incorrigible” charges on her daughters. Little did she know what a nightmare following that advice would bring on their family. The girls were now in the juvenile system, complete with a probation officer.
Note: for an adult in the state of Michigan, the penalty for marijuana use is a maximum of 90 days in jail, and a maximum $100 fine. Apparently, for juveniles, the penalty is much steeper. They have been paying for their mistake for 2 years, with no end in sight.
The girls landed in a foster home where there was reported abuse. After they ran away from the foster home, a probation officer, Amy Bennett, decided that the girls must pay dearly for their “crime” of running away. Child Protective Services and the juvenile system were both involved.
Since the previous articles (linked to above), there have been some alarming developments in their story. Laura, the mother, recently was interviewed on the National Safe Child show with host Tammi Stefano, where she gave an update on her two daugthers. Listen to her interview:
Abbie began to get some weekend visits home, and Alexis was finally allowed a home visit. By this time, there had been a great deal of trauma in the lives of the girls. Both were, and are, seriously ill.
They are identical twins. The magnitude of harm that separation of twins has on their emotions is something that appears to be vastly under-appreciated by juvenile and child protective workers, despite the amount of research that is readily available. For Abbie and Alexis, their separation has been devastating.
This was the only time that Alexis got a home pass from Wolverine. Source: Odonnell family.
They were going through a difficult season in their lives when this saga began. Had the family been supported in dealing with that season, things might be very different now. Instead, the girls have been beaten down and broken in the system, separated from each other and their family and friends. Both were fearful for the other’s life.
The state finally started working on a reunification plan to get the girls home, but there was a serious flaw in the plan – there was no provision for paying for the badly-needed medical care of the girls.
Probation officer Amy Bennett reportedly insisted that the girls be in a juvenile day program to serve their time, where they would come home at nights, under the watchful eye of the state. This plan involved having a worker come to the house every night at varying times in the middle of the night to check and make sure they were home. Bennett reportedly wanted them to serve a minimum of 10 months in this arrangement.
During a few of the meetings, it was discussed that the plan would also include sending Alexis to an eating disorder program similar to the one that had helped Abbie. However, Laura says that they told her that the state did not have funding for such a program. Laura wanted to make sure that the serious medical needs of her previously healthy children would be addressed. Meanwhile, Alexis was suffering at the Wolverine facility.
When Laura Dalton walked into the courtroom on June 13, she was presented with a long list of court ordered requirements in order to get her daughters home. When she looked over the list, she realized that the cost of the eating disorder treatment for Alexis at the University of Michigan Motts would be placed on her. However, because the girls were under state custody, Laura no longer had insurance on the girls, and did not qualify to get Medicaid on them. The cost for their care should have been the responsibility of the state, but the probation officer Amy Bennett reportedly told Laura:
If she is getting treatment, you are paying for it.
This was consistent with a text that Laura had received earlier from the probation officer.
The program at U of M would cost at least $40,000 for an 8 week period. (Abbie’s similar treatment was to have lasted a minimum of 8 weeks, but it took 6 months.) Laura was told that she could make payments if she paid 25% down payment.
She simply did not have the money, or any way of coming up with that sum of money. However, she says that Alexis has now had bulimia for so long (since September) that experts are telling her that Alexis CANNOT get over it on her own; it will take therapy and treatment. Her body is accustomed to throwing up every meal. Her health is suffering and she is passing out frequently.
Laura says that there is no question that she needs a treatment program. The problem is that she doesn’t have tens of thousands of dollars lying around. If the state would close their case, then she could get them back on insurance or Medicaid.
They were setting us up to fail. There was no way that I could do everything.
When she told the judge that she couldn’t meet the requirements of the reunification plan, he apparently interpreted her inability to comply as refusal to comply. He threw her in jail for 3 days for contempt of court. (Laura has never before been in trouble with the law or been arrested.)
From Bad to Worse
Just before she was arrested, Laura showed case workers a photo of bruising that was on Alexis’ legs. Thus, while her mother was in jail, Alexis was moved out of Wolverine into a foster home. On the following Monday, June 20, Abbie was released from the eating disorder clinic in Ohio and placed into a foster home.
Alexis had bruises all over her legs when she came home from Wolverine for a weekend pass. Source: Odonnell family
Their older sister Alyssa was also released from the lockdown facility she had been in, and Laura was looking forward to a fun weekend with all 3 of the sisters together again, because they all were going to be home for the weekend. Laura planned to take the girls to a local carnival.
However, the trauma of the past 2 years had deeply affected the twins. No matter what they did, CPS and the probation officer always seemed to demand more and more of the girls. They have lost hope and are having a difficult time seeing any light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel has shown no signs of ending.
It is in that context that the next events must be seen. Numerous families have reported to Health Impact News that being in the CPS/state system has scarred their children deeply. Numerous studies of foster children show that separation from their family and institutionalization causes deep seated trauma that can take a lifetime to overcome. Even when children return home after brief times in the CPS system, the impact of foster care can be profound.
When the foster mom brought Abbie to Laura on Saturday afternoon, Laura noticed that her daughter was acting very tired. By the time they got to the carnival, it was clear that something was very wrong, and Laura took her to the emergency room. They found that while Abbie was still at the foster home, she had taken a bunch of Mucinex pills (cough medicine). She was depressed, feeling like nobody cares. This was not any kind of attempt to get high; she was attempting to commit suicide. It was certainly a cry for help.
Abbie, Alexis, and Alyssa – all together on vacation in Daytona Beach, just a month before CPS separated them. Source: Odonnell family.
Once they were at the hospital, Alexis had a meltdown. She wanted to go to the back with her twin, but they wouldn’t let her. Laura says that she has never seen Alexis act like she did that night. She was enraged, screaming, and punching concrete walls in her frustration at not being able to be with her sister. When she said that she, too, felt suicidal, she was admitted to the hospital. She never did get to see her twin that night. Abbie was released to go back to the foster home in the wee hours of the morning, while Alexis stayed at the hospital for several days.
Both girls were on several prescription medications by this point in time, and it is not clear how much of a role they played in the events of that night. Alexis would later testify that she was currently on at least 9 medications, including anti-depressants, and that was just the ones that she could name. Abbie had been prescribed high doses of Adderall, which can cause panic, depression, and irregular heartbeat.
Alexis has had many days in the past few months where her blood sugar has bottomed out, and Laura wonders if that may have played a role in her behavior that night. Both girls have had frequent episodes of passing out.
Alleged Probation Violations
The girls had court on July 5 and 8, and they were each charged with violating their probation. Abbie’s violation was her suicide attempt, and Alexis’ was that she had the meltdown in the hospital lobby. They were sentenced to 5 days in juvenile detention. However, they are currently still there. Continuing the pattern of being held indefinitely by the state of Michigan, their 5 days has now stretched into 3 weeks.
The only bright spot in this is that, finally, after 2 years, the twins are in the same facility for the first time. However, they are reportedly being held in different cells.
Repeatedly over the past 2 years, Laura says that when she complains about the excessive punishment of her daughters, she has been told:
This isn’t adult court. It doesn’t run the same way.
In adult court, they would have rights. They would not still be serving time 2 years later for an offense that would have earned an adult no more than 3 months in jail.
Girls to Go to Nebraska Facility
At the July 8 hearing, Laura learned that the court is wanting to send her daughters to a facility in Boys Town, Nebraska. They did not explain why. She has no family or friends in the state. She suspects that it is so that they can be rid of the financial obligation for the girls, because they keep telling her that there is no funding to get the medical care the twins need. The facility is not an eating disorder therapy facility, and Laura has no idea if the girls’ medical needs would be met there.
At the latest court hearing, they also told the mother that her visits are terminated with the twins. She is now under a “no contact order.” Amy Bennett blames Laura for “refusing” to take the girls home.
Alexis reportedly had another outburst at the hospital after a phone call with her mother. As often happens, the child’s response was blamed on the mother, rather than the more likely culprit – anger and frustration at the current situation and over the fact that she cannot go home, where she wants to be.
Laura feels that her girls just want their life back. Because the system continually beats them down and takes their loved ones away, they are depressed and suicidal. Laura believes that if she could get the girls the care that they need and if she could get them home, the girls would eventually be OK.
Instead of seeing Alexis and Abbie’s actions as cries for help, they are being punished even more. The mother wants to know, “when does it end?” When will Amy Bennett think that they have paid enough penance for trying marijuana? Laura only hopes and prays that it will not be too late.
Neglected Medical Care
In April, doctors at the Ohio River Clinic ordered a heart monitor test for Abbie to be done by May 18 to test her heart after her many episodes of fainting and her irregular heartbeat. That test has not been done.
Doctors for both girls have ordered an EGD scope to look at the inside of their esophagus and stomach to check for damage from the anorexia and bulimia. However, the state has canceled the recent appointments. Their is another procedure scheduled for July 25. It remains to be seen whether that appointment will be kept or cancelled.
Since the no-contact order went into effect, Laura has not been able to get any information about her daughters’ condition. During recent calls, she has been told that she must now go through Amy Bennett to get any information on the girls. Amy Bennett has reportedly not been returning Laura’s calls.
Religious Freedom Denied
Laura Dalton reports that she has been speaking with a pastor who has been attempting to see Abbie and Alexis. It appears that the probation officer Amy Bennett is the gatekeeper who determines who can see the girls, and she has not returned any of the pastor’s calls. He has not been able to see the Odonnell twins at all to encourage them or minister to their spiritual needs.
Help the Odonnell Twins Get the Help They Need
The girls were completely healthy when the went into state custody. They were not on any medications. Now, they are on numerous psychotropic medications, and their health has deteriorated drastically. Why isn’t the state paying for their needed medical care? They are still wards of the state, and as such, they are responsible for ensuring that the girls’ medical needs are taken care of. Why aren’t they doing so?
When will enough be enough?
There is a court hearing on Friday, July 29, at 10 a.m. at the St. Clair County Courthouse at 201 McMorran Blvd, Port Huron, Michigan. The family feels that this may be the last opportunity to save the girls. Court watchers are invited, and Laura would love for an attorney to step forward to help them.
There is a Facebook page set up for supporters to follow the story called Free the Odonnell Girls from cps.
Following are people who may be contacted on behalf of the Odonnell twins:
Phil Pavlov is the Senator serving the family’s district. He may be reached at 517-373-7708, or contacted here.
Paul Muxlow is their Representative. He may be reached at 517-373-0835, or contacted here.
Representative Ken Goike serves the district of the Odonnell girls’ grandmother, and may also be reached at 517-373-0820, or contacted here.
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