Living in a small Ohio town, Chris and Kathy Butner felt their lives were complete. They hadn’t had an easy road, but always tried to do their best for their family of 5 children, from their oldest son having asthma to their 10 year old, who was diagnosed with ADHD and seizures. If that wasn’t difficult enough, their 7 year old daughter had seizures as a baby. In 2007, after various tests, doctors gave her a blood transfusion and inserted a feeding tube. Their youngest daughter had a cyst on her head.
According to the Butners, all of the children were being followed by their doctors. Never did they question the doctors’ recommendations, and they always complied with what was asked, which would explain why the Butners report that they were later cleared of any medical neglect that they were accused of by Child Protection Services (CPS).
Troubled Teenager Enters Counseling, and CPS Enters Their Lives
In 2011 their oldest son had become a teenager. He was having problems with one of his grandparents. He was getting depressed and angry and felt upset due to this broken relationship.
While family disputes often happen, it was clear to Chris and Kathy Butner that their son needed help and they wanted to get him treatment. Once family counseling was started and their son was being treated, they were led to believe that CPS was being contacted in order to find a closer location to their home for counseling. They were driving an hour for the appointments, so they believed them. Because they never had any issues with CPS, they didn’t doubt their judgement.
Social Worker Demands the Children Go to Public School
In March 2012 they were assigned a social worker that would visit the home 1 to 2 times a week. The Butner family listened to their requests. In fact, they went as far as trying to enroll their homeschooled children in public school, because the social worker insisted that they do so, even though the children were happy with their online schooling.
It was a shock to Kathy when her and her oldest son entered the public school to enroll and were told they had been reported, and that it was “too late.” Kathy did not understand this because she had done as she was directed, and took them out of online schooling to start public school. As her oldest son cried and pleaded with the school officials, they were told to leave the school property.
CPS Takes Kids, Tells Them They Are Going On Vacation
Bewildered, Kathy went home and phoned their social worker. She never got a call back, so she called again, but nothing. A few short days later, April 4th, 2012, there was a knock at their door. CPS stood at their door with 2 police officers, and they were told their children were being taken away.
Kathy and Chris asked for an explanation, because they had been told repeatedly that everything was fine. As they said their goodbyes to their children, Kathy heard the CPS workers tell the children they were going on vacation and not to worry.
While shocked this could happen, the Butners started the fight of their life. They tried to get to the bottom of why their children were being taken. They had visitation once a week and often it was an hour. If they were fortunate, it was a little more, but many times it was less. According to Kathy, they were trying to get a grip on how this could be happening.
“Don’t Ask Questions – Just Comply”
They were often told that, in order to visit with their children, they would need to bring shoes or new clothes and school supplies. They again complied what they were told, because they realized if they didn’t, there would be no visitation.
Their children would try on their new shoes or check out their gifts during those treasured short visits, but it was never long before the tears would start to flow. Kathy remembers her children begging them,
Don’t stop fighting for us!
They gave their children their word, and kept reassuring them that they would be back home.
As weekly visits continued, they were told by the social worker not to ask questions, and that reunification was the goal. If anyone showed any emotion, the visits were cut short and the children were quickly taken out of the visit and told it was time to go back to their foster home. Once again the Butner family thought that if they listened to their social worker and followed their instructions, they would one day be a family again.
Children Told They Are Going to Be Adopted
As their children continued to beg to come home at their weekly visitation meetings, it became clearer to Kathy and Chris that either their children were getting confused, or that Kathy and her husband were being lied to by CPS. The children were telling them that they were being adopted. Confused and thinking “how can this be,” they once again asked their social worker. Again they were reminded not to ask questions.
As the children grew more anxious every visit, so did their parents fear. As the time passed, they continued to fight and tell their children they would not give up.
Problems with Foster Care
At the very first visit, the children told them that their foster family had burned their Bibles that they brought from home. Their oldest son was taken off his asthma medication and had allegedly collapsed on the football field, while one of their daughters came to one of their visits with a black eye. The other children said she was hit with a 2 x 4.
Kathy’s worst fears were coming true. Being a mother of 5, she had never wanted her children to endure what she had gone through at their age. She had been in foster care and was abused and had a hard childhood. She had vowed never to let that happen to her children. Never in her worst nightmare would she think that this could be possible, stating:
“CPS didn’t help then and they are not helping now.”
Her oldest son was not encouraged to continue his counseling and was allegedly told by CPS that it was not needed anymore. Despite this, within days following Chris and Kathy’s final visit with their children on June 27, 2013, they got a call to come to the hospital, where Chris Jr. had been taken after CPS discovered that he was cutting.
The disturbing behavior had never happened while he was in his parents’ care. Kathy reports that the social worker told her that he would probably kill himself before he turned 18. His parents want to know why, when the state was so concerned for him before he was taken from his parents, would the counseling not be continued for his best interest?
Still Asking “Why?”
The Butners state that the court said there were no abuse findings, and no medical neglect. Kathy was originally accused of Munchausen by Proxy, but she was later cleared of that allegation.
So, what grounds did CPS have to take all 5 children out of their home and never give them back? Chris and Kathy still ask themselves that question daily as they cry for their loss. In fact, the Butners later learned that allegedly the first foster home wanted to adopt their 3 youngest children from the very beginning, a goal which they have accomplished. That leads Kathy and Chris to ask the question that many parents would in their shoes: was it set up?
Even though they lost their rights to their children in June of 2013, they still have not received their court transcripts. They were told by their second social worker if they would turn their rights over to their children, they would get the transcripts. After they refused, they were told that CPS could take them without their signature. They continued to fight, and as their funds got small, so did the hope in their hearts that their children would ever come home.
Children Adopted, But Parents Will Never Give Up
The 3 youngest were adopted last year by the first foster home, while the older two children went to a few different fosters before being adopted. Chris and Kathy have been told there is nothing that can be done for them now that they have been adopted, and that they should just move on.
They ask, “How? Could you just move on?”
Kathy still hears her oldest son saying, “I thought you made me a promise?” Those words don’t go away for Kathy and her husband. There is no closure for them. Not a day goes by in that home that was once filled with their children’s laughter where the silence continues to take over their minds. Their children have now been led to believe that they have stopped fighting. They want their children to know they have not stopped fighting, and they will not give up.
Kathy reports that they talked to many lawyers who believe there were no grounds for this to happen. She states that they came to the same conclusion as Kathy and Chris did, that their children were never given a chance to be brought back to their home, especially when they listened to their social workers and followed through on the demands that were asked of them.
Kathy rewinds these horrific events in her mind. She can’t help but to cry when she remembers her children asking, “Why didn’t you want to see us last week?” From the very beginning, she says her children were being told lies by their foster families. They are left wondering how that can be allowed, while they are holding on to memories and their last bit of hope.
Not a birthday goes by where they do not wish they were celebrating the occasion with their children. Holidays with their children are a distant memory as they wonder about their lives now. They know this continues to be the drive that they need to continue to fight and believe that they will see their children again at home where they belong.
How You Can Help
After having no success with a court-appointed lawyer, Chris and Kathy still hope to have a lawyer help them with their case. They hope to be able to get the court transcripts. This is a parent’s worst nightmare. With all this family has endured, they still need answers.
Supporters who would like to help this family believe that justice can be served may encourage the family and follow their story on their new Facebook page, called CPS Bring Our 5 Stolen Butner Children Home.
Child Protective Services in Ohio is administered under the County Department of Job and Family Services. The Tuscarawas County JFS may be contacted at (330) 339-7791, and they may be reached here.
Supporters are asked to call the office of Ohio Governor John Kasich at (614) 466-3555. He may be contacted here.
Representative Al Landis represents Tuscarawas county, and he may be reached at (614) 466-8035 or contacted here.