TAMPA — They lost custody of their son in a Hillsborough County courtroom last week. But in the days since, the parents of four-year-old leukemia patient Noah McAdams have received considerable support on social media for their promise to continue the legal tug-of-war between parental rights and the right of the state to determine a child’s medical treatment.
The mushrooming Internet blitz began just hours after Judge Thomas Palermo ruled that returning parental rights to father Joshua McAdams, 28, and mother Taylor Bland-Ball, 22, would place Noah in “imminent risk of neglect.” For six months they’ve fought a losing battle to stop their son from undergoing chemotherapy treatments, preferring instead to seek alternative, natural remedies for his acute acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
“We did not lose today. Rather the battle has just begun,” Bland-Ball wrote in a post to her Instagram account. “Until my last breath, I will fight for my son to be home. I will appeal on every angle.”
People from across the globe have offered their support in posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter under the hashtags #MedicalFreedomForNoah, #StandfortheBlands, and #BringNoahHome. A Go Fund Me campaign called “Medical Freedom for Noah” had raised $11,408 by Monday afternoon. And on Change.org, more than 3,000 people had signed a petition titled “Remove Judge Palermo for his wrongful ruling in the Noah McAdams case.”
That petition, created by a user named Kaitlin Noethen, is addressed to the Hillsborough County judicial system and seeks to remove Palermo from the bench under one of two avenues allowed by state law. Judges can be impeached by a two-thirds vote from the House of Representatives and convicted with a two-thirds vote from the Senate. Or, on the recommendation of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, the Supreme Court can elect to discipline, retire or remove a sitting judge.
“Once this petition reaches 100,000 signatures, we will present this to the Florida House of Representatives with the hope they will act on behalf of all children that could be the subject of action of Judge Palermo and be spared similar consequences," the petition states.
The young parents lost custody of Noah in late April after they left the state in pursuit of alternative medical treatments for their son shortly after he was diagnosed. When Noah never arrived for a scheduled chemotherapy treatment at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, his doctors called Hillsborough County’s Child Protective Investigations Division to request a welfare check.
On April 29, the state issued a Missing Endangered Child Alert for Noah, sparking a nationwide search. The young family was found in a Kentucky motel that night and Noah was flown back to Tampa to resume chemotherapy treatments, this time as a dependent of the state.
In May, Hillsborough County Unified Family Court granted custody of Noah to his maternal grandparents on the condition his medical treatments continue. His parents were allowed supervised visitation rights.
In court on Monday, Palermo ruled that Noah’s parents must undergo a psychological evaluation and complete a Child Protective Services case plan before the court considers the possibility of reunification.
Until then, the couple will continue to have supervised visitation rights to their son and can choose to file an appeal within 30 days.
In posts to her Facebook page, the couple’s attorney, Brooke Elvington, told supporters that the couple agreed months ago to undergo any necessary mental health evaluations, participate in parenting classes and undergo a home study to regain custody of their son.
Bland-Ball posed a series of biting questions to Palermo in an open letter posted on her Instagram page under the hashtag #BringNoahHome.
“What are you going to tell him when he asks where his mommy and daddy are? When he asks to go home?” the letter said.
“I won’t receive an answer, I know. But I hope this sits with you in the darkest hours on the latest nights like ... I have sat through without my child for 133 lonely nights, while you have yours," the post said.