Families rise against CPS, family court and child support injustice

Families-Resist-Parenting-and-Poverty-Justice-rally-by-Wes-White-102922, <strong>Families rise against CPS, family court and child support injustice</strong>, Local News & Views News & Views
The Families Resist: Parenting and Poverty Justice rally on Oct. 29, 2022. For more info on the event visit familiesresist.com. – Photo: Wes White, John Doe13k Productions

by Michelle D. Chan

Sabrina Williams is a petite woman, skin smooth as glass and the color of melted caramel. There is a fire in her eyes. A deep stare into her soul reveals a dull stillness where her heart once was. Suffering the loss of living children is one of the worst pains imaginable. 

At the Families Resist: Parenting and Poverty Justice rally, Sabrina Williams spoke about this pain she knows all too well:

“I am standing here impacted and hurt, tearing up – we can’t tuck our babies in at night. We don’t know what they are doing. We’re wondering if our babies are ok. What’s going on? In an impacted parent’s mind, there’s no telling what an impacted parent is thinking. It’s like they are trying to create criminals out of good people because they are taking something that belongs to us. 

Sabrina-Williams-and-family-at-California-State-Capitol-by-Natalia-Velazquez-Chang, <strong>Families rise against CPS, family court and child support injustice</strong>, Local News & Views News & Views
Sabrina Williams poses with her family in front of the California State Capitol. – Photo: Natalia Velazquez-Chang

“I just want to say that they’re worth it. And I just want to say that we’re here for them and I’ll fight for them! I don’t care what I have to do. I don’t care where I have to go. I’ll go to the end of the world for my babies.”

It was a beautiful October day, autumn in Sacramento before the air turns to a crisp chill. There were 50, maybe 75 impacted parents and a handful of children. Poster after poster with children’s pictures on them though, children stolen by Child Protective Services or family court. We were the die-hard warriors fighting to the bitter end for our children.

Jason D’Souza was dressed as Captain America in honor of his son, who he hasn’t seen since 2019. “The number one reason why dads don’t have a relationship with their children is because of child support. Title IV-D. It’s all about money.” 

Family court and child support has ruined Jason’s life. At one point, he was homeless due to the child support obligations that were crippling him. Jason has had his driver’s license suspended for nonpayment when he was too destitute to meet his child support obligations.

“I am so thankful to Sen. Sydney Kamlager for authoring SB 1055,” said Jason. SB 1055 reduces driver’s license suspensions for nonpayment of child support. “It just makes me feel like someone is finally listening.”

Mitisha York was dressed in indigenous attire to represent her Choctaw Chickasaw Cherokee Muskogee Creek heritage, with her daughter’s name, Jaymya, etched into her white headband. Here is an excerpt from her poignant speech that moved some audience members to tears:

Mitisha-York_Mayaha-California-Families-Rise-by-Natalia-Velazquez-Chang, <strong>Families rise against CPS, family court and child support injustice</strong>, Local News & Views News & Views
Mitisha York/Mayaha is a California Families Rise core member and victim of police brutality and CPS injustice. – Photo: Natalia Velazquez-Chang.

“If thousands of people will protest police violence, then why not the destruction of families by CPS? How many of you protested the policing of families? CPS is just another way of policing. Those that protested the police should protest with us, to bring our children home.

“Today I am going to share my life story of how police brutality and misconduct led to the illegal removal of my child. Three years ago, June 5, 2019, me, my husband and my 9-year-old child were parked at the 711 in the parking lot in the desert in the middle of nowhere when my worst nightmare came true. 

“The Palmdale Police Department harassed and violently attacked me and my family. Two male officers parked their vehicles behind us. They approached the 711, they got to the door, and they seen us in our 4-runner. One officer asked my husband for his license and registration. Mind you, we’re parked in a parking lot. My husband’s response was to give him his tribal registration, his license registration and the Constitution. 

“The sheriff said the Constitution is fictitious. My husband asked for his ticket and the sheriff responded with no consideration of my 9-year-old child in the back seat, and they pepper sprayed us. They pepper sprayed her first because she was in the back. They pepper sprayed a line of pepper spray until my husband’s face was soaked. 

“One of the officers had a gun. My 9-year-old child was sprayed, eyes burning . . . the Palmdale Sheriff’s Department broke our window and snatched me and my husband out of the car. They had no reason; they chose to take the law into their own hands by pepper spraying and kidnapping all of us.

On Nov. 8, 2022, Sen. Sydney Kamlager was elected to U.S. Congress, meaning noncustodial parents and CPS-impacted families have an ally in Washington D.C.!

One after the other, impacted parents and family members came up to share their stories of injustice and also their hopes of a brighter future together. And through our shared pain and collective struggles, we came together to fight together and with hopes of changing the world together.

Parenting and poverty justice

Parenting is not a crime. Poverty is not a crime. Why, then, do systems of family policing weaponize poverty against parents in the name of “child protection” and “family support”? Family destruction in itself is child abuse, and the oppression of noncustodial parents is cruel and unusual punishment. 

How do we make real and lasting change to systems so flawed?

California State Sen. Sydney Kamlager worked in 2022 to make substantive changes to the CPS system as well as the child support system. SB 1055 and SB 1085 were both signed into law by Gov. Newsom in October. SB 1085 makes it more difficult for CPS agencies to kidnap children by redefining neglect so it is less likely to be conflated with neglect. And, SB 1055 will reduce driver’s license suspensions for nonpayment of child support.

On Nov. 8, 2022, Sen. Sydney Kamlager was elected to U.S. Congress! What does this mean? It means noncustodial parents and CPS-impacted families have an ally in Washington D.C., which is a huge step forward because the state laws governing these family policing systems are delineated from federal law and there is only so much change we can make without changing these systems at the federal level.

We have high hopes for family rights in the years to come. Family rights are human rights, and our children are worth fighting for. Please join us in our fight to restore justice to children and families.

Michelle D. Chan is a writer, vlogger, digital creator, mother and founder and president of California Families Rise. To find out more about her work visit www.CaliforniaFamiliesRise.com or by email CaFamiliesRise@gmail.com.