Is Fayette County, Ga. the Child Removal Capital of America?
I remember when this happened. Now I wonder if this woman understands the feeling that parents feel when their children are snatched by DFCS. And no Fayette County is not the Highest County with Child Snatching, that would be Jackson County. Where was the crowds, the candlelight vigils, the civil rights organizers, and concerned citizens when Shawna Thomason, Carly and Sara Wifawn got snatched from their Mother Alice Samantha Thomason? Didn’t she have a right to newspaper support, filmed at six? No, she didn’t and the reason is because she is poor, uneducated and doesn’t work for DFCS. So here is the support for her. She can no longer take pictures of her children because of this support. Jackson County DFCS, Mary Mahoney , supervisor, Katie Bice caseworker, and the people at the Tree house are denying her that right.
Atlanta Voice, News Report, Wali Muhammad, Posted: Apr 09, 2008
Fayetteville, Ga. – Statements of pain from grieving families echoed against the solid brick walls of the Fayetteville’s City Hall as parents, pastors, politicians, civil rights organizers and concerned citizens gathered on the steps to voice concerns about the removal of children from their families by Georgia Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS).
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sponsored this candlelight vigil to bring attention to the alarming rate of children who are being removed from their family homes in Fayette County.
Voices choked with emotion as organizers and parents repeatedly told nearly fifty listeners and supporters that Fayette County must end the disturbing trend of removing children from homes at such a high rate.
Fayette County came under increased scrutiny recently for the way the county handled the Cylenthia Clark case. Ms. Clark, a former deputy director of Fulton County’s DFCS, had her children permanently taken from her by Fayette County authorities, even though state DFCS officials said that the charges against her didn’t rise to the level of having her children removed from her custody.
Back in March 2007, Clark’s four daughters were removed from her home after her eight-year-old daughter’s teacher discovered bruises. Clark said she punished her by spanking her with a belt three or four times and said the bruises disappeared within 24 hours. An investigation ensued and Clark was arrested.
According to an independent study by the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform (NCCPR), the Fayette County Department of Family & Children Services leads the nation, per capita, in removing minority children from their homes. In the year leading up to February 28, 2007, 107 kids were taken. That resulted in a high rate of removal, which is 5.5 times higher than the national average. In their report, the NCCPR rhetorically asked: “Is Fayette County, GA. the child removal capital of America?”
NAACP State President Ed Dubose and State Rep. Virgil Fludd reported holding meetings with the Governor and Department of Human Resources (DHR), which oversees DFCS, and announced that DHR head BJ Walker will launch an investigation into Fayette County’s practices regarding child removal.
Rep. Fludd, who has lived in Fayette County since 1995, explained that despite the county commissioners’ statements of it being the best place to live, “The County is not perfect. The State is not looking out for your best interest!”
He went on to encourage listeners to act in their own interest, emphasizing continued action on the part of individuals and groups as a necessary component.
“You must do all you can to hold elected officials accountable. The mayor, sheriff, county commissioners are all hired by you. Hold them accountable,” he said. “If they’re not responsive run for office yourself.”
Dubose brought demands for an investigation of the entire Fayette County DAFCS officials and staff. “Some children need to be removed from an unsafe environment,” he said, but challenged the ability of officials in Fayette County to make that determination.
“I can’t tell you that I understand what it’s like to have my child ripped from my home, but I can tell you the damage that happens when they are removed,” stating that the child suffers and its removal must be done with caution.”
As the crowd chanted, “Judge Sams must go!” Dubose alleged that some court cases in the county are handled on a “who you know” basis. Not naming any judges in particular, he said, “…they don’t have to be Black; they can be poor. They don’t have to be poor; they can be well off – just not the right person…” alleging that the same judge that authorizes someone he knows to take his or her child home with a warning will say “take ‘em away” to another person with the same circumstances.
He pointed to Cylenthia Clark as an example “because sometimes God has a strange way of [using] a person to bring light to all of the other families that are assembled here today.”
Clark, choking with emotion, described the 363 days away from her four daughters that nobody can give back to her. “Nobody can give me back Thanksgiving, Christmas and the Fourth of July away from my children. Nobody can explain to my children why I can’t come and pick them up, not even me, because I can’t explain. I did nothing…” she said unable to continue.
In addition to having her children removed, Clark still faces criminal child abuse charges and possible jail time. She was able to keep her Fulton County DFCS job and is assigned only to administrative duties. She described the struggle “to make myself get up and go to work at a place that wants to eat me; to look at people who look at me every day and don’t want me to say anything.”
A cross section of ministers and community representatives all spoke encouraging words to the six families present that suffered having their children and grandchildren removed from their homes. Imam Furqan Muhammad, speaking briefly for the local Islamic Center, encouraged listeners to strive for justice and fairness. Pointing out that if you boil America down, it’s just “a group of families. We have to protect the family.”