Welfare Warriors

ummer 2008


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  Summer 2008

DHS- Give US Back Our Children!

Philly Moms Organize to Stop CPS Assaults on Families

 Across the US, women and families are unjustly losing custody of children to Child Protective Services (CPS).  Instead of helping families in poverty with housing, childcare, legal needs or abuse, Dept of Human Services (DHS) removes kids.

DHS especially targets single mothers of color, younger, older, and alternative families.  Most children are far better off and safer at home than in foster care.  Once in the system, it is a lengthy process. And sometimes it is impossible to get children back.

At the same time, CPS often fails to protect children in real danger who desperately need help. This is official negligence in both directions.

DHS and the subcontracted child welfare agencies have financial incentives to keep kids in care. The dollars are flowing to divide, not to reunite families.  Who gets this money? Professionals providing mandatory parenting classes, supervised visits, therapy, psych evaluations, case management and well as lawyers (GAL’s DA’s, judges). They all depend on child removal for their secure incomes from mandatory clients.

DHS- Give Us Back Our Children! is a Philadelphia-based self-help group. Mothers, other family members, and supporters unite to fight for individual families unjustly separated by CPS. They raise public awareness and change unjust policies and practices. The group is coordinated by the Every Mother is a Working Mother Network (EMWM) and Justice for Families. 

EMWM is a multi-racial grassroots network of mothers and grandmothers on welfare. Along with other mothers, grandmothers and caregivers from different backgrounds and situations, they came together in 2001. They organize for the value of caring work to be reflected in welfare benefits. They struggle in the face of - and in opposition to – what is called welfare “reform”. 

They demand that raising children and other caring work to be valued as work

DHS- Give Us Back Our Children!  Started up when EMWM met Tili Ayala. A Native American and Latina mother, Ayala had been picketing outside DHS weekly since May 2005.  She is trying to get her son back. 

Ayala and several mothers who had also lost their children formed Justice for Families.  Every Mother joined them on the picket line. Now we meet together. We strategize and support each other on the cases. And we make our plans to change the system. 

•     FactOut of every 1000  children in poverty in their towns:\

 Chicago CPS  removes 6 children from their home. NY CPS removes 11 children.  LA CPS  removes 14. And Philadelphia removes 40!  (Nat’l Coalition for Child Protection Reform, NCCPR)

•     FactBlack children are more likely to be taken from their homes, to stay in protective custody longer and never to return to their parents.  (Cincinnati Post)

•     Fact – A study found that when toddlers have similar injuries, they were 3 times more likely to be reported to DHS if the family was African-American or Latino.

 (Children’s Hospital press release, Oct. 1. 03)

•     Fact30% of foster children could be home right now if their parents had decent housing (NCCPR)

•     FactFoster care “alumni”has  twice the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder as Gulf War veterans. Oonly 20 percent could be said to be “doing well.”   (see NCCPR 
www.nccpr.org )  

Just two of the Philly families involved:

Ms Tili Ayala: CPS took her 4-month-old breastfeeding son because of actions by the father. They placed the child in foster care with the father’s relatives. She sees her son, now 4, once a week in supervised visits!  The father has unlimited access.  She has met every DHS goal--housing, jobs & parenting courses. Yet the state is trying to permanently terminate her parental rights.  The picket she began outside DHS in May 2005 continues and grows.

Mr. and Mrs. K. Clayton:  These white grandparents requested custody of their 3-year-old grandchild  in foster care. They did all DHS required. They assed home inspections. And they want full financial responsibility. Still the child remains in foster care. DHS promised them placement in Dec. 2007. Yet  their grandson is still languishing away in foster care.

What our self-help campaign has done since 2007:

·         Fighting individual cases: Accompany each other to Family Court hearings & DHS meetings. Find legal help. Make sure attorneys do their job. Help moms prepare their cases.  So far we helped four mothers win custody of their children. Another mom won a stay in termination of parental rights. 

·         Public awareness: We hold monthly pickets outside of DHS, reaching other parents with cases. We’ve held public meetings, including a large Speak Out in Nov 2007. We do tabling at community events and speak at conferences. We got articles and photos in Philadelphia newspapers, spoke on local and national radio programs: “Families Speak Out” (WURD, Phila), “Sojourner Truth” (KPFK, Pacifica Network/LA), & Clear Channel/Phila. We’re now making a documentary video. And we are compiling a dossier to document cases of injustice and abuse. 

·         Challenging the system: We are on the DHS Child Welfare Advisory Board . We are often the only grassroots voices challenging DHS policies. We spoke at Town Meetings and two meetings with former and current DHS Commissioners Arthur Evans and Anne Marie Ambrose. We got them to intervene in several cases. We’ve networked with groups in other cities who are working on this issue. We have an online petition signed by hundreds from across the US and other countries. Many also described their own horror stories (www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/364936228).



·         DHS to prioritize – in practice – the protection and reunification of families. DHS must recognize that children are overwhelmingly safer and better off in their own home except under extreme circumstances

·         Resources for mothers including financial support, housing, childcare day or night, family-centered drug treatment, legal and other help to keep families together. Poverty does not equal neglect!

·         End financial incentives for DHS and provider agencies to keep children in foster care. And demand accountability for use of funds – including real services that families need

·         Access to good and accountable free legal representation

·         End discrimination on the basis of race, gender, poverty, age, disability, immigration status, cultural difference, sexual preference or any other

·         End the run-around, prolonging of cases and abuse of power by workers. These include so-called “child advocates” and others. Give mothers the time they need to meet DHS goals

·         Mothers and families to be treated with respect, not threats, harassment and arrogance. Families must have the right to support of family and community members in all dealings with DHS and Family Court.

·         Mothers must not be forced to choose between homelessness and staying with an abusive partner. Either way they risk losing custody. And the child is hurt.  When childcare arrangements fall through or when children are sick, mothers must not be forced to choose between staying home and getting fired, or leaving their children alone or with inadequate care 

·         Public investigation of how cases are handled

·         Accountability by case workers, supervisors and administrators for the welfare of children

For further information, please contact:
DHS- Give Us Back Our Children!
Justice for Families, 215-806-7593, justice1peace@yahoo.com

Every Mother is a Working Mother Network


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