Child Tug-of-War Spans International Border

“He has to come home.”

Phyllis Heltay’s words hang between desperation and disbelief.

She’s been fighting for over a year to bring her 11-year-old grandson home to Canada, after he was taken into custody by the State of Oregon and placed in foster care.

Noah Kirkman faces the possibility of being permanently adopted out to strangers, despite having a mother and sister in Calgary, and at least three willing homes where the Canadian boy might be cared for by blood-relatives.

One of those relations is Noah’s mother Lisa Kirkman, and therein lies the rub: Oregon’s Department of Human Services considers Lisa such an unfit parent, they’d rather keep Noah in the foster system than let him come home.

They won’t say why. Indeed, officials in that state won’t even acknowledge the existence of the Canadian child in their custody, who lives with a foster family and attends school near Eugene, Oregon.

“I am not able to provide you with any information about specific child welfare cases,” said Gene Evans, a state spokesman.

The silence is official, but Lisa Kirkman has reams of court documents to back her story, which started when social workers arrived on the doorstep, to take Noah away “for a few days.”

That was Sept. 2008, and Lisa has been battling to get her son back ever since, with her last physical contact in July 2009. Since last summer, they’ve only spoken through supervised phone calls.

“It’s an absolute and utter nightmare,” said Lisa, a 34-year-old freelance journalist.

“To me this is an abduction — they took my child from me for no reason.”

Noah and his younger sister Mia were staying with their step-dad in Oregon for the summer, with Lisa joining the family at the end of August to collect them home for school.

Unfortunately, Noah was collected by the local police force first. Officers in Oakridge, Oregon nabbed the boy for riding his bike without a helmet, and then struggled to determine who he was.

Noah is bright, getting top grades, but he has special needs, with severe attention deficit disorder being his main challenge.

Noah’s unusual behaviour probably led the officers to run the boy’s name through their system, where they discovered his past history with Canadian social services.

Noah’s special needs meant Lisa had turned to child and family services in two provinces seeking help — as a result, she has a “record” of family difficulties in Canada.

To make matters more sticky, Lisa has a criminal record in Canada. She is a marijuana crusader and columnist, and was busted years ago for growing medical marijuana without a permit.

That past led Oregon officials to keep Noah and place him in foster care, forcing Lisa to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and swear off drugs before they’ll even consider returning her son.

His American step-father, John, can’t take custody, as he is not a legal guardian.

Despite “testing well”, according to court records and a letter from a Calgary-based psychologist, it was recommended Lisa undergo behavioural therapy, to teach her emotional control.

All the while, as months ticked by, Noah was moved through four different foster homes and various schools. At one point, he was living in a devout Christian home, despite being Jewish.

The seemingly-endless tangle of red-tape has even stymied attempts by Noah’s grandparents from bringing him home. If Lisa isn’t a suitable parent, they argue, why not give Noah to us?

“More than a year ago, we said we’d be willing to take him until this is all sorted out, but we’re still waiting,” said Heltay.

As well as the grandparents, both working professionals in Calgary, Lisa’s sister has offered her home.

Before the grandparents can take the boy, officials in Oregon want a full assessment of their home, and the Heltay’s now await an official inspector who will put their lives under a microscope.

Meanwhile, Lisa can only speak to her son over the phone, trying to remind a boy who last lived with her 20 months ago that he still has a loving family, 1,000 kilometres and an international border away.

“It’s like getting your heart ripped out,” said Lisa.

“If I allowed myself to get too emotional, I couldn’t function. I just have to focus on bringing him home.”

– Article from the Calgary Sun on January 18, 2010.



  1. Anonymous on

    First, while I try to think of words suitable for this disgusting pile of mud, let me thank all previous commentors for the expression of their indignation and horror of these events.

    Sometimes really stupid things like this happen, but then what should happen next? The Canadian Government must intervene and demand the repatriation of their citizen!

    The biggest villain in this case is the Canadian Government, which is committing an egregious sin of omission.

    Next, of course, all of the idiots in Oregon should be immediately recalled (kicked out), or, at the very least, defeated BIG TIME at the next election. Is that the only message they can respond to? Someone should be filing criminal lawsuits against all those responsible: personal lawsuits as well as lawsuits against the County and the State of Oregon.

    It has been abundantly demonstrated that taking a child from his parents does far more harm than good. Parents have a natural right to live their lives and raise their children however they see fit, and it is no business of any government agent to interfere.

    I could go on and on, but I think I will just stomp and scream a bit and pray for the survival of the human race.

  2. Anonymous on

    I can’t believe my eyes. What an insane world we’re living in.

    I usually don’t curse and I try to restrain from using foul language so try to forgive me the following:

    Maybe his mother is indeed not fit to take care of her boy, I honestly don’t know, but for Gods sake; let him return to his own bloody country!

    The social services in this case should be fuckin’ sentenced to jail. Kidnappers.

    I pray for the reuniting of this family.

  3. Steve on

    The Canadian govt. under Harpo will not do anything because Harpo is morally opposed to drug use. That is his morality being foisted on the rest of us. The sooner Harpo goes the better. Vote for anyone but that asshole next election. And if any party grows a pair and says they will end prohibition, vote for them regardless of the rest of their platform. Who ever takes power cannot be any worse than the gong show on the hill now. If they really mess things up, vote them out on the following election. Know what I mean?

  4. Anonymous on

    How is it that the US hasn’t pissed off Canada so much with it’s bullshit that it hasn’t bombed us yet? If Canada did this to an American kid it would have invaded.

  5. Reverend J. Shaffer on

    Alright, RCMP, time to mount up and go rescue this hostage. Send SWAT teams, send Special Forces, send the Cavalry!

  6. Anonymous=] on

    This is insanity, the government should have no control over this matter. The government has done the same thing to me and tried to decide where I should live, when the people they suggested were so strung out on prescription pills they couldn’t function for themselves let alone raise me, I didn’t know what to do and am currently dealing with the matter still today. The reason they took me from my family…? They suspected there was marijuana usage by my father when I never once saw him do it. I’am wondering if there is anything we can do to help. The amount of stress this puts on the child is incalculable compared to stress of “possible” marijuana exposure. Especially when the illegality of the substance itself causes it to be almost completely channeled through the schools nationwide. Easily said to be the most obtainable illicit substance for any kid in school.

  7. ransom on

    What another waste of time & energy, poor little fucker has to replace the cops failed attempt at a real criminal. Doesn’t matter what country, government is the mafia! Sounds more like a ransom! They are only proud to leave a woman in fear and wanting her child.

  8. RJ on

    I want to know why the Canadian Govt is doing nothing to bring back a CANADIAN child held in foster care in the US ? What right does the US have to hold hostage a Canadian Child ?? !!!!!!!!!!!! They are using a child for political reasons , how pathetic is that !!!!!

  9. Libertarian on

    Government acting up like the mafia – taking hostages to silence inconvenient voices that dare to openly challenge their ways. It is a more then low and extremly despared approch to maintain controll over a society that slowly waking up and starting to rise.
    It a little bit like the last despered stands of the failing soviet system 20 years ago, same actions and hopefully same outcome.

  10. Cody Martin, Odessa Texas on

    A young Canadian National visits in the states gets taken into custody of cps despite the fact that he has family in Canada. It’s fairly obvious that cps is sayin that if you smoke pot, you’re an unfit parent. But that’s beside the fact. He’s from Canada. Officials in Oregon don’t have any write to decide if a mother from Canada, living in Canada, is a suitable guardian.

  11. Anonymous on

    Disgusting absolutely fucking disgusting 90% of all individuals smoke pot at some point in there lives should there kids be taken away.