Mother’s Day is a day where you’re supposed to give your mom gifts and let her know how much you value her for having you. It’s a joyous occasion filled with fun, laughter and a trip to go see Avengers Infinity Wars. But for some mother’s who’ve had their children taken by DCFS, it was a sad, depressing and mournful day.
Imagine that you’re a hardworking mother and you’ve just had a long day on the job. Your relief for the day is usually waiting on your kids to see how their day went and how much homework they have to do. It’s about 5 minutes after the time that they usually arrive so its nothing to worry about. Then 20 minutes pass, then 45. The phone rings and it’s Tiara Long, DCP Investigator, who tells you when/how you may be able to win your kids back.
Imagine that 7 months go by and you don’t have custody of your kids on Mother’s Day.
This is the story of Alexandrea Navedo.
Quintin Martins: Just give me a brief overview in a brief overview of your story. Why do you feel like the system has wronged you?
A. Navedo: My name is A. Navedo and I’ve been a long time organizer in this city for about 10 years. I started actually with The Audy Home Campaign and its funny because as I was going through this court case I was fighting the same people who worked for the Audy Home. Mothers who fight for their children have to do so through the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, and I kind of found it funny that that was the same institution that we organized against with Generation Y and F.L.Y. We were demanding more humane conditions for the children. Back then the children had dirty underwear they had to wear the same clothes for a long time so they weren’t going to school. So I was out there at the age old eighteen years old not knowing that I was going to have to fight for my kids. At eighteen nineteen I was protesting an institution that takes our children. I call this institution a “kid stealer”. Because if they’re not stealing your child through DCFS they’re incarcerating your child. A lot of children in the Audy Home are DCFS children and nobody wants to foster them because they’re a little troubled and have nowhere to go. They’ll stay there until someone takes them in.
I feel like the justice system did me wrong because they didn’t do a proper investigation. They didn’t take my children from my home like they do some mothers. They actually took my children from the school and they only went off of what my first child said not my other children. And they didn’t go off of what the teacher said either. If they would’ve done a full investigation they would’ve learned that my twelve year old has some behavior issues. But of course that didn’t matter. The things that I’ve been through in my life has caused me to have some issues as well. I do suffer from anxiety, I do suffer from depression, but what I hate is that they try to lump us in this one group as if we’re incapable of raising our children. So if you wonder why a lot of women who are being domestically abused don’t seek help is because once DCFS gets involved we have a really really really big chance of losing our kids. We call the police and think we’re calling for help then DCFS gets involved and now they want to screen you; send you to this psychiatrist that psychiatrist and say, “Hey you must have a problem because this man was beating you.” A lot of times the kids are placed with the father who was probably the abuser so its kind of like, a crazy situation. In my situation there are things that weren’t done that I later came to find out should’ve been.
QM: So whats the proper protocol that they were supposed to do as far as interrogating your kids, and taking them into the system?
AN: Ok, well one thing they didn’t do was C-RAP my home. So C-RAP is when they come into your home and look at your home to see if there’s adequate living conditions. Another thing they do is ask the school if they think that somethings going on. They never did any of those things. Why hasn’t the school called if there felt like there was a problem? Another thing that they failed to do was interview my other two children. I have three children but unfortunately they didn’t follow up with the other two. So DCFS comes into the school and they tell your children if your mom is whoopin you or hitting you, if your moms not feeding you we have a better place for you to go to. Or if your mom is putting you on punishment; they even say if your mom is yelling at you then they can’t do that, that’s child abuse. You can call us, we’ll come lock up your parents up and take you away to a better place. And that’s kind of crazy because you might have some kids that get mad at their parents, you know, in my instance, in my case. I have a daughter, she’s twelve, and unfortunately she stole some money from my mother, her grandmother. So my mom put her on punishment and my child started talking about doing things to herself. I take her to the hospital, they tell me that for further evaluation I have to take her to Hartgrove. We came home, went to sleep, and I sent her to school the next day because I had a job interview. I go to my job interview, come back home and I’m waiting for my kids to get back home. They never came back home. About forty five minutes later I get a call from DCP Investigator, Tiara Long. She’s like, “I have your kids and I’m going to call you back in two days to tell you whats going on with your kids” and I’m like, “Why do you have my kids? My kids have not one scar on them, no bruises on them and I’m sure they’re telling you I’m not putting my hands on them.” Even my son and my youngest are telling DCFS they don’t feel safe in the new environment that they’re in. Even yesterday when I went to go see them they’re like, “Ma, I’m telling DCFS that I don’t wanna be where I’m at, I don’t feel safe where I’m at and that I wanna go back home with you.” They took them to the doctor and they still managed to take my kids into the system.
QM: And to be specific what was the reasoning for them to take your kids? You said that your daughter said something?
AN: Yes, so my oldest child got put on punishment and got mad and said some things that would get her to grandma’s house. She wanted to go to grannys house because there’s less rules and I can do whatever I want to do there. My case isn’t the only case like that, there’s a lot of cases that are based on allegations. It may be a neighbor with false allegations or a child with false allegations. My daughter told the nurse at Mercy that she wanted to kill herself and when the nurse asked why she said because my mom puts me on punishment. So now I guess the nurse felt like that was a crazy thing for a child to say. I guess the nurse felt like something was going on at home. Now if DCFS would have came into my home they would’ve looked over to the right of us and seen the punishment wall. Mommy doesn’t use those practices. I’m more like a “My Wife and Kids” type of parent. So here if you clean the bathroom, kitchen, your bedroom you get paid right. But if you get on punishment you gotta pay me and that’s 25 cents. If you get on parole or probation you have to pay them, in real life its not as simple as a punishment, you got to pay. So those are the practices that I use with my kids, I’m a petty mom but I’m petty in a good way, you know. This is a way of teaching them lessons because I don’t believe in abusing kids, I don’t believe in hitting kids. Being raised how I was raised I’m definitely not into the physical punishment thing. But just like the police, DCFS has a quota, they have to take away so many kids per month in order to keep their numbers a certain way. I believe its court rooms A through N and in each court room you have 3 to 5, 7 families fighting for their kids a day. So you mean to tell me there’s, lets round it off to 50, there’s 50 bad sets of parents a day? I think someone needs to look at those numbers because, you know, nowadays being a bad parent is having 3 children and you live in a 1 bedroom house. Being a bad parent nowadays is, lets say DCFS shows up to your home December 6th and your link card doesn’t come on till December 7th, never-mind that you cooked dinner that day. If you have nothing in your fridge or nothing in your cabinet, then guess what, that’s considered being a bad parent. If you’re going through any domestic issues you’re considered a bad parent. DCFS has another clause where if you have a physically disabled child and a mentally disabled child, like in my case, you’re not supposed to have these two kids in the same house. The most interesting thing that the DCP Investigator, Tiara Long told me when I asked her why she took her kids from me was, “Look at the environment you live in; they don’t need to be there….”
QM: This environment???
AN: This environment here, the projects, the Dearborn Homes, the low-income community, the school that they went to. That’s what she told me, they don’t need to be here. Who are you to tell me where they need to be, who are you to judge where I live at? Or the community that I live in? This is a complex that’s filled with DCFS children. If living in subsidized housing was such a bad thing then how come you guys actually give foster parents subsidized housing. I know of people who, back in the day, used that to get subsidized housing because they were foster parents and they had kids so they could apply for it through a DCFS program.
QM: So how long have they been away?
AN: They been away for 7 long month, 7 months. When this first happened to me I was in shock because I had my children early. I had Jada when I was 16 then I turned right around and had Raphael. Then I waited a little bit more to have Vernay. I had my first two real early, and I suffered a lot of things, I went through domestic relationships, through homelessness because no one wants to deal with a young girl and her two kids, right? Don’t nobody really want me in their household. When you’re young and don’t have a job, what are you supposed to do. You have to choose between going to school and going to work some times. So I feel like, ya’ll didn’t come when I was 16, 17, 18, 19; why the hell would ya’ll wait till I was 28, 29 years old to come take my kids from me? It don’t make any sense to me. And I’m thinking to myself, like what did I do to to deserve this then I thought about it, it had to be me because most mothers don’t speak up about stuff like this. They tell you that you have rights as a parent but I can’t go up to the school because they’ll think I’m trying to steal my kids back and I’m going to jail. I’m not allowed to go to a parent report card pick up. I’m not allowed to see them when I wanna see them. I’m not allowed visits, I’m not allowed for them to be here over night. I’m not allowed any of these things and there are other parents that this happens to as well. Then DCFS takes it a step further and puts you on child support, cuz you know, they can put you on child support. They can put moms on child support-
AN: They can put moms on child support. You will still to pay for children, of course they’re your children, that you don’t see. So how do you think that feels as a parent?? How does that feel as a parent? I know me, I cook for my kids, I clean for my kids, go to work for my kids. I come home and turn the key its usually one of my kids running to the front door saying, “Mommy you’re home!” I don’t get that anymore, and its a lot of parents that aren’t getting that anymore. Do I feel like DCFS is an institution that does need to be here, yeah, but I feel like its deeper than that. I feel like you guys need to go ahead and do full investigations. Are there kids out here who are getting abused? Yeah. But one thing I learned about traumatized kids is that they won’t talk because they’re scared for their life. A lot of times when children aren’t being abused there isn’t an investigation.
QM: So what has your lawyer said?
AN: Well, I had a public defender because I really felt like I didn’t do anything, there were no marks, there were no-
QM: Like this should be an easy one….
AN: This should be an easy one, I didn’t know that I was really fighting an institution that wanted to take my kids.
QM: So what did the public defender say?
AN: The public defender was horrible, she basically didn’t put in any motions. I didn’t know until bout the end of my case that they were supposed to come inspect my home. Also I was supposed to have supervised visits but the visits were supervised by the transporter, the man that transports the kids back and forth. These supervised visits are supposed to be by Melva Waters, that’s the name of my caseworker. She never came to none of my visits, neither her or a case aid to document my visits. That’s something the case workers are supposed to do, see there’s stuff that they’re supposed to do and as parents we do have rights. We have rights to ask for another case worker, we have rights to ask for another transporter. We have rights, but you won’t know that because nobody’s going to tell you that. They’re supposed to C-RAP your home, they’re supposed to come to these visits. They never came, no visit to see how the mom and the children are interacting with each other so you can reunite them. The crazy part about this is that I have pictures of this man selling drugs and they still handed them over to their dad. My son sat there in the courtroom and said that he was going to stand right here with me until they say I have to go. For the integrated assessment, my kids and I had to relive the trauma of their dad getting drunk and abusing us. We told them everything and they still placed my children with this man. So where is the justice in that when you place my kids with an abuser?
The interview continues on and on as she tells me that in order to even have a chance of winning her kids back is by hiring a lawyer. Seems simple right? The only thing is a retainer for a lawyer for this type of case is $10,000 and that’s low. The story gets even deeper as she details the sad story of Devonte Hart, a young man who was taken into foster care, abused and ultimately murdered by his adoptive parents. Once his mother got clean she tried to get him back but the family had moved and changed his last name. This is a prime example of how kids can wind up being lost in the system.
A couple of weeks ago I posted a status on Facebook which alluded to Child Protective Services/Department of Child and Family Services taking custody of children without sufficient evidence. What I expected was some type of support or different ways to be of assistance. Instead, what I got was a lot of educated black defending these institutions. Most were saying that the DCFS only gets involved when absolutely necessary and wouldn’t separate a child from a household for no reason.
I honestly feel as if that were the case then these statistics would look a bit different:
Look closely at these numbers, more specifically the “Alleged Reports” versus the “Unfounded Reports”, nearly 50% of the “Alleged Reports” were “Unfounded”. Now the definition of “Unfounded” can mean one of two things; the first is that there is abuse going on but not enough evidence to substantiate foul play the second is that some one brought up false allegations, either intentionally or unintentionally. That’s 46.4% of cases in Cook County that lack substantial evidence. That’s 15,902 cases in 2017 that have been determined to be “Unfounded”. And that’s 15,902 children, most likely more, who have to go through the system and be labeled.
Now let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that half of those cases warranted an investigation and the other half didn’t. That’s still more than 7,951 children who have been displaced, relocated and transferred schools.
7, 951 children who just may miss their parents…