KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A 17-year-old Kansas teen who became a ward of the state of Illinois 16 months ago recently discovered he will not be released automatically when he turns 18.
It all started when a hospital in Chicago treated Isaiah Rider for a genetic condition called Neurofibromatosis, a painful condition that causes tumors to grow on the nerve endings.
After a leg amputation and years of trying to find treatment, his mother took him to the experts at Luries Children’s Hospital in Chicago for surgery. It was successful, she says, but Isaiah developed complications, and the hospital could not control his pain. Michelle says she asked for Isaiah to be transferred to another hospital, and that’s when the trouble started.
“They lied and said a lot of hurtful things about my mom,” insisted Isaiah in September 2014.
Instead of transferring Isaiah to another hospital, doctors petitioned for the state to take custody, claiming medial abuse, something Isaiah denies.
Instead of transferring him, the Riders say, doctors contacted the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and Isaiah became a ward of the state. They claimed his mother, Michelle Rider, was medically abusing him.
Since then, Michelle Rider has been fighting to win back custody of her son who now lives in Kansas City, Mo., in foster care with his grandparents.
During this court battle, the bright spot on the horizon for the Riders has been August 27, when Isaiah will turn 18 and be an adult.
"And we received word last week from an agent from the state that they don't have any plans of releasing him on his 18th birthday. They are going to continue to keep him the the custody of Illinois," said Michelle Rider.
A spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services says "when a child under their care turns 18, DCFS is still responsible for their well-being, and as a public guardian is considered their parent."
"I thought it was crazy really. How can someone control my life when I turn 18 years old?" asked Isaiah Rider.
Isiah has taken his journey online, making videos about his experience, determined not to get lost in the system but have his voice heard.
"Whatever I need to do, I will do to make a difference in this world because of what happened to me and what is going on with other children as well," he said.
Michelle and Isaiah say their hope has faded.
"It's always like a false hope. We keep thinking, surely someone will come to their senses. Surely someone will step in and help us and it doesn't seem to be happening," said Michelle Rider. "Even now. We are finding out that this is going to continue."
However, their attorney is confident reasonable minds will prevail if the Illinois Appellate Court looks at the case. He believes the court will find no evidence of abuse and will let Isaiah make life decisions for himself.
The Riders have filed an appeal in the Cook County Court regarding the custody of Isaiah. The next hearing is August 20, just a week before he turns 18.
"Soon all this will end and we will look back and think of all the things we did together and we did it as a family," they said.