This is a very sad story. It involves a four-year-old girl name Oei Mae, who had a large variety of drugs administered to her by her foster mother. A civil suit brought on behalf of Oei Mae has recently led to a settlement of 7.5 million dollars on her behalf. Her foster mother gave her prozac, xanax, phenobarbital, clonidine, and other adult drugs. As a result of her being fed these medications Oei Mae now has cerebral palsy, she cannot speak, she is partially paralyzed, and she is severely brain damaged. Oei Mae will need around-the-clock nursing care for the rest of her life.
The above is not what caused me to write about this case. What makes it absolutely horrific as far as I am concerned is that a court is presently deciding whether or not Oei Mae should be returned to this sick and twisted foster mother. The juvenile court referee has decided to have mother and child meet to determine whether or not they have “bonded,” as if Oei Mae, who also experiences epileptic seizures, can bond with anyone right now. The court is actually going to consider returning Oei Mae to the very appropriately named Linette Harms, the woman who gave Oei Mae the drugs. Ms. Harms and her domestic partner, Julie Smith, have adopted three other children, all of whom are reportedly receiving drugs similar to those given to Oei Mae. Her domestic partner, Julie Smith, is a FOSTER PARENT TRAINER and a community college instructor. An investigation has concluded that Ms. Harms continues to view her three remaining adopted children as emotionally unstable, and she continues to obtain the same medication for these children as were given to Oei Mae. This “let’s see if they’re bonded” meeting between Oei Mae and Harms took place on January 5, 2001. As this goes to print, the referee has not yet issued a final ruling.
So let’s see what we have here. Ms. Harms medicates Oei Mae such that Ms. Mae’s life is ruined by the time she is four years old. She is awarded seven million dollars from a host of defendants, including the County of Los Angeles. It is clear that Oei Mae’s physical difficulties were caused by a mentally disturbed woman named Harms. The home shared by Ms. Harms and Ms. Smith was placed on “endangerment – do not use” status in April of 1999 by the Department of Social Services. Ms. Harms had her foster parent license revoked in September of 2000. There are three other children presently under the “care” of Ms. Harms, about whom the system is expressing concern. With this backdrop and with all of this in mind, a juvenile court referee is considering returning Oei Mae to the custody and care of Ms. Harms.
What has happened is tragic and pathetic. No one can undo that which has been done to Oei Mae, and there is no doubt that she would rather have her health back than the seven million dollars awarded to her. Yet a juvenile court referee is actually considering returning this girl to Ms. Harms if she feels that “bonding” has taken place. As if that is the issue? Patty Hearst bonded with her captor. Prisoners of war tend to suffer from a syndrome named after the very concept of people bonding with their captors. People tend to gravitate to the known, even if it is unpleasant. An example of this is the fact that many children of alcoholics who swear they will never be in a relationship with one when they grow up, end up marrying an alcoholic. The gravitation to that which is familiar is very, very strong. Therefore it is entirely reasonable that Oei Mae will see a familiar face and smile, not knowing that it is this familiar but twisted face that has caused Oei Mae’s life irreparable harm. It is time for someone in the system to do the right thing and not only not give Oei Mae back to Ms. Harms, but to ban all future visits as well. The child’s appointed special advocate in court and her county social worker have also requested that there be no further contact between Ms. Harms and Oei Mae. How can there be any question as to the right thing to do?