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Mike's Hard Lemonade & dad's oversight lands son in foster care

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Mike's Hard Lemonade & dad's oversight lands son in foster care

Old 04-29-08, 12:02 PM
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Mike's Hard Lemonade & dad's oversight lands son in foster care

I feel so sad for this poor kid.

http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/a...4280375/&imw=Y

If you watch much television, you've probably heard of a product called Mike's Hard Lemonade.

And if you ask Christopher Ratte and his wife how they lost custody of their 7-year-old son, the short version is that nobody in the Ratte family watches much television.

The way police and child protection workers figure it, Ratte should have known that what a Comerica Park vendor handed over when Ratte ordered a lemonade for his boy three Saturdays ago contained alcohol, and Ratte's ignorance justified placing young Leo in foster care until his dad got up to speed on the commercial beverage industry.

Even if, in hindsight, that decision seems a bit, um, idiotic.

Ratte is a tenured professor of classical archaeology at the University of Michigan, which means that, on a given day, he's more likely to be excavating ancient burial sites in Turkey than watching "Dancing with the Stars" -- or even the History Channel, for that matter.

The 47-year-old academic says he wasn't even aware alcoholic lemonade existed when he and Leo stopped at a concession stand on the way to their seats in Section 114.

"I'd never drunk it, never purchased it, never heard of it," Ratte of Ann Arbor told me sheepishly last week. "And it's certainly not what I expected when I ordered a lemonade for my 7-year-old."

But it wasn't until the top of the ninth inning that a Comerica Park security guard noticed the bottle in young Leo's hand.

"You know this is an alcoholic beverage?" the guard asked the professor.

"You've got to be kidding," Ratte replied. He asked for the bottle, but the security guard snatched it before Ratte could examine the label.
Mistake or child neglect?

An hour later, Ratte was being interviewed by a Detroit police officer at Children's Hospital, where a physician at the Comerica Park clinic had dispatched Leo -- by ambulance! -- after a cursory exam.

Leo betrayed no symptoms of inebriation. But the physician and a police officer from the Comerica substation suggested the ER visit after the boy admitted he was feeling a little nauseated.

The Comerica cop estimated that Leo had drunk about 12 ounces of the hard lemonade, which is 5% alcohol. But an ER resident who drew Leo's blood less than 90 minutes after he and his father were escorted from their seats detected no trace of alcohol.

"Completely normal appearing," the resident wrote in his report, "... he is cleared to go home."

But it would be two days before the state of Michigan allowed Ratte's wife, U-M architecture professor Claire Zimmerman, to take their son home, and nearly a week before Ratte was permitted to move back into his own house.

And if you think nothing so ludicrous could happen to your family, maybe you should pay a little less attention to who's getting booted from "Dancing with the Stars" and a little more to how the state agency responsible for protecting Michigan's children is going about its work.
Doing their duty

Almost everyone Chris Ratte met the night they took Leo away conceded the state was probably overreacting.

The sympathetic cop who interviewed Ratte and his son at the hospital said she was convinced what happened had been an accident, but that her supervisor was insisting the matter be referred to Child Protective Services.

And Ratte thought the two child protection workers who came to take Leo away seemed more annoyed with the police than with him. "This is so unnecessary," one told Ratte before driving away with his son.

But there was really nothing any of them could do, they all said. They were just adhering to protocol, following orders.

And so what had begun as an outing to the ballpark ended with Leo crying himself to sleep in front of a television inside the Child Protective Services building, and Ratte and his wife standing on the sidewalk outside, wondering when they'd see their little boy again.
A vain rescue mission

Child Protective Services is the unit of the Michigan Department of Human Services responsible for intervening when someone suspects a child is being abused, neglected or endangered. Its powers include the authority to remove children from their homes and transfer them to foster parents who answer only to the state.

By law, CPS officials are forbidden to discuss the particulars of any investigation.

But Mike Patterson, Child and Family Services director for the Wayne County district that includes Comerica Park, said that in general his agency's discretion is limited once police obtain a court order to remove a child from the parental home -- usually authorized, as in Leo's case, by a juvenile court referee responding to a police officer's recommendation.

"Once the court has authorized a child's removal," Patterson told me, "we cannot return the child to the parental custody" until the court has OK'd it.

But that doesn't explain why CPS refused to release Leo to the custody of two aunts -- one a social worker and licensed foster parent -- who drove all night from New England to take custody of their nephew.

Chris Ratte's sisters, Catherine Miller and Felicity Ratte, left Massachusetts at 10:30 the night of the fateful lemonade purchase after the police officer who'd reluctantly requested a removal order told Ratte the state would likely jump at the chance to place Leo with responsible relatives. But when the two women arrived at the CPS office early Sunday, a caseworker explained they would not be allowed to see Leo until they had secured a hotel room.

The sisters quickly complied. But by the time they returned to CPS around 10:30 a.m., their nephew had been taken to an undisclosed foster home, where he would remain until a preliminary court hearing the following afternoon.

By that Monday, April 7, when Ratte and his wife returned for a meeting with Latricia Jones, the CPS caseworker assigned to their case, no one in the family had been able to talk to Leo for a day and a half.
More investigation needed

At a hearing later that day, Jones recommended that Leo remain in foster care until she had completed her investigation, a process she estimated would take several days. It was only after the assistant attorney general who represented CPS admitted that the state was not interested in pursuing the case aggressively that juvenile referee Leslie Graves agreed to release Leo to his mother -- on the condition that Ratte himself relocate to a hotel.

Finally, at a second hearing three days later, Graves dismissed the complaint and permitted Ratte to move home.

Don Duquette, a U-M law professor who directs the university's Child Advocacy Law Clinic, represented Ratte and his wife. He notes sardonically that the most remarkable thing about the couple's case may be the relative speed with which they were reunited with Leo.

Duquette says the emergency removal powers of CPS, though "well-intentioned" are "out of control and partly responsible for the large numbers of kids in the foster care system," which is almost universally acknowledged to be badly overburdened.

Ratte and his wife have filed a formal complaint with the CPS ombudsman's office.

"I have apologized to Leo from the bottom of my heart for the silly mistake that got him into this mess," Ratte wrote in the complaint. "But I have also told him that what happened afterward was an even bigger error, and I would like to be able to say to him that institutions, like people, can learn from their mistakes."
Granted the dad should have checked the label, but what a horrible ordeal for this family to go through.
Old 04-29-08, 12:09 PM
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This is unbelievable. This type of abusive, completely incompetenet father should be put into prison for life!
Old 04-29-08, 12:11 PM
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Apparently a U of M professor. I heard about this last weekend.

I can imagine his students next term. "I had no idea looking at somebody else's test was cheating. I have never heard of that!"

EDIT: Sorry, I thought you asked what type of incompetent father.

and why mention DWTS twice?

Last edited by jonw9; 04-29-08 at 12:16 PM.
Old 04-29-08, 12:12 PM
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I guess I'll plead ignorance too. I had no idea that this had alcohol in it. Guess I'll have to buy my 7-year-old son something else to drink while he plays GTAIV.
Old 04-29-08, 12:14 PM
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What a horrible father. Think of the CHILDREN!
Old 04-29-08, 12:14 PM
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The next thing you know, Ratte will be buying his son a pack of cigarettes because there is a cartoon camel on it.
Old 04-29-08, 12:17 PM
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How sad.
Old 04-29-08, 12:30 PM
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So they do this for protection of the child and probably end up scarring him and making him incredibly distrustful of the government and authority. Way to go.
Old 04-29-08, 12:31 PM
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You'd have to be extremely stupid to:

a. give a kid Mike's Hard lemonade and not know what it is. What are you, living under a rock?
b. be a cop who makes any sort of deal out of it. I understand he was "sympathetic" after the fact, but why was this escalated at all? Tell the father to throw out the drink and leave it at that.
c. be a state official who can't pick up the fact that it was an honest mistake. If you're that bad at reading people, get a different job.
d. be a DCFS rep who thinks that putting a kid in foster care for a few days makes sense in this situation.

Dunce caps all around, please.
Old 04-29-08, 12:34 PM
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This is fucking bullshit, there are way worse cases where CPS does not remove the child from the home. This family sounds like a pretty nice one, and they did not deserve all of this, but the father should have looked at the label. What about the fucktard who sold the drink, they should at least be fired.
Old 04-29-08, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by kvrdave
. . . and making him incredibly distrustful of the government and authority. Way to go.
A good lesson to learn early in life.
Old 04-29-08, 12:42 PM
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I was pissed off that the aunts (who are licensed foster care parents) drove all night so they could take the boy and then CPS wouldn't give him to them and instead put him with an "undisclosed" foster family.

If the boy had to have been taken, every effort should have been made to place him with relatives instead of with strangers. God only knows what kind stuff goes on in some of those places.
Old 04-29-08, 12:42 PM
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I would assume the vendor had no way of knowing the dad was buying it for his son, so he's off the hook.
Old 04-29-08, 12:45 PM
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Originally Posted by dieinafire
What about the fucktard who sold the drink, they should at least be fired.

The kid didn't buy it the dad did. How is the vender going to know that the dad is going to give it to his kid? You'd think a college professor would know what the term "hard" means in the name of the product.
Old 04-29-08, 12:47 PM
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In the meantime kids are getting tortured and DSS knows of the situations and still allows the beatings and torturings to go on.
Old 04-29-08, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Mopower
The kid didn't buy it the dad did. How is the vender going to know that the dad is going to give it to his kid? You'd think a college professor would know what the term "hard" means in the name of the product.
The father should have looked at the bottle. However, the paper had a picture of the vendor's sign. It just said "Lemonade" no mention of "Hard." While I know what it is (and have consumed it), I can see the possible confusion.
Old 04-29-08, 01:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Hiro11
You'd have to be extremely stupid to:

a. give a kid Mike's Hard lemonade and not know what it is. What are you, living under a rock?
Originally Posted by OldDude
The father should have looked at the bottle. However, the paper had a picture of the vendor's sign. It just said "Lemonade" no mention of "Hard." While I know what it is (and have consumed it), I can see the possible confusion.
Yes, the father should have looked at the bottle, but yes, I can easily imagine an academic (of the sort who never watched any kind of TV) not knowing what "hard lemonade" was, especially when it wasn't on the sign. This guy was an archeology prof, and based on the ones I had in college, current pop culture or beverage choices were not his thing. No crime in that.

At the very least, someone should be busted for that sign. Why NOT put "hard lemonade" on the sign? Why not make it clear (via sign or something) that it's alcoholic? Wouldn't they have checked the Dad's ID?
Old 04-29-08, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by shoppingbear
Wouldn't they have checked the Dad's ID?
The 47-year-old academic . . .
Probably not.

I'm not sure anyone nees to be "busted" for the sign, but it should probably be corrected. All I could see in picture was Beer, Lemonade and Peanuts, and the prices. If there was more to the sign, it was cropped.

Last edited by OldDude; 04-29-08 at 01:08 PM.
Old 04-29-08, 01:08 PM
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Heard about this on the radio this morning. Honest mistake, it wasn't like he was having a chug-off with his kid.
Old 04-29-08, 01:08 PM
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Originally Posted by OldDude
The father should have looked at the bottle. However, the paper had a picture of the vendor's sign. It just said "Lemonade" no mention of "Hard." While I know what it is (and have consumed it), I can see the possible confusion.
Damn, I'm sorry. How's your stomach feeling?
Old 04-29-08, 01:19 PM
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here's the sign:




honest mistake. the end.
Old 04-29-08, 01:21 PM
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Honest mistake, but you really should know what you give your kid. That boy will never eat another morsel of food until after his parents have examined it with a microscope.
Old 04-29-08, 01:26 PM
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Thanks for posting the sign. Honest mistake. Sorry about abducting and traumatizing your child. We're from the government and we're here to help.
Old 04-29-08, 01:34 PM
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I don't which one of these are an unforgettable mistake, the professor with Mike's Lemonade or Jadzia with a massive article and no highlight?
Old 04-29-08, 01:45 PM
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Seven dollars!?

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