Child Separation Services and the Family InJustice Court

Buffalo, a Black Panther and part of the POOR Magazine extended family, helps run the Self Help Hunger Program in North Oakland and is an advocate for families against the corrupt CPS system. Aunti Frances Moore of the Self Help Hunger Program provides hot meals on Tuesdays from 2-6 p.m. at 61st Street and Adeline in North Oakland. – Photo: Tiny Gray-Garcia

by Tiny Gray-Garcia

CPS – APS – all the Ssses 

That lead to our babies theft, arrest and even death

Mamas, papas, don’t show yo’ real feelings 

Of sorrow or distress 

No mandated reporters here

Rooted in racist classist Krapitalist principles of fear 

The lie of ghettoization 

And separation nation –

Each seizure of our babies is blood-stained dollaz for the 

Colonial Domination 

“I couldn’t breathe,” whispered fierce Black warrior mama Lyvesha Franklin, through tears, speaking into the mic about the unspeakable pain of dealing with the endless number of false accusations from Child Separation Services, aka Child Protective Services. 

Lyvesha was one of over 30 mamas and grandmamas, fathers and supporters gathered in front of Santa Kkklara County InJustice Center on May 19, from all four corners – Black, white, Asian, Raza – with this one shared nightmare of a court sanctioned system filled with so much corruption it’s almost hard to name. 

Activist Lyvesha Franklin, center, stands with other parents of California Families Rise at the May 19 Santa Clara County Justice Center. – Photo: Tiny Gray-Garcia

A powerFULL action for mamas and daddies and babies who have struggled with that injustice kkkourt system held intentionally on Malcolm X’s BornDay was organized by a new collaboration between California Families Rise and POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE’s CourtWatch Project

“We must unite as parents, put aside our differences and rise up together,” declared Michelle D. Chan, who told her family’s story of CPS abuse and encouraged us all to come together, because together we are strong. When mama and warrior for justice Michelle approached POOR Magazine about forging a collaboration, although overwhelmed with all of the other struggles we hold as poor peoples, had no choice but to say yes. 

Lyvesha Franklin has dealt with innumerable false accusations by CPS. At the protest, she was one of over 30 mamas and grandmamas, fathers and supporters gathered in front of Santa Kkklara County InJustice Center on May 19. – Photo: Tiny Gray-Garcia

POOR Magazine’s CourtWatch Project was launched by my fierce ghetto fabulous, disabled Afro-Boriken poverty skola Mama Dee in 1998 as a response to the PTSD, severe trauma caused to families struggling with the CPS system. My mama and I had multiple personal experiences with this trauma. Over and over again.

As an orphan, my mama – a mixed-race, unwanted child – was called “a ward of the kkkourt,” subject to the extractive, racist, unsafe “foster care system.” In that case, her own teenaged domestic violence survivor mama “gave her up” to the system because of her guilt of having a child out of “wedlock,” a half-breed, a “n– child” as she was called by foster parents. My broken grandmother gave up her parental rights when she was “on the run” from a severely abusive husband she thought she’d killed. 

My mama was trafficked in the foster and juvenile dependency kkkourt system to over 35 foster homes, every single one physically and sexually abusing my mama, starving her and hating her, until she ended up in an orphanage, where they enslaved, berated, bullied and hid her into indentured servitude, hid her, as the orphanage was only funded to “accept” poor wite girls. 

“I never saw my grandbaby again,” said a grandmother clutching her little dog close to her chest as she held back tears and told her story with that system. “Never.”

Mama made it out of that somehow, like all of us poor folks do, by any means necessary. But not unscathed. Later in life when I was 11, she could no longer fight as she called it after she was laid off from her last job, disabled and unable to work. 

We ended up on the street and one year later, after a violent “sweep” of our belongings, I ended up in a group foster home after being taken from my mama, ‘cause she was seen as unfit since we were houseless.

Fast forward another 10 years and my foster sister was taken from the home, because my mama told her not to wear make-up and the school said she wasn’t being allowed to be a “teenager.” I can’t describe to you the levels of all of this pain compounding on more pain, but I will tell you that it breaks the heart of the parents and guardians in ways that are almost unspeakable. 

“I had never laid a hand on my son. I was a strict mama, but nothing out of the ordinary; they discriminated against me because I was strong and Black,” Lyvesha concluded. 

And she was right – there is a series of code words they have to describe parents in distress. They shut down normal grief and the CPS and Juvenile Dependency Kkkourt system is one of the most racist, classist and corrupt of any system. 

All of the different players – from the public pretenders “appointed to the parent” to the judge and anti-social workers, as I call them, assigned to your case – all conspire together against the parent. Its mind-numbing, it’s crazy-making, because there is no way out. 

If you don’t jump through ALL of their hoops no matter how wrong, you most likely will not get your babies back. And it is the only court system that allows hearsay into the case and completely sanctions it. 

“Document everything and don’t give up,” Robert Powell, a powerful advocate and attorney for parents and children for over 28 years, who has successfully brought lawsuits against the juvenile injustice system. 

Family restoration isn’t lifted up or honored in this society because there is more money to be made on our separateness.

“You got to open the courts – there are over 20 states that have opened up the juvenile dependency courts, this has to happen in this state, because of the abuse of power.” Powell went on to explain that the draconian system is a blatant example of abuse of judicial power.

“This is Malcolm X and Yuri Kochiyama’s birthday. We honor them today as they fought this racist system and still do,” Brother Buffalo, longtime POOR Magazine and Self-Help Hunger Program extended family and Fierce Black Panther Poverty Skola, showed up, spoke up and stood up for the families along with Momi Palapaz, Jeremy Miller, Israel Munoz and Jonathan Gomez, who spoke one of his beautiful poems on the mic. 

Poet Jonathan Gómez of POOR Magazine inspires the crowd at the May 19 protest. – Photo: Tiny Gray-Garcia

So many of us po’ mamas and daddies have had nightmares in this system, many of us have just given up.

In POOR Magazine’s liberation school Deecolonize Academy and Homefulness, a homeless, landless peoples’ movement for liberation for all poor, indigenous and houseless peoples, we never engage with the poLice and we aren’t mandated reporters. 

This does not mean we look the other way from abuse. In fact, what it means is we draw people closer and give them more support. This is something my mama was doing in her job in a group home, which is why a wite psychologist fired her. Family restoration isn’t lifted up or honored in this society – separation of ages and generations is, because there is more money to be made on our separateness.

“I never saw my grandbaby again,” said a grandmother clutching her little dog close to her chest as she held back tears and told her story with that system. “Never.”

POOR Magazine and California Families Rise will be doing more work as California Families in Resistance. Stay tuned. Get involved by emailing poormag@gmail.com.

Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia, aka “povertyskola,” is a poet, teacher and the formerly houseless, incarcerated daughter of Dee and mama of Tiburcio and author of “Criminal of Poverty: Growing Up Homeless in America” and “Poverty Scholarship: Poor People-led Theory, Art, Words and Tears Across Mama Earth” and co-founder of Homefulness, a homeless people’s solution to homelessness. Reach her at www.lisatinygraygarcia.com or @povertyskola on Twitter.