June 26, 2021
Veteran and wife fight to retrieve children taken by government
Seven children snatched from home-school couple under jail threat
The story of what happened to the family of Mark and Terri Stemann reads like something that would only occur in a totalitarian nation.
Mark Stemann, a 20-year Air Force veteran, and wife Terri, a home-schooling mother, were living in Louisville, Kentucky.
They had seven children, ages from 3 to 17 years old. Neither of them had committed any crimes or been in any kind of serious trouble. They had been married for 18 years at that time, and enjoyed a positive marriage.
They had relatives who lived in the area, and one of those relatives had a long-time girlfriend. That woman, who had connections with the Louisville Metro Police Department and other local officials, had let the Stemanns know she did not approve of the way they were raising their children.
“The people who eventually received our children, who kidnapped them, they did not like our way of life,” Mark Stemann, 56, said in an interview. “They felt that we were sheltering our children too much.”
The removal of the children from the custody of their parents snuck up on the family, like a whirlwind that attacked from the sky, which started out as a seemingly harmless breeze.
On Feb. 25, 2016, Mark took his 17-year-old daughter to a physician for an eye test, ahead of her application for her driver’s license. Because of her appearance, tall and thin, the doctor requested more tests, saying she appeared to be underweight.
“She thought she might have some kind of eating disorder, even though there was no psychological or physiological evaluation done,” Mark Stemann said.
This physician, who the Stemanns visited that day for the first time, insisted the teen girl should have additional tests, including blood analysis. Her parents insisted she was perfectly healthy and did not need further testing.
That physician diagnosed the teen with anorexia nervosa, a diagnosis of an eating disorder with which her parents disagreed. Her parents believed she just had a slender body type and was healthy.
After that physician’s office made phone calls to the Stemanns, asking that she be returned there for further examination, the Stemanns had her examined by a nurse practitioner—who affirmed she was in good health.
“She didn’t have any problems that needed any immediate medical attention,” Mark Stemann said.
On March 25, The Stemanns visited at the home of Terri’s relative and girlfriend. In addition to criticism of home-schooling, that woman objected to the Stemanns not vaccinating their children.
That woman handed the Stemanns a document, purportedly from Child Protective Services, which urged him to call the agency. Mark Stemann, who had worked extensively with official documents in the military, believed this was a forgery.
The girlfriend told the Stemanns they were under investigation by the CPS. An argument ensued, with this woman allegedly assaulting both the Stemanns in front of their young children.
After receiving another document at his home, Mark visited the CPS office, where a supervisor told Mark that he had received a diagnosis of his daughter as being anorexic.
“Without medical care she will die soon,” the CPS supervisor reportedly told Stemann.
Stemann was shocked to hear this, especially because of her positive health evaluation. It seemed bizarre to him that anyone would think she was in mortal danger.
‘You’ve lost custody of all your children’
The following night, Terri was at home with the seven children, when a Louisville police officer knocked on the door. He was accompanied by a CPS employee. They demanded entry into the Stemann home, but Terri refused to let them in without a warrant.
The following afternoon, both parents were at home, when several police officers came to their door, along with a CPS worker. The woman who was critical of the Stemanns was on the scene, speaking with an officer.
“You’ve lost custody of all of your children,” one of the officers said.
The Stemanns were told there was an Emergency Custody Order that had been issued in the case.
But they had no warrant or other kind of court document to present.
“They said they had a verbal order from the judge,” Mark recalled, adding that the authorities left without the children after two hours of hanging around outside their home.
The saga had just begun.
A court hearing was held April 6. Mark Stemann showed up with his daughter, with medical document in hand showing she was in good health. She had been jumping on a trampoline before going to court.
Despite the fact that Mark had a document that showed she was in good health, and the teen herself told the judge she was fine, the judge ordered her to be taken to a psychiatric hospital.
During the hearing in Family Court, in the downtown Louisville Justice Center, Judge Judith Bartholomew called Terri on the phone, ordering her to release the other children immediately, pursuant to an Emergency Custody Order issued on April 1, five days earlier.
The emergency associated with this order was the allegation that their oldest daughter was in danger of death from anorexia nervosa—a false emergency based on an unsubstantiated diagnosis.
None of the children were in any danger. No crime had been committed by the Stemanns.
The Stemanns did not agree to release the children to the government, so Mark was handcuffed by sheriff’s deputies and booked into the city jail. He was placed into solitary confinement twice during his stint behind bars.
“This happened after they called Terri on the phone and ordered her to release the other six children. Terri told them she was not going to let anyone take her children away from her and hung up the phone,” Mark Stemann said. “So they placed me in jail without charging me with a crime and they held me there until Terri released the children.”
Authorities told Terri that she would have to give up her children before her husband could be released from jail.
“After two or three hours, Terri did release the children, so she could get me released from jail.”
Neither Terri nor Mark had the faintest idea that when the children were released to Children Protective Services, this would have any lasting effect on their family. If they suspected the state had this raw power to remove their children for a protracted amount of time, they most likely would have run for the hills.
The Stemanns’ oldest child “was taken to the hospital against her will, and was basically imprisoned there for 10 or 11 days. She was closely monitored. She was scrutinized, everything she did,” Mark Stemann said. “The doctors did not diagnose her with anorexia nervosa, which was the diagnosis they had with her at the beginning, which initiated all the fraudulent activity.”
The Stemanns knew they had been good parents, and they had the rights to home school their parents and make sound medical decisions.
‘We began the process of reclaiming our children’
They wrote up motions to dismiss the case, but their court-appointed attorneys would not file them.
“Being a veteran family, our Constitutional rights and the protection of our rights are very important to us,” Mark said. “We were identifying all the egregious violations of our rights.
“We proceeded to a civil trial. One count against us was that we neglected our children educationally, because we homeschooled our children.”
Mark Stemann said their daughter, who they were accused of educationally neglecting, graduated from high school with high honors, after she was placed in a public school. Her parents were not allowed to attend her graduation.
“She won a full scholarship to the college of her choice,” Mark said.
The Stemanns have discovered their case is part of an enormous national problem, which involves child sex trafficking and political corruption.
They are convinced the removal of their children was not conducted for the benefit of their children.
“It’s very detrimental for the children to be taken out of their home environment by the government,” said Terri Stemann, 49, who maintains a robust social media presence on Twitter and Telegram.
“Really at any age, but it’s extremely detrimental when the children are in their teenage years, and they’re already having a little bit of rebellion against their parents. For the government to come in and take them away from their parents, it’s very traumatic for the children.”
During the past five years, the two oldest children have aged out of foster care. The Stemanns do not know where their five younger children have been most recently placed.
Their battle to gain custody of their children included contacts with state and federal authorities, including the Kentucky governor, attorney general and state police; U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky’s office; several U.S. representatives; a U.S. Attorney’s office; FBI agents; as well as attempts to contact President Donald Trump and then-Attorney General William Barr.
The Stemanns have not been able to discover the specific financial benefits paid to the guardian appointed in their case—the woman who accused them of neglect—but in similar cases there are payouts of as much as $10,000 or $12,000 per month.
Although she was not related to the Stemanns by blood or marriage, she gained custody of the children. The Stemanns believe the entire affair of taking their children was motivated by financial gain—as well as personal animosity toward the Stemanns, because of their Christian way of life.
“Most Americans don’t know that your children can be taken away from you—even if you haven’t committed a crime,” Terri Stemann said.
Confronting a widespread national tragedy
Although many parents would be crushed by this experience, instead the Stemanns channeled their grief and pain into methods of helping others who have undergone similar ordeals.
They have established organizations to help families and expose widespread injustice. They have spoken on many news shows and podcasts, and meet with many people on-line and at conferences.
“We came across a lot of other families that were out there speaking out and found out this was like a script that played out across the nation,” Terri said. “One of the shocking things to me is that they go after other children that have been foster children, and foster children who have been in the system have their children taken from them.”
She said that 88 percent of runaways that become sex trafficking victims come from social services, the foster care system.
“It’s a very dangerous system, not good for children or families.”
Mark Stemann said the taking of their children violates many of their rights, including the security of their home, right to practice their faith freely, free speech, as well as usurping the limited powers that constitute the government.
“When we began to see the broader scope of the deprivation of our fellow citizens’ rights, we wanted to create an organization to address these concerns,” Mark said. “We focus on helping families and children, because the government has willfully failed us in every way that one could imagine.”
Mark and Terri Stemann are fighting to recover their children, which were taken from them through the family court system. They have channeled their ordeal into establishing groups that help other families which have been harmed in similar fashion.
Terri and Mark Stemann meet with people interested in family rights at the Reawaken America event June 19, 2021, in Tampa, Florida.
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