Unless a moral crime has been committed, one for which parents would stand trial before a jury of their peers, children should never be removed from a home. In fact, even if parents are arrested and tried and even found guilty, children should be in the care of the other parent or family, not the state. Yet, we have seen over and over the horror stories of Child Protective Services be anything but protective of children. In fact, they are considered one of the largest traffickers of children. Yet, the man being poised by the media to run in 2024 as some great conservative, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, along with the State of Florida are being sued for medically kidnapping children from their families.
First, here is the lawsuit.
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TAMPA, Fla. — With a small village of family members surrounding them, Taniyah and Rodney Williams shared, what they say, no loving parent should ever have to.
“They called us abusers and just took us from her,” Williams explained about the day her then-12-week-old daughter was taken by state child welfare workers after a nurse suspected her daughter was being abused.
The Williams now believe the system, created to protect families, not only failed them but distorted the truth to steal their daughter away from them and her biological family.
“I don’t know anything about her. What her favorite color is, her favorite show on TV, I don’t know anything,” said Williams about her daughter who she hasn’t seen since 2018.
Lawsuit: Foster care workers “internally diverting” children away from relatives for system-connected strangers
The Williams are among four Florida families now suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and leaders of Florida’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) along with several other state foster care organizations.
In the lawsuit, filed in a Tallahassee federal court Wednesday, dozens of relatives across four families accused employees within the state’s foster care system of fabricating evidence, hiding and withholding key information, creating false abuse allegations, or ignoring state and federal family laws so the system workers could keep children from being placed with biological relatives and, instead, place them with system-connected people seeking children of their own.
For the Williams family, it all started in 2017 when their infant daughter showed signs of leg pain. According to the lawsuit, Williams had been in and out of her pediatrician’s office and the hospital over various medical issues involving her newborn daughter.
According to the lawsuit, her daughter’s birth was traumatic. The umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck, forcing doctors to break the baby’s clavicle during delivery to get her out, the complaint states. The baby’s birth also resulted in bruising, noted by the family’s pediatrician, court records show.
After the baby’s birth, the Williams’ made every doctor’s visit for their new daughter, the suit states. Mom had also been to the ER a few times over different issues with her daughter, including a respiratory infection. According to the 106-page complaint, the baby’s pediatrician never suspected abuse. In fact, he noted the baby has a form of brittle bone disease that made her bruise easily.
On the day the Williams brought their baby in over concerns about leg pain, doctors ordered X-rays which revealed the baby had a fractured femur and more than a dozen other fractures “in various stages of healing,” according to the lawsuit.
A nurse suspected abuse.
Following the nurse’s suspicion, mom and dad were investigated by police. According to the lawsuit, the case was closed with no criminal charges filed.
Still, DCF filed a petition to remove the baby and her brother from their parents. The young parents were eventually stripped of their parental rights.
“It broke us, it changed us and it’s always going to be a part of us missing until she comes home,” said an emotional Williams.
“It ruined my life,” added dad, Rodney.
The couple vehemently denies they ever abused their children and are fighting to get their parental rights restored.
But their relatives said the system also broke the family by depriving biological relatives of their right to take custody of the baby.
According to the lawsuit, agencies within the state’s foster care system bypassed state and federal laws that require foster care workers to give relatives the opportunity to take custody of a child before placing that child with non-relative strangers.
On the day investigative reporter Katie LaGrone, and her photographer, Matthew Apthorp, met Taniyah and Rodney Williams, they also met more than a half dozen members who said they were each ready, willing, and able to take custody of the Williams’ daughter. But family members were, ultimately, disqualified for reasons they still don’t understand.
Paternal grandparents, Charlotte and Rodney Williams Sr., said they went through extensive background checks and were initially approved to take custody of the two Williams’ children.
“We passed all the home studies, they dug into our backgrounds,” said Williams Sr. “I’m in the military and the backgrounds we went through were just as bad,” he explained.
The grandparents said they were rejected at the last minute.
“They made up so many reasons,” said the paternal grandmother.
However, the Williams were not alone.
“I can’t even describe the pain that we experienced as a family,” explained Judy Miller, who said, she and other family members were also unjustly disqualified from taking care of a baby relative who was also removed from her family.
Miller moved to Florida from Illinois to care for her granddaughter after her daughter and son-in-law’s parental rights were terminated over allegations of abuse.
While the baby’s biological parents deny they did anything wrong, Miller said she was one of eight family relatives ready, willing, and able to take custody of the baby, but who were all rejected by the system.
“They did two home studies and they were both approved,” Miller said of her attempts to gain custody of her granddaughter. Miller is also seeking legal action and named in the suit.
According to the complaint, caseworkers rejected Miller as a suitable guardian for her grandbaby because Miller’s “bond with her daughter was too close.”
Instead of family, the lawsuit states the baby was placed with a stranger, “system-connected.”
“You can’t write off the whole family,” said Anna DaCosta and her husband.
Their daughter’s half-sister was also removed from their biological family because DCF, against committee recommendations according to the complaint, placed the young girl with a non-relative, foster-system connected person after the baby’s mother lost her parental rights.
“She was a pretty little blond-haired, blue-eyed baby. Of course they wanted her,” said DaCosta.
These are not just a “handful” of rare occasions either. State-sponsored kidnapping, in the Bible it is a capital crime called manstealing, is systemic.
“It’s happening all over Florida,” said attorney Octavia Brown of Community Law for Families and Children. She’s part of a team of attorneys who filed the complaint.
When LaGrone suggested the lawsuit accused kidnapping by and within the system, Brown responded “what else do you call it? If there is someone who is connected to the system and they see a child that they want, they are going to get the child.”
Brown is also a former insider who worked as an attorney for DCF and other agencies representing Florida’s foster care system.
She explained how some staff members who collaborate to deliberately keep a child from being placed with biological relatives can get away with it.
“This system is so bogged down”, she said. “When they [system staff] come in with these false stories or they come in with false allegations of caregivers having backgrounds, the judge is not going to say ‘oh let me look into that home study or let me look into that criminal record,” she explained.
Brown said young parents and poor families are most vulnerable to what they dub as “internal diversion” practices.
“Because those families don’t have the money to fight the bogus allegations,” Brown said.
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