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We’ve been getting tons of messages in the inbox over the last few months about an ongoing campaign entitled “Help Us Save Mikey“. I finally got a chance to look into it last night, and it appears that the entire saga has recently reached a crescendo. I’ll start right from where I did, and walk through my research into the matter. The whole story centers around 4 year old Mikey, son of Michael Cadena of Weymouth, MA and Amber Buck of Illinois. He is a beautiful, happy looking little boy with a mop of fair hair set atop an adorable chubby little face lit up by bright blue eyes. Definitely a face you feel sympathy for immediately. Especially when you get into the story put out by his paternal family members and supporters, that allege this sweet angel face was the victim of horrible child abuse, drug fueled neglect and instability from infancy, at the hands of his mother. Heartbreaking.
After all is said and done, I hate to say it, because I just like most people want to believe in the good fight against child abuse, but the whole thing just sort of reeks of suspicion from where I’m standing. I can’t say for sure, because I’ve never even meet this little munchkin. But a little delving into the case online, and cracks do start to show.
First of all, there’s not just one, but three online fundraisers attached to this already. Anyone who reads us knows, that when multiple gofundme’s pop up, it’s wise to at least be a little skeptical. Via one of them, Mikey’s Recovery Fund, this is the story you’re opening up your wallet for:
“Since infancy, Mikey was abused and neglected. He was victimized while living with his mother and repeatedly subjected to criminal activity, trauma, and violence. Police reports, court documents, and medical records show that Mikey had been burned, beaten, thrown, and tied up so tightly he had rope burns. Close to twelve complaints had been relayed to DCFS concerning his care, many of which were filed by medical professionals. Specifically, the Pediatric Center Resource Center for Child Abuse and Neglect (PRC) in Peoria, Illinois examined Mikey and documented multiple injuries incurred while under the care of his mother, including: severe bruising, blunt force trauma, human bite marks, black eyes, anal bleeding and tear, forehead bruising, rope burns, burned fingers, sores, misplaced hips, and excessive dental problems.
Concerned for his son’s safety, Mikey’s father began pursuing full custody. During this period, visitation appointments with his son became a time to provide Mikey medical care, nutritious food, and proper hygiene in addition to lots of love and nurturing. Finally, after a police raid of his mother’s home, Mikey was removed on an emergency order when it was discovered the child was living in an active meth lab. In addition to the use and manufacturing of methamphetamines, authorities found marijuana, six types of ammunition, and dirty syringes left all around the home.
Research shows the dangerous and potentially life-altering effects a home-based methamphetamine lab has on children. Exposure to neglect, abuse, violence, psychoactive stimulants and lethal chemicals can damage a child in ways that may not surface for years. Fortunately for Mikey, he was given a second chance that day in March 2016. Mikey’s father was granted full custody after an Illinois judge found the mother unfit. He then relocated to Massachusetts with Mikey where the 4 year old child has since been living in a loving, structured and supportive environment with access to leading medical treatments offered in the Boston area.”
Tragic, amiright? The poor kid is born to a Meth addicted mother, abused heinously, and finally removed. Thank goodness for his loving father, who swooped in, rescued him, and has given him a stable life! Oh, my bleeding heart! But what is it that Mikey and his father need your money for?
“With legal fees on a continual rise due to an ongoing court battle to keep the child safely in his custody, we decided to create this Go Fund Me page to help Michael focus on solely on his son’s care and the fight to keep him safe, not on overwhelming medical costs. While Mikey is covered by his father’s insurance, not all specialty services are; thus, resulting in approximately $3,000 per month in out-of-pocket expenses. Without this treatment, Mikey would have had significant difficulty processing his experiences and developing coping skills for trauma and anxiety. It would also have hindered Mikey’s social development and impede his ability to trust and connect with others. Undoubtedly, this treatment is crucial to his son’s recovery and we want to help alleviate some of that cost if possible. Our goal is to raise enough funds to cover a full year of this specialized care. All funds raised will go exclusively to Mikey’s therapeutic needs.”
As soon as I read that, it gave me some pause. We live in the state of Massachusetts. We have a little something called Masshealth, that covers comprehensive mental health and trauma services for children and youth. I know this very, very well. I also know, that in the case of a family not being eligible for Masshealth standard, there are two other tiers that can cover a child’s uncovered services: Masshealth Commonhealth, and Masshealth Family Assistance. These are programs offered to cover the cost of treatment for children who are affected by significant mental health needs, or a serious emotional disturbance, as is described of poor little Mikey. So how the father is incurring these exorbitant healthcare costs seems rather suspect to me. From the way his behavior and functioning have been described, and the hard evidence of prior abuse they insist upon having, there is slim to no chance that this child would not qualify. Any Massachusetts based provider would be aware of this, and often are more than willing to provide documentation to ensure eligibility. Here’s an overview, straight off Masshealth’s website:
And that’s just the first whiff of bullshit I got, really.
Now, let’s be completely reasonable here. I cannot possibly know that the family here in Massachusetts is being misleading, disingenuous, or running a scam for certain. No more certain than any of the people who are clamoring to support this father can really know for certain that he’s being 100% honest here. But this story entails more than just raising funds to offset the (in my opinion, dubious) medical costs incurred by the family. This poor child has also been at the center of a lengthy and contentious custody battle spanning two states. Which brings us to fundraiser #2.
“Please take a moment to support our friend Michael Cadena as he faces a huge obstacle in the Courts this week. He was granted custody of his son Mikey who had been subjected to constant physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend in Illinois. He brought Mikey back to Massachusetts last year and has been working to heal his beautiful 4 year old son, who beaten and burned and tied up so tightly he had rope burns.
His biological mother was arrested for operating a Meth Lab in her apartment and Mikey was taken from her and his dad was given custody. She has now retained an attorney and the courts demanded that he return Mikey to Illinois. He is being threatened with arrest if he doesn’t go to court.
We are all hoping he is able to keep both Michael and Mikey here in Weymouth with their extended family and where he has a great career. He is taking care of his son and his mom, providing them both with a nice home. Nobody is saying the mom should never be with her son again; everyone deserves a second chance. The problem is her manipulating the courts to take him from his dad who basically saved him. I hope justice will prevail and Mikey gets to stay here with his daddy.”
All together, it’s up to $20,338 raised through online fundraising efforts alone so far. This isn’t counting charity events put on to benefit Mr. Cadena. I’ve found 2 of those so far.
So here’s red flag number two for me, ready for it?
This account is not entirely accurate. The child was not taken from his mother’s custody in March 2016 and immediately placed in his father’s care. The full story is, that both Mom and Dad lost custody of the child in March of 2016, due to mother’s ongoing drug abuse and legal issues – as well as Father’s. That fact doesn’t seem to be prevalent in any of the publicity put out by Michael Cadena or his supporters, although mother’s drug history is set out on full display. Here’s Dads for you, too.
The child was not immediately given to his father in March of 2016 as stated in public releases, publicity materials, and fundraising efforts on behalf of Michael Cadena Sr. He was put into foster care, and after about 4 months, released into his father’s care in July of 2016. A permanency order awarding father legal and custody was issued on February 16, 2017, and the case was closed. Almost exactly a month to the day later, Dad takes the kid, and leaves the state, without notifying the mother, or seeking permission from the courts, although the mother’s legal case was still pending. Don’t take my word for it, though. I’m a huge proponent of objective fact, so take Mr. Cadena’s word for it.
Now, I’m not going to come in and defend a mother using, manufacturing and selling meth. That would be insane. I’m simply wondering out loud, that given that the general consensus is that meth and moms don’t make a successful mix, why the lack of transparency, Michael? It’s not like you don’t have enough on Mom as it is, she had a goddamn meth lab in the house with her children. Why hide your past mistakes, too, and appear to be coming from much high moral ground? This man is not a perfect parent, either. Which is fine. But be upfront.
This transcends just a custody battle between two struggling addict parents. This man is condemning a district court judge in Mclean County, Illinois, and as now, one of our own Massachusetts judges as well. I acknowledge that court corruption does exist – how could I write for Turtleboy and not? But I don’t just accept it based on emotionally charged issues where adorable little boys are put front and center. I need FACKS.
And of course the father is describing just the most harrowing child abuse one could imagine, suffered by this innocent baby allegedly at the hands of his own mother. He claims to have photographs, police reports and medical records detailing the abuse. So obviously, the mother has been charged, right? One would think. Well, no. No she has not.
This struck me as so odd, because I cannot imagine here in this state such well documented abuse going completely unnoticed by authorities, especially when the bio family is so vocal and credible enough to run a pretty lucrative fundraising effort thus far. Honestly, in Massachusetts, were the police to respond to a complaint of child abuse, and find sufficient evidence, they would have to file with Child Protective Services at the very least, as mandated reporters. Often District Attorney referrals follow not too far behind.
But, I’m not from Illinois, so I reached out to their DCFS’s office of communication, who assured me, that without specifics to any particular case, if they were given such comprehensive and compelling evidence detailing abuse to a child, the matter would not be simply dismissed, and the odds of a referral to the District Attorney’s office would be pretty high. I think that’s common sense, but, you know, due diligence.
Could it have been overlooked in this particular case? Yeah, of course. But when mom gets busted running a meth lab, I doubt it. It just seems too conveniently stacked against a guy with his own checkered past, who flees the state immediately after closing out with Child Protective services, without obtaining permission from the courts. Some of this just doesn’t sit right, I’m sorry.
So Michael takes little Mikey here to Massachusetts, and essentially cuts the mother out cold, citing the alleged abuse and subsequent trauma suffered by this boy. And the court case continued over in Illinois, because local accounts, mom went to jail, was released and placed on probation, and started to work on getting her life back together. It was covered by a local news outlet, The Pentagraph, in this article.
Apparently she came into court with a binder full of evidence of treatment, admitted what she has done, and cited her children’s removal as the reason for change. Maybe she’s being honest, maybe not. Maybe she means it now, but might fail later, or maybe she won’t. I don’t know. But I know that if you can accept your failures and are willing to change, it can happen. It has happened. And sometimes it doesn’t. More importantly, I know that at the end of the day this isn’t explicitly about her, or about the father, it’s about the child. And every child deserves the chance to a mother, and a father.
DCFS found Ms. Buck, Mikey’s mother, to be fit in July 2017. Her other child was returned to her care, and to date, appears to remain with her mother, and be doing ok. All I know is, Michael Cadena, whatever the reason, took it upon himself to decide for his son that if it were up to him, that child would not have the chance to know his mother. Right, wrong, or indifferent. And I personally, can’t forget, that Michael doesn’t have an impeccable past himself. If he was able to change, who’s to say the woman he chose to create a child with can’t? Certainly not me, and certainly not the thousands of people who have blindly come out to support this man, and condemn this woman.
So within the past fews days, a heartbreaking video has been released of little Mikey Jr. being told in what appears to be a courthouse, that he was to be taken from his Massachusetts family and returned to his mother. The child shows obvious grief, and it’s a tough watch for sure.
But my gut feeling, was how fucking exploitative is that? This child has undoubtedly been traumatized in at least the sense that he was exposed to maternal, and presumably to some extent, paternal drug use. His familial relationships were disrupted during his earliest and more formative years. And there, in a public setting, he is told that he will be disrupted yet again.
He shows understandable grief and apprehension, but how dare they videotape that child’s pain and broadcast it for millions of strangers to see? Maybe the kid is distraught because he truly fears his mother – maybe its because change is terrifying to a four year old, regardless. Maybe he has been alienated from his mother by his relatives, maybe not.
But I cannot blindly condemn anyone based on that video, and I simply can’t see it as morally acceptable. Kids are not pawns, and that kid deserves privacy and dignity, for damn sure. It says a lot about the people who would participate in such a charade. But hey, it sure seems to have ratcheted up the donations! As I was researching last night, they were visibly ticking in by the minute.
I can’t blindly believe that an abused child would be forced back to the home of his drug addled, abusive, unfit mother by not one, but two judges, in two separate states. Yes, children are often failed by the state. We see it in our own more than I think anyone would ever want. But this isn’t a voiceless ward of the state – this is a child fervently advocated for, who resides with biological kin. He wasn’t dumped off in a foster home and forgotten about, or given back to abusive parents to get out of state custody because CPS states a directive to at least try to keep these kids with family. I’m sorry, it stinks. The question of the hour is, how did this happen? And I put my time into finding out why. I have a pretty good guess now.
Let’s start with the looming custody battle, and point out yet another misrepresentation put out by the campaign. As reflected in court documents I have obtained, the mother did not set out seeking to rip her son away from his father by manipulating the courts. Oh, no. She originally filed seeking mere contact with her child. The father did not comply. He would not let her know where her son was living specifically, obstructed phone calls, and made no effort to accommodate visits. So, the courts focus was, for many, many months, not changing over custody, but simply getting the father to pack up the child, come back to Illinois, and be heard in a best interest hearing regarding the child to determine appropriate parenting time allocations.
Dad refused. And refused, and refused. And the courts, as well as the mother, gave him chance after chance to comply. At least six. Finally, in June of this year, after repeated failed attempts to just get Dad to follow due process and comply, the courts got serious. He was found in such marked contempt that he now sits in jail, with a sentence of six months for criminal contempt awaiting him back in Illinois.
That is why mom has custody now, that is why this kid’s life has been uprooted. Because this man, who claims so publicly, in videos, websites, Facebook posts and public releases, to be willing to do anything for the benefit of his son, wouldn’t even get on a plane to be heard on the matter of the child’s best interest. I mean, really. I’ve been to court over my children. I have a hard time understanding how, when faced with a custody issue, a parent would decide that polished looking, videographer-produced and edited internet videos, photo shoots, charity events and fundraising is more necessary than just showing up to court? Why raise money for legal fees, just to keep dodging court dates?
According to the warrant issued out of the Illinois court where the case originated, the courts took notice of this as well, and acknowledged exactly what I’m thinking – if the evidence he claims to have is so compelling and concrete, and he just wants what’s best for his son, why not just show up? The court even acknowledges that had he just complied, shown up and been heard on the child’s best interest, he very well may have been permitted to retain custody of his son and remain in Massachusetts.
I mean, for what it’s worth, the allegedly meth addled monster of Mother hopped on a plane not once, but twice, to retrieve her son. I’ve known a lot of junkie mothers. Not often do they show up to court consistently, maintain the same job for 18 months, maintain custody of another child, and fly across states just to see their child. Again, maybe she’s just a really good actress, or maybe she’ll fail. But when we’re looking at evidence here, what I can say for certain, is that this isn’t at cut and dry as presented by the “Help Us Save Mikey” campaign. Sorry folks, if you want people to blindly believe a viral Internet sob story you came to the wrong place. We do FACKS here.
I’ve further counter with this – while Michael Cadena is benefiting from fundraisers, I could find no evidence of the child’s mother, Amber Buck, doing the same. Michael Cadena openly discusses his side of this sordid story on social media, and actively smears the mother of his child. Amber Buck is essentially silent. I hope, for the sake of this child, that this isn’t what it looks like to me. But either way, the real loser in this whole thing is little Mikey, undoubtedly, no matter where the material facts may lie. He is unfortunately stuck in the middle of two parents who clearly cannot for the life of them come together to serve his best interest, and that’s the real clear tragedy from my vantage point.