A petition asking Iowa’s Governor Terry Branstad to investigate the ongoing abuse of disabled twin boys in his state appeared January 15 on RH Reality Check, a news website covering women’s reproductive health and justice. Within hours, thousands nationwide had signed.
Signers of the petition left comments warning of the dangers—from emotional damage to death—of an abusive home. One wrote, “I was born and raised in Iowa, and we used to protect children, not put them back with their abusers.” Another called the situation “beyond cruel.” Those who had themselves been abused left particularly searing comments, said Natasha Chart, RH Reality Check’s director of campaigns and fundraising.
In the petition, the boys’ mother, Audre’y Eby, who is Rosebud Sioux, asks why local courts in Iowa’s Plymouth County insist on placing two helpless special-needs Native teens with their father, who is her ex-husband, and his live-in girlfriend. The pair logged their sixth abuse ruling this past September, when a Child Protective Services investigation determined that the girlfriend had kicked the blind twin in the groin, sending him to the ER with bruising and bleeding. Iowa’s Department of Human Services documents, which Indian Country Today Media Network obtained under Iowa law, describe the father pressing the nose of the wheelchair-bound twin with cerebral palsy until it bled, pouring hot sauce down the boy’s throat with the girlfriend’s help and much more.
The father told ICTMN that the couple will appeal the abuse rulings. He receives the children’s welfare, social security and other subsidies, while the state pays his girlfriend to be their caregiver. Both are white, which appears to put them in a favorable light for the courts.
“Audre’y needs the legal system to help her protect her children,” Chart said. “Our petitions allow our members to take a stand, to make a difference, and I see from the numbers and the comments that people feel very strongly about this situation.”
The Plymouth County courts are turning back the clock on protection of all children, according to Indian child welfare expert Frank LaMere, who is Winnebago and director of Four Directions Community Center, in Sioux City, Iowa. “They are doing everything they can to browbeat the mother and keep the children from her, while ignoring very serious abuse. Iowans, including the governor, need to take some people behind the woodshed!”
At presstime, the governor had not responded to requests for a comment. Iowa DHS spokesperson Amy McCoy said she could not comment on a particular case but that the department is “aware of the petition” and “takes its child protective responsibilities seriously.”
“It’s early days,” said LaMere. “The petition is taking off, and I hope everyone will end up doing the right thing.”
Chart said that RH Reality Check will deliver the petition to Governor Branstad in the near future.