Tag: child welfare system
The little girl in the photograph is happy. The little girl sitting on Daddy’s lap knows she is loved, knows she is wanted. The same little girl is on the telephone four years later – desperate, terrified, traumatized, begging for help. The little girl is Sophia Grace Hope Merrill, Barry White’s daughter. When Sophia fell into San Mateo County’s child welfare system, Barry thought that maybe everything would be OK because she was placed under the care and supervision of his sister, Ka’misha Crittendon. Barry White was wrong.
How is it that a social worker was caught committing perjury and yet no one has held her accountable? Where is the oversight of our child welfare system and juvenile courts? Where is the outrage that this is happening and American families are being unnecessarily destroyed in court proceedings that operate under a shroud of secrecy, in court proceedings in which criminal misconduct is covered up and the best interests of children are ignored?
It was September of 2016. I was currently under CPS supervision from an unfortunate case that had been opened due to domestic violence (I was the victim) and substance abuse. Initially, CPS was going to award me full custody but chose to place my son in foster care after I allowed my domestically-abusive husband to see our son on my birthday. After Maryela Padilla was assigned to our case, things changed for the worst.
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.
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.
Eight years ago, Melinda Garrett was induced into labor a month and a half before her due date. To Melinda, the baby represented a new beginning, a way to right all the wrongs and trauma and abuse she herself had endured as the survivor of childhood sexual and physical abuse, sex trafficking and a previously stillborn birth. She swore to break the cycle of abuse and to give everything she never had as a child to her newborn baby. She was never given that chance.
Marissa Alexander did not get a chance to see her youngest daughter take her first step, to hear her say her first word or blow out the candles on her first birthday cake. These and many more memories that mothers are excited to photograph or catch on film weren’t possible for Alexander because she was living behind bars – all because she fired a warning shot in the air, harming no one, to ward off Rico Gray.