May 1, 2009
DENVER – The suffering endured by Africans who were kidnapped from their native land and brought to America as slaves is sometimes referred to as the Black holocaust, which some say ended years ago but, that is not the case according to parents who have had their children taken from them by the Denver Department of Human Service (DDHS) or the Adams County Social Service Department (ACSSD). Jo Nash-Conner’s son Quentin, 10, currently resides at Mount St. Vincents Children’s Home (MSVCH), a facility which proclaims to provide programs and services to “help children with a wide range of emotional and behavioral problems.”
Nash-Conner, however, has not found the center to be helpful and instead has been disallowed from visiting her son and has not seen him since February. The mother’s horror story began just over a year ago and is outlined in a typed statement entitled “A Declaration and A Desperate Mother’s Cry for Justice.”
“My 10-year-old son was kidnapped by the Child Protective Services (CPS) Department of DDHS on March 20, 2008,” she said. “My then 9-year-old son had walked away from our home on March 19, 2008 and was returned that evening by the Denver Police. I was informed that we would need to report to CPS for questioning the next day.”
So began the long journey which saw Quentin placed into two foster homes, the mental ward of Denver Health Medical Center (DHMC), back to a foster home, then to the Tennyson Home for Children (THC), the Ft. Logan Mental Hospital (FLMH), MSVCH, Children’s Hospital, back to Ft. Logan and then once again to MSVCH, where he is now. “All of this happened or is happening without my consent,” reads Nash-Conner’s statement. In an interview from her home, she explained she was originally charged with child abuse based on a CPS worker’s claim that marks were found on Quentin’s back and also that police said the boy accused his mother of hitting him.
Nash-Conner adamantly denied laying hands on her son and days later the charge was reduced to “wrongs to a child,” an offense she had no familiarity with nor could define. Five months later, that charge was dropped and the case closed, yet her son remains out of her custody and under the influence of several behavior-altering drugs which have been administered to him more than one year without her permission. They include Thorazine-which performs a chemical lobotomy; Depokote; Seroquel; Clonidine; Abilify; Ritalin and others.
Human rights commission involvement
Mark Carberry, a Case Documenter for the Citizen Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) said the organization’s investigation and review of medical records led them to file approximately 16 complaints regarding Quentin’s treatment and care. Four of those grievances pertained to DHMC; one each to THC and FLMH and a shocking ten complaints filed against MSVCH. Carberry said the first complaint was filed last June and the final one in January, citing not only concerns over the appearance of excessive drugging but that Quentin was taken to hospital emergency rooms three times; that his IQ decreased 19% from its 2004 level; that at MSVCH he had “therapeutic physical management” or “restraint” administered against him at least 41 times in less than a three month period. “He is a small, 10-year-old boy; at that time 4′6” and 82 pounds,” Carberry said, adding that the home’s records did not indicate the exact type of restraint the boy was subjected to. “They don’t say that somebody was sitting on his chest or back or if he was thrown down by three people,”
He went on to say that Quentin, during that time, was daily prescribed 750 mgs of Depokote, 10 mgs Abilify, 1 mg Clonidine, 100 mgs Docusate Sodium and 800 mgs Seroquel. “These cause aggressive and psychotic behaviors,” he said in his complaint. In her home, Nash-Conner pulled out her pocket sized Physician’s Desk Reference manual and opened to the page describing Seroquel. “Doses of 800 mgs or more per day have not been tested for safety,” the book reads. Her son’s vision, she said, was 20/20 before his nightmare began but now he is wearing bifocals and Carberry said it’s a likely result of the drugs being given since many of them list side effects that pertain to impaired vision.
Quentin’s mother broke down in tears while describing the painful ordeal and as an army veteran, she is angered that her family has been torn apart in a country for which she served. “I gave ten and one-half years of my life for this country and this kidnapping and drugging of my child is my thank you.”
One couple’s nightmare and loss of 3 children
With her were Samantha Goodson and her husband DeAndre Rogers-El, both 20 and parents to a newborn daughter, Ela-yuh, who has been in custody of ACSSD since her birth Apr. 8. The pair’s other children, Anyla, 2 and Brooklyn, 1, are in custody of DDHS and assigned to live in the home of the ex-girlfriend of Rogers-El’s mother. The young couple, who relocated from New York two years ago are very frustrated that their children have been taken from them based on allegations they say have nothing to do with child abuse. According to an Adams County court petition, the Denver case was opened due to the parents “being homeless and having their son with them on the street.” Also, reports were called in claiming the pair would drop their oldest daughter off with the grandmother and leave her. But Goodson and Rogers-El deny the allegation and say DDHS and ACSSD have used deception and underhanded tactics to build a fraudulent case against them.
They acknowledge having some trouble securing housing and temporarily moved in with Nash-Conner who gladly opened her home after meeting them at the weekly marches held outside DDHS offices near 12th and Federal Blvd. In late April, they moved into their own apartment; a step which should bring them closer to getting their children back, since another charge in the court document is that the couple showed “inability to provide stable housing and a safe environment for their children.”
While being interviewed, their caseworker called Nash-Conner’s home several times, initially telling them their baby was in the hospital and seeking their permission to allow surgery to correct the newborn’s club feet. Goodson expressed concerns that the medical personnel intended to break her child’s legs and felt it was too early to talk about surgery. Rogers-El told the caseworker he did not give permission for any procedures to be performed on his daughter, who had been brought in by the foster family that has cared for her since the day she was born. The caseworker said if the couple did not give permission, he would get it from the courts and later called back saying he had secured a judge’s order to proceed with treatments and that the child would be fitted for a cast that day and scheduled for surgery within nine weeks.
When pressed for more information, the caseworker revealed that the judge’s approval had been given that morning which led the couple to conclude that he had been dishonest with them by calling in the afternoon seeking their approval for something he knew a judge had already signed for. What was more puzzling to Rogers-El was that he and his wife had a custody hearing scheduled the following week at which the same judge who approved the surgery, was to decide whether to return their baby to them. He wondered aloud whether the decision had already been made, and not in his and Goodson’s favor.
Ela-yuh’s mother is still recovering from the C-section she had and described how she was kicked out of the hospital hours after the birth and before the foster parents came to take her baby away. “They told me I had to leave and I couldn’t see who was taking [the baby]. They made me sit in a room where security was sitting outside and made me stay there until she left. Then they put me out of the hospital,” she explained. “I wasn’t healed. I came home with tape on my stomach with an open wound.” She said she was never offered any follow up care, pain pills or medication.
Her husband said the way his daughter was taken, or “stolen” from the hospital was similar to how thieves work in the night. He recalls being in a rage and even at one point resorting to cursing. He warns parents-to-be to not let nurses take their newborns out of their sight. Goodson added that social services should not be trusted. “Don’t talk to them, don’t sign no papers,” she said. “They tell you they’re here for the benefit of your child; they’re not. They’re there to get paid extra for your child.”
Georgia senator lost seat after battling CPS
The same sentiment is shared by former Georgia Senator Nancy Schaefer in a message she delivered entitled “The System Cannot be Trusted.” While in office, she waged a battle against CPS and introduced a senate bill designed to bring that agency under stricter regulation but the bill was defeated, as was she when up for re-election. In her message, she spoke strong words about how the taking of children, particularly from poor families, has become a lucrative business for CPS.
“I have come to several conclusions … Poor parents oftentimes are targeted to lose their children because they do not have the wherewithal to hire an attorney and fight the system,” Schaefer said in the video message which, until late April, was freely available for viewing on Youtube. “The caseworkers and social workers are very often guilty of fraud, they withhold and destroy evidence, they fabricate evidence and seek to terminate parental rights unnecessarily.” She went on to say that the separation of families and snatching of children is growing because the money brought in by taxpayer dollars is needed by states and local governments to balance their budgets. She said the bureaucracy is “huge” as indicated by the number of people profiting from legalized kidnapping: state employees, attorneys, court investigators, guardian ad litems, judges, psychiatrists, foster parents, adoptive parents, “all are looking to the children in state custody to provide job security,” Schaefer declared.
Carberry gave an example of just how much money is at play when he said that FLMH charges anywhere from $1400-1600 per day for care of a child like Quentin, which amounts to nearly $500,000 per year, covered by taxpayers through Medicare/Medicaid. He suggested that the child’s mother would be “ecstatic” if given just $2000 per month to care for her child in her own home but Nash-Conner, in agreement with Schaefer, has concluded that the system is too big and is bringing in too much money for people who do not want their cash flow disrupted.
She shared that mainstream media outlets have refused to look at her story or others like it and that she has not been able to locate an attorney who is willing to stand up against such a machine. She has had no response from the offices of the governor or the mayor and was saddened by the reaction she received from Senator Peter Groff who did not take the time to hear her story or take her number to follow up. Groff, who is the first Black to become President of Colorado’s Senate, recently resigned to take a position in Washington, D.C. as part of President Barack Obama’s Department of Education.
Nash-Conner, Goodson and Rogers-El remain hopeful and confident that their children will be returned to them eventually but strongly encourage those who are apathetic or unaware of what is going on to become informed before it is too late and their own children are ‘kidnapped’ and caught up in the system.
One of Schaefer’s most startling statements is one which leaves little room for hope that things will improve any time soon. “I have witnessed such injustice and harm brought to so many families that I am not sure if reform of the system is even possible,” she said. “The system cannot be trusted, it does not serve the people, it obliterates families and children simply because it has the power to do so.”
Author’s Bio: Adeeba Folami is an award winning freelance journalist from Denver, Colorado. In addition to contributing regularly to the Denver Weekly News, her articles have appeared in other publications including: African American Voice, Afro American Newspapers, Atlanta Daily World, Atlanta Voice, Birmingham Times, Dallas Weekly, Denver Urban Spectrum, Final Call, Insight News, Louisiana Weekly, Michigan Citizen, Mississippi Link, OpEd News, Providence American, (Portland) Skanner, South Carolina Black News, Tennessee Tribune, Tri-State Defender, Westside Gazette, and more. Her hobbies include reading, travel, sewing and her favorite and most loved pastime: roller skating.