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.
The violent Separation Nation didn’t begin with this generation --- with these babies --- or their incarceration --- The Separation Nation began with the theft of Turtle Island --- and the humans who lived here and thrived on it. As we grieve, show up, demand and scream for the freedom of these incarcerated babies, please don’t get confused by the blur of this present genocidal history. Take a refresher course with me through the violent herstories that built this stolen land – and continue to assist in the realization and manifestation of the most important aspects of what I call the Separation Nation.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
“Police are some of our best customers,” stated Diamond, 29, as we sat and talked. Diamond is one of the many names she goes by while working as a prostitute now in cities throughout the Bay Area. With the recent Bay Area police sex scandal, involving the sexual exploitation of Celeste Guap, much of it when she was a minor, it is important for victims of sexual violence to speak out! Here is Diamond’s story.
My name is Dorsey Nunn. I’m with All of Us or None and executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. I’m sitting back there waiting for (agenda) Item No. 3 (a new jail for San Francisco), and while I’m waiting for it I’m listening to the testimony for Item No. 1 (hiring more police officers). And I can’t help but ask the question: “How much racism needs to be practiced for us to determine that we don’t need this jail?” Hours of powerful testimony on June 18 before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee were capped off by Dorsey Nunn – and the crowd erupted in cheers.
It had been over 20 years since me and my mama were houseless on the streets of LA, sleeping in our car and facing police harassment for the sole act of being poor and without a roof in the U.S. The only place we could go to get a break was skid row because it was the one place the police seemed to leave us alone. Now I was back, but something was bizarrely wrong.