A simple parenting decision set off a spiral of events that will stay with this family forever.
One day this family will be able look back on these days with mixed feelings, never forgetting the sheer terror and feelings of helplessness after watching strangers walk away with her sons, one a nursing newborn.
After their toddler threw a tantrum when he was asked not take his brother’s toys mum explains she tried several attempts to calm him down, she then proceeded to pick him up, and put him on the patio, staying by the open window inches away, where she told him he could come back in as soon as he stopped hitting her.
Unexpectedly her actions quickly became an unimaginable nightmare that lasted more than two months, shares Mom.me.
Just moments later she saw police carrying both children away and placing them in a police car.
Two hours after Vincent’s tantrum, there was a knock at the door. *Mary saw several sheriff’s deputies standing outside and quickly opened up, assuming there had been a crime or an accident in the neighborhood. She was completely dumbfounded when they told her that they were investigating her for child abuse and endangerment.
“It was like something out of a movie. It never occurred to me that putting my kid on the patio was an issue. We live in a secure, gated apartment complex, and there are at least 4 feet of hedges between the sidewalk and our patio. We literally know all our neighbors, and I was never more than 12 inches away—even if it was on the other side of an open window.”
For the next two hours, sheriff’s deputies interviewed *Mary and her husband, *Vincent, while everyone waited for a Department of Children and Family Services caseworker to arrive. Close to midnight, the deputies decided they were tired of waiting and asked *Mary to come to the sheriff’s station. They told her that her children would not be separated from them. She agreed, hoping to spare her children any further stress.
*”Mary” was charged with a 237(a)—misdemeanor child neglect—and her bail was set at $10,000. She spent the night with prostitutes and drug offenders, praying and watching as her children were carried back and forth for physical exams and questioning. She was repeatedly ignored when she asked to nurse her infant son, Marcus, who was exclusively breastfed.
Back at home, a DCFS caseworker showed up to interrogate her husband, the boys’ father.
“This guy seemed like he was trying to set us up. He asked me whether or not I knew that it was OK to hit a child, as long as it was with an open hand. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!” he told me.
*Mary was released the next morning without having to pay bail and, after giving her cellmate a ride home, they started calling DCFS to get an update on the kids, their whereabouts and when they could be returned.
The parents wouldn’t see their children again for another three days. *Victor, the oldest, had been placed in a boy’s home in Compton, Calif., headed by an elderly woman who, in addition to her other young charges, cared for her husband who’d suffered a stroke. Their newborn was eventually located in a police holding facility where he’d spent days and would be held for another week before being placed in a foster home. *Mary and her husband were allowed a 2-hour visitation with each child. She wore sunglasses and spent most of the time crying and nursing her infant, who latched on to her with desperation.
It had been a week since the children were taken, and the infant had lost a lot of weight. His eyes were sunken.
“If there’s anything good that came out of his suffering, it is that we were able to use the before-and-after photos as leverage to get an emergency home inspection. If we’d waited for the Adoption Safe Family Act inspection, they would have been in a stranger’s house for another two months,” *Mary said, clearly still in pain over the ordeal.
One of the family’s friends who had been helping make phone calls and figure out the legal system, learned she was eligible to file for temporary custody of the children. The parents were still only allowed to see their children twice a week in a public place.
She’d been sure that her kids would be returned after the first court date—especially given the numerous signatures on a petition, photos that showed the patio was a safe area, and letters from doctors, teachers and friends.
“But that didn’t happen.” she said. “Our lawyer didn’t even present the evidence and allowed the prosecution’s comments to go without response. Before we knew what was going on, another hearing had been set.”
“As I complained to some friends, I learned that more than one of them had been in the same situation,” Mary told me. One mom had been arrested for slapping her teenager after she intentionally smashed her brand new iPhone, another one for play-kicking her daughter in the bottom.
By the time the final court date rolled around in January, the case was immediately dismissed.
“The prosecution and DCFS cited our willingness to learn in the dismissal, but I think the truth is they never had a case,” she said.
*Mary’s kids were returned to her in mid-January. Their case was dismissed without trial almost two months later.
When asked what she would do differently next time, *Mary smiled.
“Well, I’d let my toddler have his tantrum in the living room. But I would also skip hiring a lawyer. The court appointed lawyer that was assigned to us did a better job than the one we hired and was less motivated to stand by while this case dragged out.”
*All names have been changed to protect the privacy of the family. Read the full story here
What a horrible situation! I could not imagine going through that ordeal – totally unnecessary don’t you think?
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