Monthly Archives: February 2014

A grandmother’s DHS ordeal (Philadelphia Daily News)

The Philadelphia Daily News published this important article on Thursday about grandmother Janice Brown’s many-year struggle to reunite with her grandchildren.

Please add your comments on the original article and below. (If you don’t see comments at that link, go to philly.com and search for “A grandmother’s DHS ordeal”).

Our letter to the editor (not yet published):

“Our hearts go out to Ms. Brown and her grandchildren [A Grandmother’s Ordeal, Feb 6].   Their pain is not unique, as we know from the steady stream of distressed mothers, grandmothers, aunts…. who contact us.  Carolyn Hill is another loving caregiver whose nieces, placed in her care by DHS, were later removed by DHS, the only true reason given that she did not have a GED or high school diploma.  She too was denied standing in court despite being in the adoption process and despite active support from her family, church, neighbors, state rep, women’s organizations, a pro-bono lawyer and even her former DHS social worker.  It is because of the rubber stamping by courts of DHS’ and child advocates’ racial, gender and class profiling, financial incentives for agencies to keep kids in care, lack of good or any legal help, and a bias toward punishing low-income families rather than helping them, that Philadelphia has the distinction of the highest rate in the country for a city of its size of removing children from their homes.  The trauma for children, first losing parents, then in foster care – where nationwide one third report abuse by an adult – is ignored.”

A grandmother’s DHS ordeal

Janice Brown has been fighting to get her grandchildren back after placement by DHS. Her daughter died in a car accident that killed 4 in the Feltonville section of the city in 2009. In the picture are Janice Brown with grandson Kyshone Smith, 7, and in background are husband Maurice West and her son Dontay Gilliam, 14. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )
Janice Brown has been fighting to get her grandchildren back after placement by DHS. Her daughter died in a car accident that killed 4 in the Feltonville section of the city in 2009. In the picture are Janice Brown with grandson Kyshone Smith, 7, and in background are husband Maurice West and her son Dontay Gilliam, 14. ( ALEJANDRO A. ALVAREZ / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER )

Help prisoner family members get to Sacramento hearings

End Long Term Solitary Confinement
Support the Prisoner-led Movement and their Family Members

Following the historic hunger and work strike by over 30,000 incarcerated people in California prisons, California legislators committed to hold a series of hearings to investigate and work to end the conditions of solitary confinement.

On February 11th, in Sacramento, the Public Safety Committees of the CA legislature will hold their second hearing on conditions in these isolation units.  The California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is refusing to allow prisoners themselves, the most important witnesses, to testify.  Prisoners have testified at legislative hearings before.  Contact CDCR officials and urge them to allow the voices of the prisoners to be heard.

California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement (CFASC) worked tirelessly to organize solidarity protests during the strike.  It’s mainly women – mothers, partners, daughters, sisters, grandmothers – who do most of the justice work for their loved ones in prison.  Family members were visible and vocal during the hunger strikes (the last one was the 3rd hunger strike) and remain a vital voice and support for their loved ones inside.  As many family members as possible must have the resources to attend the hearing.

The Global Women’s Strike and Women of Color/GWS are asking you to help ensure the presence and participation of family members of prisoners in the hearings by donating towards their transport and lodging.

To help family members get to Sacramento, please donate to CFASC – go to www.abolishsolitary.com, scroll down to the DONATE button at the lower left.

All are invited to go to Sacramento for the Feb 11th hearing.  See the flyer for more information.

Also, see the three action proposals the hunger strikers have asked us all to work on, see below.

Please do all you can to support the prisoners who put their lives on the line and fought for us all during last summer’s Prisoner Hunger Strike, and let the legislature know that Californians do not support the use of solitary confinement!

Distributed by Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike and GWS/LA
323-276-9833  la@allwomencount.net  www.globalwomenstrike.net

The benefit cap is supporting state child abuse – article in The Guardian, UK

Important article below about a legal challenge to the proposed family benefits cap in the UK, exposing how domestic violence is now the main reason children are taken from their mothers in England, and how the secrecy of family court tears families apart.

“After reading this news article, it truly saddens us greatly, that this violence continues to happen over and over to women and children who should be protected by the system but are usually the ones that are victimized by the system. We were successful in 2013 in helping to open the secret children’s court in Los Angeles to the public and press, exposing many more horrors. We share much of the same injustice here in the US, as members of DHS/DCFS GIVE US BACK OUR CHILDREN we support the efforts of the authors’ campaign to stop the benefit cap any way we can.”

— Wanda, a grandmother active in DCFS Give Us Back Our Children (Los Angeles) who successfully fought to keep her grandchildren in the family.

Please go onto the Guardian website and add your comment: Jump to comments

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The benefit cap is supporting state child abuse

As a family brings a legal challenge to the £500 limit, the treatment of mothers in violent relationships is brought into sharp relief

Lisa Longstaff theguardian.com, Tuesday 28 January 2014 11.11 GMT

Today a legal challenge to the benefit cap will be brought by three families, two of them victims of domestic violence, in the court of appeal. The benefit cap has wide implications. Solicitor Rebekah Carrier describes it as “catastrophic, cruel and arbitrary”. The cap limits a family’s total benefits to £500 a week (including child benefit) and mothers and children can be left destitute after paying extortionate rents, even for social housing and refuges. As a result, many may be trapped, unable to leave their home and tied to the income of a violent partner. Women Against Rape have issued a petition to end it.

One family, a mother and three daughters, was in refuges and temporary accommodation, moving six times before they could safely return home. If they lose this appeal, they may be left, after rent, with no food money (emergency payments from the local authority are discretionary and temporary), and this by itself is a reason that children can be taken into care. For now mother and children are together. But for how long?

Domestic violence is commonly used to take children away from their mothers. Cathy Ashley, chief executive of the charity Family Rights Group (FRG), has said: “Our data tells us … that the state’s way of dealing with domestic violence is often to end up with a child being made subject to child protection plans.” The FRG documents that domestic violence – not parental mental illness, drugs or alcohol – is now the main reason children are taken from their mothers. No one so far, except grief-stricken mothers, has called this forced separation for what it is: state child abuse. Continue reading