January 27, 2003
Secretary Charles P. Smith
103 South Main Street
Waterbury, Vermont 05671
Dear Secretary Smith,
My name is Patricia O'Dell. I am married to Raymond O'Dell. Ray has been stepfather to my three oldest children for almost ten years. He is my youngest daughter's biological father. On September 13, 2002 SRS personnel, aided by State Police, took 3 of my children from my mother's property at 364 Rocky Lane, Bennington while we were visiting my sick mother. My son, Andrew (15) was not at his grandmother's home at the time so the Family Court labeled him a fugitive from justice.
According to documents SRS is alleging 'educational neglect' but they and the Department of Education cannot define what that means. I homeschool my children and have for the past four years. If you check the records at the DOE you will find that I sent in an enrollment notification for all but the 2002-2003 school year because the DOE told me my standards were too high and I could no longer enroll in their home study program.
SRS told me I cannot put my children into a Christian school. We have an account at A Teacher's Closet in Rutland that was set up to assist us with our homeschooling. We use book bags filled with homeschooling supplies whenever we travel or go camping. The foster homes discouraged our children from using their homeschooling materials. I stopped giving these materials to my children because the foster homes would lose them or destroy them.
When my 3 daughters, Samantha (14), Angela (11) and Elizabeth (8), were first taken and put into foster homes I was told I could only have 'supervised' visits with them on a very limited basis. This concerned me because I could no longer see to the safety and Christian education of my children. I also did not know the people who my children were now living with. Case worker Athena Boulger told us we could not cry or hug each other at these supervised visits. My daughters were told they would not be allowed to see me if they cried or if they told me what it was like in the foster homes.
As soon as the visits began my children told me what it was like in these foster homes. At first, Angela and Elizabeth were placed with a woman named June Carroll at 108 Barber St. in Bennington. Because of Carroll's harsh treatment my daughters ran away on several occasions leaving them vulnerable to all sorts of dangers. They told me Carroll's husband would walk around the house in his underwear and wouldn't let the girls close their bedroom door so they couldn't see him. Carroll would take them to bingo and make them sit and wait until late at night. Carroll left them alone outside a beauty shop one day (September 21, 2002) while she had her hair done. Carroll slapped them for touching things and punished them by withholding food.
On October 3, 2002 Angela and Elizabeth were taken from the Carroll home and placed in two other homes. Angela went to live with Paula Mears at 9 Frost Road, Bennington and Elizabeth went to live with Deborah Burke at 2292 Rt 7, Pownal. After that things went from bad to worse. Samantha told me these foster parents would get together for secret meetings to make sure everyone had their stories straight. Samantha was taken to some of these meetings. On one occasion both Angela and Elizabeth ran away and were chased to a hospital parking lot where Burke pursued Elizabeth who was crawling under the parked cars. Elizabeth could have been run over and killed!
On October 27, 2002 Angela and Elizabeth were staying together at the Mears' home and sometime in the morning they ran away. They eventually called me and I went to get them. I was horrified to find out that Elizabeth had a bruise on her left hip which she told me was caused by one of the four boys in her foster home. Elizabeth told me this boy 'drags' her in order to deliberately hurt her. This is not the first time. I saw a mark on Elizabeth's upper right shoulder about a week prior to this at one of our supervised visits in the SRS office. I also witnessed first hand one of these foster boys dragging Elizabeth from the SRS office after a supervised visit . I had to intervene in order to protect her. Angela told me she was abused by the foster father in the Mears' home. She was tossed onto a bed when she tried to stop the foster father from hitting another foster child with a belt.
As mother to both Elizabeth and Angela I could not take my children back to those foster homes so I decided to take them to my friend's house in E. Wallingford. Her name is Cindy Wade. Cindy talked to both my daughters in person and she took photos of the bruise on Elizabeth's hip. That night we went to the Weston Priory and begged for sanctuary and political asylum from the Vermont state government.
In the first month of supervised visits my daughter Samantha told me that her foster mother, Michelle Angell, was allowing a young boy named Timothy C. to call her and see her. I know this boy from before and I was furious when I found out this was happening. This boy had been abusive toward Samantha in the past leaving bruises on her. I told Athena Boulger NOT to allow this boy anywhere near Samantha but she refused to listen to me. In fact, Athena was encouraging these visits between Samantha and Timothy in the hopes that he would be able to get Samantha to tell him where her brother Andrew was. Athena wanted Timothy to get this information for her.
During the weeks that Samantha has been in state custody she has been allowed and encouraged by Michelle and Athena to go with boys as old as 18 or 19, unsupervised in vehicles. She has also been allowed by these women to stay over in the homes of people I know nothing about. Samantha called me from a motel room in December once where she was left alone with two babies and expected to watch them. She called me because she didn't know what to do with them.
In a supervised visit on November 8, 2002 my daughter Elizabeth did not show up and even Athena seemed surprised by this. Athena could not track down Elizabeth or the foster mother that day. Even more troubling about this visit was the fact that Samantha was acting very different. Samantha climbed onto my lap and she cried for almost the whole visit. I kept hearing from family members and others that Samantha is being exposed to drugs, smoking and all kinds of boys are making advances on her.
My daughter, Samantha, is a Christian homeschooler. She has not been in public school for nearly four years since she was in 5th grade. She has been placed into an environment she is not equipped to handle and I have no way of protecting her. A teacher told her she cannot read her Bible in school, even on her own time, and made her put it away.
On November 10, 2002 my son Andrew was captured by SRS and placed into a detention center for nearly a week. He was so upset over his treatment that he vomited his food. I was not allowed to visit him there and take care of him. Eventually Andrew was place with Barbara Newton in Bennington.
In late December Andrew came to a visit with a rash on his legs. He told me Barbara deliberately gave him a wool blanket to sleep with after he told her that he was allergic to wool. When I confronted Athena with this information she informed Barbara about my concern. Barbara informed Athena that if I wanted Andrew to have a different blanket that I'd have to bring him one. Barbara said she couldn't afford to buy more blankets. Andrew told me Barbara is a chain smoker in the home and can afford cigarettes though. In early January I bought a blanket at K-Mart and a comforter at the Salvation Army for Andrew and took them to my next visit to give to Andrew. Samantha's foster mother saw me do this.
Andrew also told me Elizabeth is left alone outside in a cold car sometimes when Burke returns a retarded respite boy to Newton's house in the evenings. Elizabeth is left in the car because Newton has made it very clear she won't allow Andrew to see his sister as a form of punishment, so Elizabeth isn't allowed into her house where it is warmer. Andrew has told me he now wants to go live with his father because it would be better to live with a father that doesn't want him and a step-mother who beats him rather than live with Newton and stay in SRS custody.
On January 21, 2003 I went to a supervised visit at the SRS office with my children. Samantha did not show up but Andrew did. I see the two older children for 1 hour now before I get to see Angela and Elizabeth. Andrew told me some very upsetting news. He told me a boy had had sex with Samantha. SHE IS ONLY 14 YEARS OLD! I believed him because my son would not lie about something like this. I also have several love notes that were written to Samantha from boys in school. Samantha wrote me a note on December 20, 2002 talking about suicide. Why won't the state protect my children? Why is Athena Boulger allowed to do all these mean things to me and my children?
On January 23, 2003 I called the Governor's hotline and reported this. I talked to a woman named Joan. Cindy Wade was with me and helped me. After I talked to Joan I called your office in Waterbury and talked to a woman named Danielle. Cindy Wade also talked to Danielle.
On January 24, 2003 I went to my supervised visit with both Andrew and Samantha. Samantha admitted to me that a boy did have sex with her about two months ago. This is called 'statutory rape'! I think Athena and Michelle already knew this but were not telling me. I think this explains all the sad poetry and notes Samantha writes to me. This explains why my 14-year-old daughter would climb onto my lap for a whole visit and cry like a baby. Why are you people doing this to us? Why did SRS allow my daughter to be raped?
What if my daughter gets pregnant? There is no 'parental notification' law in this state. Will SRS take my 14 year old Christian daughter to have an abortion and never tell me that too.
My husband and I are forced to live in a motel in Bennington in order to be close to our children. We have property in S. Newfane, Vermont and have a group of people helping us to get it ready to live in but it won't be ready until May or June of this year. We are searching for a 3-bedroom apartment or house to live in when our children are returned to us but the state took away almost half of our income when they took our daughter Angela's SSI payments. We were not on welfare or foodstamps. We bought our S. Newfane property with insurance money we received when our W. Haven, Vermont home burned to the ground three days after Christmas in 2000. The state has made us poor and made us into criminals. Why has the state done this? I know my children are worth lots of money to the state but their safety, education and happiness is more important. SRS has not charged me with truancy, neglect or abuse. Why are they doing this to us?
Mr. Smith, I want you to help my children. Please just give them back to me so that I can protect them from the people who work for you. I want to hold them again when they cry. I want to take care of them again. I want to make them happy again. What did I do that was so terrible the state had to take them away from me? Was it the homeschooling? Was it because we couldn't get our new home ready fast enough to please the state?
I want you and Governor Jim Douglas to take my children away from the people who are hurting them and give them back to me because I am their mother and I love them very much. I never, never hurt my children. SRS and the public school have hurt them very bad. Please let my children come home to me so that I can heal their hearts and make that hurt go away.
Governor Jim Douglas
Senator Mark Shepard
David Howard, Judge