“Why can’t A.H. and S.H. come home?”
Friday June 15
Phila Dept of Human Services
1515 Arch St
The family of A.H. and S.H., with the support of friends and community organizations, will hold an emergency protest and press conference outside DHS on Friday June 15 to demand that the young sisters be returned home. DHS has once again torn apart the lives of children and a loving family. They took the sisters from their aunt Carolyn Hill, who cared for them for most of their lives, saying she is “unfit” because she does not have a high school diploma or GED, and they lie, claiming she has “a history of mental health problems.”
DHS brought the children to her. After a year in her home they were healthy and happy, with no hint of abuse or neglect. Despite this, on April 9, Family Court rubber-stamped the DHS verdict. Ms. Hill, the only mother the children had ever really known, could not even speak at the hearing, and was denied any right to see them again. “I love my nieces and want them back,” said Ms. Hill, who is 54, a mother of grown children and a grandmother. “I truly miss them, and all the family does, too.”
Behind the closed doors of DHS and Family Court, especially Black and low-income families are destroyed this way every day. So-called professionals “evaluate” mothers and other caregivers and may decide they are mentally ill or deficient, and they use these unproved charges to put their children in foster care. In one case, a Black mother with two college degrees and a responsible full-time job was called “retarded” by her DHS worker.
On May 22, Every Mother is a Working Network wrote to Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose to ask that DHS reverse their decision, let the children come home and be adopted by their aunt. Dozens of letters of support from family members, neighbors, clergy and friends were also sent, including from PA State Rep. Tony Payton, Jr. DHS said they would have a decision by May 31.
It is now June 15, and still no answer from DHS. The family doesn’t know where the children are, and the sisters have not seen their aunt or anyone they know for over two months. This is a lifetime for 1- and 2-year-olds; imagine being a young child taken from everyone and everything you know and placed with strangers in a totally unfamiliar environment. DHS has caused them untold harm by this legal kidnapping. One in three children in foster care report physical, sexual or other abuse by an adult, and have twice the rate of PTSD as Gulf War vets. Don’t the DHS “professionals” know that?
Why were these healthy & happy children taken from a stable and loving home? Because a report said that Ms. Hill does not have a high school diploma or GED and even “needs review” with multiplication, that she admitted to sometimes yelling at the children, and took medication to help her sleep after her mother died. We protest this insulting prejudice against Ms. Hill or any mother doing what President Obama calls “the hardest job in the world.” And even if mental skills and mental health were concerns, it does not mean that children should automatically be removed: parents and other caregivers with disabilities are legally entitled to accommodation and services. To reject them on this basis is discrimination and illegal.
All Philadelphia parents should be very afraid if kids can be snatched from their homes with such easy disregard for the pain it causes. The high school graduation rate in Philadelphia is only 60%. And who has never yelled at their kids? DHS removes children at a higher rate than most other cities, and not because of abuse or neglect. Most children in DHS are Black, and foster care is widely recognized as a stop on the cradle-to-prison pipeline. And a profitable one at that, at least for child welfare agencies. It costs $55,000 per year to keep a child in foster care in Philadelphia. Meanwhile kids truly in trouble don’t get the help they need, like 6-year-old Khalil Wimes who died recently while supposedly being seen by social workers every month.
DHS: Give us back A.H. and S.H. and all the other children! They belong to our families and communities, not to you!
What can you do to protest this injustice? Call Commissioner Ambrose at 215-683-6000 or AnneMarie.Ambrose@phila.gov.
Called by the family & friends of A.H. and S.H. with Every Mother is a Working Mother Network, DHS-Give Us Back Our Children, and WinVisible (Women with Visible and Invisible Disabilities) * Info 215-848-1120 firstname.lastname@example.org