Kansas father goes on hunger strike to get his kids back

TOPEKA, Kansas (KSNT) – A father is trying to answer one, multi-faceted question.

“What is going on,” Raymond Schwab wondered on his 14th day of a hunger strike.

Schwab, as of Tuesday night, had not ingested any solid food since March 14. The hunger strike camp, set up on the north steps of the Statehouse, is an effort to bring awareness to an injustice Schwab said his family is going through at the hands of the Department for Children and Families.

But, late Tuesday afternoon, Schwab said his hunger strike would end if he is happy with a federal lawsuit expected to be filed on Wednesday.

“If I agree with what’s happening (Wednesday), after the press release, the hunger strike will be officially over,” Schwab said. In anticipation of the end, Schwab said he did drink a protein shake and some coconut water.

Last April, he said his children were taken away while he and his wife, Amelia, were packing to move the family to Colorado. Documents from DCF show the claims of emotional abuse were unsubstantiated.

“The first thing to point out is a lot of people assume that when we say that the case is unsubstantiated it means abuse didn’t occur and that is not the case,” Theresa Freed said about the investigation result categories DCF uses. Freed, the public relations director for the department, did not comment specifically about the findings in the Schwab case.

She said the investigation findings determine if a person should be put on a list that would prohibit them from working in a licensed child care facility. It does not mean the children will automatically be returned home.

“It’s very confusing and we understand that,” Freed said about the investigation process. “We hear that from the courts, we hear that from a number of individuals within the community and we want to help clarify the process.” According to Freed, DCF will present a new, three-tiered investigation process this summer.

The Schwabs say their family is being also being subjected to this procedure because of their use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Marijuana is illegal in Kansas but not in Colorado, where the family was moving.

In November of last year, DCF paperwork indicates that less than 10 percent of the cases involved parental drug abuse as the reason children were removed from their homes.

Freed said marijuana use alone is not a reason for children to be put into state custody. The drug use is often coupled with other allegations.

Of the cases in November, the highest number of cases, 18 percent, involved physical neglect. DCF says in 14 percent of the cases, children were moved after allegations of physical abuse.

Last Thursday, Schwab was arrested on the steps of the Statehouse after an anonymous tip about a warrant out in his name. That warrant stemmed from a 2015 incident.

He was released from the Shawnee County Jail the following day. He resumed sitting on the steps on Sunday, this time covered with a make shift tent. On Monday, Brownback administrators told Schwab he is not allowed to have tents. As of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, he was using a lawn chair, sleeping bags and a giant umbrella to fend against the elements during his hunger strike.

The press conference announcing the lawsuit is expected to start at 11 a.m. on the south steps of the Statehouse.

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