Tag: Child Protective Services
If only I’d known on that day, as I taped onto the front door of apartment 11 on 575 Berk Ave. in the Monterey Pines Apartments in Richmond, California, a flyer that read, “Fight CPS and COURT CORRUPTION. Recall Judges Rebecca Hardie, Lois Haight, and Jill Fannin” – if only I’d known that behind that door would be the scene of a gruesome and senseless murder just three months later.
The mother who filed judicial recall notices against Contra Costa Judges Fannin, Hardie and Haight has been threatened in an attempt to silence her. The week she filed the notices, when she visited with her daughter in CPS (Child Protective Services) care, she was forced to accept a mandatory police escort. She was humiliated; her small daughter was terrified. The mother said she will never forget her daughter’s terrified face – and the gut-wrenching feeling of power being abused.
My first five minutes in court were a revelation. Law school prepared me to write motions, make oral arguments and meet with clients. But I was startled when the uniformed bailiff bellowed “All rise!” and rows of working people, family members from all walks of life and suited-and-booted attorneys all scrambled to their feet. I realized I had underestimated the concentrated power of one person in this courtroom constellation whose entrance required a public show of fealty: the judge.
In today’s climate, “No Child Left Behind” has greater implications than just test scores and poor individual outcomes. Dennis Lockett and Lillian Somarriba allege that San Francisco school teachers abused, bullied and neglected their special needs children and the San Francisco Unified School District, Child Protective Services and the SFPD made no significant efforts to safeguard their children from future harm or to protect the public by holding the perpetrators accountable.
In 1984, in San Diego, I was born to two parents with mental health problems. My parents put myself and my siblings through severe neglect, sexual abuse, physical and verbal abuse. I am the oldest of six children. My dad was a Vietnam vet. At age 12 I broke away from my parents and turned myself over to Child Protective Services thinking they could help and were the only answer.
While Bartholomew was incarcerated, he was deprived of his right to be present at his CPS hearings. During his incarceration, Bartholomew reports that a parent educator from Child Haven sent out a letter to Mark Wasacz that Bartholomew had written; in the letter, Bartholomew stated that he wished to be present at his court hearings and that he did not want to give up his parental rights. He never received a response from Wasacz.
Parents are people. We are imperfect. We make mistakes. We struggle. And, sometimes, in the heat of the moment we say and do things we do not mean. For Donna Levey, her mistake was calling San Francisco Child Protective Services, or CPS, for support when her family was in crisis. If only she had known that that phone call would come to represent the point of no return. If only she had known that CPS would catapult their family crisis into a life-altering nightmare.
The abuse and traumatization of children strikes a chord in our society, perpetuating a vicious cycle that results in poor outcomes in adolescence, adulthood and beyond. Victims often end up in abusive situations again as adults and are more prone to substance abuse, incarceration and mental illness. For many children who have been abused, the trauma unfortunately does not end after Child Protective Services intervenes. Failure to Protect laws serve to remove these children from nonoffending parents, revictimizing the same children the system is supposed to safeguard.
Jennifer Ford has been fighting since February of 2015 to have her grandson placed in her custody. She passed the kinship home assessment, submitted five character letters, passed the criminal background check, and took parenting classes and a foster care class – all of which resulted in her approval for kinship care. In the end, none of Jennifer’s efforts or good intentions, nor the best interests of the child, mattered.
Our children are our future. We must nurture them, protect them, give them the tools necessary to survive in this harsh and unforgiving world. What if I told you that the very system designated to care for and safeguard abused and neglected children is in gross and willful negligence of its role as “protector of innocence?” Why would Child Protective Services remove children from parental custody that have not been abused or neglected? The answer is simple and incredibly sad: financial incentives.
Most people who have never been through it have no idea how easily it can happen to them. Everyone has heard of Child Protective Services, or CPS. Many envision them as saviors of horribly abused children, guardians of innocence. But an accidental fall, a medical misdiagnosis, a difference of belief or values, a choice to homeschool, domestic violence, or a vindictive partner, family member or neighbor can trigger CPS to swoop in and shatter your entire world.
Oppression is multi-faceted and disproportionately affects the homeless and people of color residing in the outer districts of San Francisco. Discrimination in the child welfare and family court systems is especially prevalent. When state and federal statutes and guidelines are adhered to, Child Protective Services safeguards children and promotes family preservation and well-being. However, Parents Against CPS Corruption alleges that CPS and family court corruption is hurting children and families more than helping them.
Liz Washington dedicates her story to Treasure Island mothers suffering Child Protective Services’ human rights abuses. Liz Washington’s Tenderloin apartment door rattled. Bursting in, hands on guns, San Francisco cops grabbed her nursing infant. Liz’ daughter remembers her mom’s screams. “‘Please don’t take my baby!’” Even after moving to Treasure Island, Liz never escaped CPS’ ravenous appetite for masterminding abductions of her daughter and sons.
The social worker phoned. “We’re taking custody of Chris and Michael.” The boys were transferred to foster care in Oakland. The irony of this institutional child theft was that, after four months living off-island, despite a heavy fast food diet, the boys got better. Their stomach aches and painful constipation slowly dissipated. For Liz, the common denominator was that they were not drinking polluted island water. When they returned, so did their stomach aches.
Treasure Island resident Liz Washington and her children exhibit many of the most serious toxic mold symptoms rampant among all islanders who constantly touch, ingest or breathe air filled with black mold spores. After moving to Treasure Island, everyone in the Washington family began to endure year ‘round swollen lymph nodes, sinus infections, nose and throat irritation, phlegm, runny noses, coughing spells and colds. Liz recently battled short-term acute bronchitis.
Since 2000, when the family moved to the island, everyone has been plagued by mild to severe respiratory and gastrointestinal problems that they believe are caused by island pollution. These illnesses, however, have given Child Protective Services a pretext for repeatedly taking Liz’ children and placing them in foster care, accusing this devoted mother of dereliction in her child-rearing.
Loud pounding exploded on Liz Washington’s townhouse door on Treasure Island one day in 2005. A large African-American woman stood outside on the stoop. When her children's father cracked open the door, four burly male cops stormed in from behind her and pushed their way into the house. The worker announced coldly, “Someone at the school called CPS on you. I’m here to take your kids.”
In 1999, San Francisco cops pounded on Liz Washington’s door and burst in with their hands on their guns. “It was like they were going to be in a shoot-out,” said Liz. Flourishing an unreadable paper that she could not identify as a warrant, they snatched her three children, literally grabbing her nursing infant from her arms. This brutal act began the chain of events that ended with the family’s long imprisonment on Treasure Island.
Sin Barras organized the Cages Kill-Freedom Rally to save lives after six people locked up in the Santa Cruz County Jail have died since August 2012. The Jan. 24 rally was endorsed by a wide range of local, statewide, national, and international groups, demonstrating that murder and torture is happening in jails and prisons everywhere, not just in Santa Cruz. Stop the abuse and torture in the Santa Cruz County Jail and jails and prisons everywhere!
On Dec. 21, 2011, St. Charles Borromeo School, the Archdiocese of San Francisco, Principal Dean, Superintendent Maureen Huntington and others were named as parties in a civil rights lawsuit filed in California’s Superior Court on behalf of Mildred Kayondo and her son, who is now 14, yet still suffers from the appalling, repeated abuse and indifference he experienced at St. Charles Borromeo. The jury trial – after nearly two years of litigation by attorneys Richard L. Richardson and Joel Siegal – is now set for July 14.
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