Skip to main content

tv   America Tonight  Al Jazeera  May 30, 2015 9:00pm-9:31pm EDT

9:00 pm
loft song the lyrics titled a long journey. and he hopes his title will be one to a journey to no end, even after he has no longer around. >> i'm del walters in new york. "america tonight" is next. next. on the weekend edition of "america tonight", fighting chance. already an olympic gold medallist, the world's number one middleweight tells sara hoy, she's ready to pump above her weight again. >> what defines you? >> overcoming my obstacles, resilience is the word. out of control. when the state steps in whose
9:01 pm
life is it. sheila macvicar vets the rights lost in the name of protecting a ward of the state. >> you were under guardianship. >> yes. >> how would you describe it? >> i would describe it as tyranny, gestapo thanks for joining us i'm when. as we get older, what we want most is independence the right to make decisions for ourselves, when we lose the ability to be our open caregivers what then? >> a family member is a guardian but when no one is available, an elderly person or a young one can become a ward of the state. as sheila macvicar found in here investigation of texas's guardianship system. it can be the first step to isolation, and the end of control of our own lives. >> reporter: which doctor is this now? >> this was their doctor. >> reporter: dorothy's life
9:02 pm
changed forever with a knock on her door. >> they said this will take about 3 minutes. >> reporter: they were a couple of attorneys, and it was the beginnings of the end of dorothy's freedoms to make her own decisions. first a deposition and a doctor's report saying luck 82 at the time was partially incapacitated, incapable of making cop plex financial decisions. next a judge appointed a lawyer to represent luck in court, a guardian and another to handle her assets. at the time close to $2 million. >> i was not allowed to vote. to marry. to contract. to have my own money. to give gifts. >> reporter: you were under guardianship. >> yes. >> reporter: how would you describe it? >> i would describe it as
9:03 pm
tyranny, gestapo. >> luck was a ward of the state, one of 1300 in texas, deemed unable to make the most basic decisions about their lives. like where to live and what medical care is needed. >> she's a widow, she's wealthy and has no children. no one to come in and defend her. >> debbie founded an advocacy group pushing for oversight of the process. now run by county judges. guardianship meant state control of finances health care and more. whatever the court subsidises. -- decides. >> there is no defense. if someone wants what you have got. they can come in and take it. >> the power to execute documents. >> luck became a ward of the state in an arg over money. assets in the dorothy luck. heirs to the trust, her late brother-in-law's children said
9:04 pm
she was taking more money from the trust than she should. instead of letting the case go to court a judge intervened. luck tried to have her own lawyer. he was dismissed. the court-appointed attorney settled the case on her behalf. >> it was closed door i was never manufactured. documents show luck paid $1.3 million to the trust, 180,000 to the attorney representing her heirs, and 81,000 to her guardians and attorneys. >> they have run through my money like it was a cookie jar. >> they can violate the rights of individuals, stripping them of every right. freedom, liberty to speak visit, everything. >> probate judge steve king made the decision dorothy luck was incapable of making decision business her life. >> reporter: i want to talk to you about a case in your court, of mrs. luck.
9:05 pm
>> i cannot comment on a case that is pending. that case is still open on the books of this court. >> reporter: judge king whose opinions on guardianship are sought internationally insists he makes someone a ward of the state only as a last resort. >> knardianship is a massive intrusion into a person's life. >> reporter: they lose a lot of right. >> they lose more rights than someone that goes to prison. but it's always based on medical evidence. >> this says test of executive functioning. that's why you ended up in the guardianship. >> that's right. dorothy luck is adamant, and says she should never have been ordered into guardianship. >> are you mentally incapacitated. >> i have no reason to believe i am. >> in terms of making your own final decisions. >> i do it every day. >> reporter: at this nursing home outside of houston, preston
9:06 pm
trying to visit an old acquaintance. reverend john a ward of the state thanks to a cord-ordered guardianship was moved from his apartment against his will in 2010. what i as a native texan call a texan. >> reporter: he convinced an astronaut to take 100 microfiche bibles to the moon. kirk covered the story. they are friends. >> this is 1,254 pages. king james version of the holy bible. >> reporter: before being made a ward of the state, he was active on the internet writing letters and the author of some bibles. a disagreements on how he was dealing with assets led to his guardianship. >> one bible sold this sotheby's
9:07 pm
in 2012 for $56,000. if there were 60 in the apartment. there were do the maths. it's words millions. the state seized the assets and is using his money to pay for lawyers. in 2012 depositions in a lawsuit over ownership of some of the bibles. some conceded stout was not allowed to use the internet male letters or use the phone. and that all incoming communications are screened. kirk says the state guardian will not allow visits from him or others. >> what are you protecting. i want to talk about astronauts and triumphs and achievements. we asked the state, but were told they would not release information about individuals. in general, we were told...
9:08 pm
>> only the son and the daughter-in-law have been allowed to visit in the last 4.5 years, and they have moved to missouri, and i have no contact. >> it's outrageous to allow no contact. >> reporter: why is it important for someone who is elderly. they may be in a nursing home or not to have visitors. >> it's important to the quality of their life to have visitors people that come and interact and remember together. >> she supports guardianship but admits it's a system of flaws we have great people in
9:09 pm
guardianship working hard to make sure people are well cared for. texas does not have enough money in the county governments. >> kirk tried to see reverend stout when we were there, but was told he'd need the guardian's permission permission denied. >> have you issued a guardian shop that restricted the ability to use email, to send or receive a letter. >> no. >> never. no after 40 years of doing this i'm not surprised. people make mistakes people don't understand the law. >> the bureaucratic hurdles imposed by some judges and guardians, the power that they wield and faulty oversights means wards of the state live isolated and die alone.
9:10 pm
denise lives in this home in texas, an hour west of tax as fort worth until she was made a ward of the state and put in the nursing home. >> she was screaming "i don't want to go." >> reporter: virginia said her friend and neighbour suffered dementia. >> she just needed home hotel. there were friend she had a lot of money, she could have afforded 24 hour help without a state agencies walking in and taking her against her will. >> the retirement banker had more than $200,000 in the bank a home paid for and benefits worth more than $2500 a month. pritchard says she and others in the neighbourhood paid regular visits to ty oh had no children. at the nursing home no visits were allowed unless the guardian was present. >> i was going to visit her for christmas, and i was told by one
9:11 pm
of the guardians that the - they were going to be with their own families for the holidays and there was no one to sit with her. >> that was also true when ty has on her death bed. >> medical people knew that she was going to go. one of the guardians told me "well, we'll be closed on monday", so they made us wait. it was too late. she didn't make it denise ty ward of the state of texas - died alone at age 87. the texas legislature has considered dozens of changes to the laws during a session endzing on monday. a bill that passed did is headed to the governor's desk would give a ward more say in who gets to visit. next - people living with disabilities and their rights to
9:12 pm
become parents. a ground-breaking decision could be the key to hope that door. later, meeting the a prize fighter punching above her weight. and high on the web site. orange county - "america tonight" with exclusive access to audio detailing the in tri cassies of a gaol house wring. listen and learn more on
9:13 pm
9:14 pm
a quarter of a century ago, greater access to jobs and mobility one basing right remains elusive. parenthood. "america tonight"s christopher putzel on the question can a person with physical or
9:15 pm
intellectual disabilities care for a baby. >> every afternoonalize stands at the -- afternoon alice stands at the corner of elementary. every afternoon she looks at the children she helps to cross the street and thinks of the daughter she lost. >> in 2007 i had a little barely girl. and the day after i gave - i gave birth to my daughter two men had come into my hospital rom, stating that gcf was taking custody of my daughter. they had made their minds up that they were going to have my daughter that i didn't give my child up. she was taken. she was stolen from me a nurse tipped off the d.c. f, the department of children and families. alice has fragile x syndrome a condition resulting in a minor
9:16 pm
cognitive disability her arms shake under stress. a disorder called distonia. but she insists neither should diswf her taking care of her child. >> i feel my rights have been violated. it may take me longer but no parents should have to loss their child, and who are you to make a decision who is a good parent and who is not a good parent. >> what is the hardest part about not seeing your daughter? >> sometimes seeing the kids. >> the kids at school. >> at school yes. it was hard for me when my daughter's birthday was coming around. there was another little gir, and her birthday was two months after, so i - one year i made her a birthday present. >> i have never met a parent more dedicated to a child than alice. >> reporter: really. >> ever. >> reporter: psychologist and
9:17 pm
parenting expert assessed alice twice. she was tasked to see if alice was up to the demands of being a single parent. was alice fit to be a parent. i believe she was fit to be a parent. still is fit to be a parent. she needed to build her skills and confidence. there were things she needed to learn. you figure out how to teach them. >> but the department of children and families disagreed. with the baby's father out of the picture, they tried to work with alice for a year but failed to give her social workers trained in handling those with disabilities. they called for a final assessment. this time without susan. >> to me that assessment was set up to show where her weaknesses were. >> were they trained on how to do the assessments. >> no. there are few of us in this country trained to do on this. >> the d.c. f took alice's
9:18 pm
daughter into state custody, moving to determinate rites. i can raise her if i have the proper services. >> reporter: you feel you were set up. >> yes. >> reporter: set up to fail. >> yes, just like in court cases. i felt like this was like being a prisoner. i don't have handcuffs on me. >> handcuffed by what some say is a bias against parents with disabilities. the limited data bears that out. there are more than 4 million parents living with disabilities. a staggering 80% with intellectual for developmental disabilities have children removed from their homes. 37 states allow disability to be used as a strike against parents seeking custody, arguing it's in the best interests of the children. >> the fact that a parent has a disability does not in itself result in us seeking custody. the question is does a
9:19 pm
disability impact the parent's ability to safely parent. >> reporter: sheila of the department of children and families says the answer is not easy. do you thick thing in the current state they can evaluate parent hood. >> i think we can make improvements and the resource issue was real. we have - we have had for a long time individual supports and systems to support parents with disabilities. but they've come and gone depending on the funding. >> she admits resources are limited. and in vermont each social worker handles a workload of 17 families with multiple children. susan and others fighting for defaulty say more support would protect people with disalties, and their children. >> parents with disabilities are not going to go away. >> and people with intellectual
9:20 pm
disabilities, for instance are encouraged now to have real lives and to have real relationships. and that can include intimacy. and there'll be babies. so what we need to do is to build capacity around the country. >> this is my daughter. >> reporter: one month, two months, three months - wow, she's beautiful. >> these are pictures from our visits. >> reporter: does she know who you are when you visit her? >> yes. she will wait at the door for me. she looked through the glass window and knew i was coming. >> reporter: what would you like people to understand about parents with disabilities. all the things that we learn differently, but we shouldn't have anybody taking away the trial. >> reporter: alice nose she won't get her 8-year-old daughter back. she holds on to hope that she can maintain a connection with the child that she last saw by
9:21 pm
chance on a city street. >> we hugged and kissed. it was happy, joyful sad time. >> it was just by coincidence. >> yes. >> did your daughter know who you were? >> no. >> was that sad for you? >> yes. but after she knew when they said this is mummy alice. there was a bonds, like she was hugging me she wasn't letting me go i guess i was startled but happy. they weren't going to give me a visit. god was going to make sure i had a visit the counsellor susan, retired from assessing parenting skills and created a non profit to support parents with disabilities. she has applied for half a million in federal money to support and develop parenting skills. it's too late for alice, thousands of other would-be parents may benefit from that support. next - fighting weight. already an olympian she is
9:22 pm
coming back to beat the odds again. and next week on "america tonight" autism so much about the disorder remains a mystery, no cure. but with a mortality rate for those that suffer wise as hay as those that don't, how we protect autistic people from the impulses within themselves. that's next week on the programme. >> could you have seen that coming?
9:23 pm
9:24 pm
[ ♪♪ ] in lying flipt. michigan the city produced tough characters folks that rise above the challenges that have taken a lot of lumps. no product of flint bunched over their rate better than t rex, a nickname of a boxer now gearing
9:25 pm
up for another round at the top of her game. on what clarissa shields is fighting more here is sara hoy. >> reporter: it's just after 10 in the morning, and clarissa shields is midway through a morning run. the 20-year-old is out training passing a string of crumbling buildings and liquor stores all for a shot to defend her gold medal at the 2016 olympics in rio. once a manufacturing powerhouse the city of flint is a far cry from its heyday. without the auto, unemployment and poverty skyrocketed. abandoned homes, evidence of better times. >> it's like any other african-american community. everyone wants to fight for the last dollar. flint's most famous boxer is no stranger to the hard knocks of life. >> but clarissa beat the odds
9:26 pm
when she was younger she says her father was behind bars while her mother struggled with alcohol, and says a family member abused her. >> the truth is i was raped molested as a child. some have the story that i was raped. now i'm tough and i box. that's not it. me being raped has nothing to do with why i started to box. >> what do you want to define you then or what defines you. >> overcoming obstacles, resilience is the word. doesn't matter what your father or mother is they are not you. i haven't had the worse parents, but pretty close, i think. thank god he blessed him to change as a young child the more things you go through it buildings character. >> at 17 she made history by winning the first gold in women's boxing during the games in london. after defeating a russian
9:27 pm
fighter 19-12. when you won gold how did that field? >> when he put the medal around my neck. you have to look it up. i was shaking. oh my god. i was, like wow. i had a pact of the gold medal in my phone. to have it around my neck to touch it. it was so big, so heavy. i was like oh. all this hard work for this medal. i slept with my gold medal. for at least a week. i wouldn't let anyone take it off. >> reporter: at 56 and 1, she's the number one middleweight in the country and the world and qualified for the 2016 olympic trials. it's a tough road for women boxers if you win gold. there was no wheaties box with her face on it or major endorsements. >> manny pacquioa floyd
9:28 pm
mayweather. >> reporter: and there were no fights to raise money. she lunched a go fund me to raise money for her second olympic run. >> my dream will be their dream, we can live it together. >> reporter: what is it about boxing you love so much? >> i love a lot about boxing i love that - i just love to fight. that is not being a bully, i love fighting and competing and being able to work hard and then put to the test and passing. i love getting my hair raised. that's my ultimate happiness. i want people to know i am not cocky. i'm confident, i'm a hard worker. follow me in rio in 2016 so we can do it again. good times. two times she said don't
9:29 pm
count her out. that's "america tonight". tell us what you think at tonight. talk to us on facebook and twitter, come back we'll have more of "america tonight" tomorrow. a real look at the american dream hard earned only on al jazeera america
9:30 pm
is "techknow." a a show about intersection of hardware and heuvment and we're doing it in a unique way. this is a show about science, by scientists. tonight, "techknow" investigates mining the deep. dr. shini somara is a mechanical engineer. tonight, one company's ambitious plan that could be worth