FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Who: DCFS Give Us Back Our Children
What: Mothers and grandmothers demand baby detained by DCFS be freed
When: Monday 10:30am July 26
Where: DCFS office at 8300 S. Vermont Ave., LA 90044
Contact: 323 646 1269
Baby Illegally detained by DCFS, placing infant at emotional risk
DCFS Give Us Back Our Children, mothers, grandmothers, family supporters and community members are holding a press conference to demand that the Department of Children and Family Services return Cashmere Alexander, a 14-month-old baby, to her maternal grandmother, Deborah Farris. Cashmere has been under Ms. Farris care since her birth. Ms. Farris has done an exemplary job of providing food, shelter, clothing, and other care for the baby while receiving no material support from DCFS.
The actions of DCFS in removing Cashmere from her family – a family ready, willing and able to care for her – removing her from everyone she has known and is attached to, exposed a happy and well adjusted child to feelings of abandonment and future problems of attachment. This is abusive first of all to Cashmere, but also to her primary caregiver Ms. Farris and other family members who are bearing the emotional trauma of this precious infant being snatched from them. No one at DCFS was able to tell the family over the weekend where Cashmere was or who was caring for her, and no one had inquired about allergies or other health issues Cashmere might have.
California law that stipulates every effort must be made to place children with family members before detaining them was broken when Cashmere Alexander was detained by DCFS on Friday, July 23, 2010. Additionally, Federal law under the American Disabilities Act was also broken, since Cashmere was detained after her primary caregiver, her maternal grandmother had a seizure brought on by continuous harassing by the social worker.
The mothers and grandmothers in the group say that their relationship with their children is not seen as important and valued, making it too easy for their children to be taken and placed needlessly in foster care with strangers or put up for fast track adoption.
They also say that all too often families are penalized for simply being poor and that rather than making resources available to help mothers or grandmothers care for children, families are torn apart. The resources that could help these families instead are diverted to foster care with strangers. Also past records of contact with the criminal justice system and/or DCFS are used to block family members who now have clean records, and whose contact with criminal justice were for minor offenses to begin with. This has a disproportionate impact on communities of color which, due to poverty, institutional racism and more, are more likely to have been under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system. Black children are detained at a disproportionate rate: Black children are 8% of the total LA County child population but are 34% of the foster children. LA County takes away children at a higher rate than most major metropolitan areas – and the number of families torn apart has increased most years since 2004.
Those victimized most are the children – taken needlessly from mothers and grandmothers whose only crime may be poverty, and then consigned to the chaos of foster care. Study after study has found that in typical cases children left in their own homes do better in later life. According to the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (nccpr.org), foster care “alumni” found they had twice the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder of Gulf War veterans and only 20% could be said to be “doing well”.
We demand the immediate return of Baby Cashmere to her grandmother.
“DCFS Give Us Back Our Children!” is a self-help, multi-racial support and action group of mothers, other family members and supporters working together to end the unjust removal of children from their families by the Department of Children and Family Services. They are coordinated by Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, have a sister group the Philadelphia-based DHS-Give Us Back Our Children, and are part of a growing national movement.
Their DEMANDS are:
DHS/DCFS to prioritize –in practice – the protection, reunification and maintenance of families, recognizing that most children are safer and better off in their own home.
Prioritize placing children with family members if they truly can’t remain with their own parents (according to state law), not fostering them out to strangers. Children are almost always safer with family than with strangers.
|1/3 of those who were in foster care report abuse by an adult in a foster care facility (Casey Family Programs)|
Stop removing children from a mother because she is suffering domestic violence. Families need protection from violence, not the further violence of separation.
The Federal Government, the State and County must provide adequate resources for mothers to keep families together, including financial support, housing, childcare day or night, family-centered drug treatment, support for people with mental and physical disabilities, legal and other help. A financial crisis is no excuse for inaction since this kind of assistance costs less than warehousing children in foster or group homes and destroying their futures.
|One third of children would be home tomorrow if their parents just had decent housing! Richard Wexler, Natl Coalition for Child Protection Reform|
End financial incentives for DHS/DCFS and provider agencies to keep children in foster care.
Families need access to free, respectful and accountable legal representation. Professionals must explain clearly what is happening in each case
DHS/DCFS and related agencies must stop hiding behind confidentiality to keep information from the public; allow families to decide if they want their case heard in courts open to the public.
End discrimination on the basis of race, gender, poverty, age, disability, immigration status, cultural differences, sexual preference, being a victim of domestic violence or any other.
End the run-around, delaying of cases and abuse of power by workers, lawyers, so-called “child advocates” and others, and give mothers the time they need to meet DHS/DCFS goals. Children need their mothers and/or other family members who love them, not be detained and then given a teddy bear.
Mothers and families must be treated with respect, not threats, harassment and arrogance. They have the right to the support and accompaniment of family and community members in all dealings with DHS/DCFS and Family Court.
|Black children are more likely to be taken from their homes, to stay in protective custody longer and never to return to their parents. (Cincinnati Post)|
Mothers must not be forced to choose between homelessness and staying with an abusive partner who may be her only source of financial support – either way the child is hurt and they risk losing custody. Welfare must be available.
When childcare arrangements fall through or when children are sick, mothers must not have to choose between staying with their children and getting fired, or leaving children alone or with inadequate care. Welfare must be available.
Independent public scrutiny of how cases are handled.
Accountability by case workers, supervisors & administrators for the welfare of children.
Accountability on how DHS/DCFS and related agencies are allocating their funding, ie how much goes into foster care and adoption and how much to services families need to stay together.