TAMPA, Fla. — With a small village ofTaniyah Williams and Rodney Williams were surrounded by their family. They shared what they said, “No loving parent should ever have the need to.”
“They called us abusers and just took us from her,”Williams spoke about the moment her 12-week-old daughter was taken to state child welfare workers by a nurse who suspected that she was being abused.
The Williams now believe that the system created to protect families has failed them, and that it has distorted truth to steal their daughter. fromTheir biological families.
“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 one of four Florida families suing Governor Ron DeSantis’s leadership and governor. of Florida’s Department ofFamilies and Children (DCF) along with several other state foster care organizations.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Tallahassee federal courts. of relativesFour families accused employees within the state’s foster care system ofIn order to keep children safe, system workers may fabricate evidence, hide and withhold key information, create false abuse allegations, ignore state and federal family laws, or conceal and withhold important information. fromBeing placed with biological relativesInstead, you place them with people who are system-connected and looking for children ofThey are theirs.
ABCD v. Desantis, Et Al. ABC Action News, Scribd
It all began in 2017, when the Williams family’s infant daughter started showing signs of leg pain. According to the lawsuit Williams was both 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 visited the ER several times to address different issues, including a breathing infection. According to the 106-page complaint, the baby’s pediatrician never suspected abuse. He actually noted that the baby had a form. ofShe was diagnosed with brittle bone disease and bruised easily.
After the Williams’ concern about leg pain, they brought their baby to the doctor. Doctors ordered xrays that revealed that the baby had a fractured hip and more than a dozen fractures. “in various stages of healing,”According to the lawsuit.
A nurse suspected abuse.
Families can sue parents for losing custody. relativesAlso, they may lose their rights
Following the nurse’s suspicion, mom and dad were investigated by police. According to the lawsuit the case was closed without any criminal charges being filed.
Still, DCFA petition was filed to have the baby and her brother removed fromTheir parents. The young parents were finally taken away ofThey have parental rights.
“It broke us, it changed us and it’s always going to be a part of us missing until she comes home,”Williams was emotional.
“It ruined my life,”Rodney was Rodney’s father.
The couple denies ever having abused their children and is fighting to have their parental rights restored.
They are however relativesThe system also broke the family, depriving them of their biological children relatives ofTheir right to take custody ofThe 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 relativesThe opportunity to take custody ofBefore placing a child with non-relative strangers, it is important to properly care for the child.
Katie LaGrone and Matthew Apthorp, her investigative reporter, met Taniyah Williams. More than half a dozen others also said that they were available, willing, and able, to take custody. of the Williams’ daughter. But family members were, ultimately, disqualified for reasons they still don’t understand.
Rodney Williams Sr. and Charlotte Williams Sr. are paternal grandparents. They said that they had gone through extensive background checks before being approved for custody. of the two Williams’ children.
“We passed all the home studies, they dug into our backgrounds,”Williams Sr. “I’m in the military and the backgrounds we went through were just as bad,”He explained.
The grandparents claimed they were rejected at last minute.
“They made up so many reasons,”The paternal grandmother said this.
Lisa Crutch is the baby’s maternal grandmother and said, she too, was disqualified.
“I’m retired military, I worked for the city of New York, I have a college degree, there was nothing wrong with me having my granddaughter,”Crutch stated.
The suit alleged that caseworkers were involved in the lawsuit “falsely claimed”Crutch was an abuser of children. “had abused her son years earlier”And was incorrectly listed on the abuse registry as child abuser.
Crutch. Crutch claims that the paperwork claiming she was a child abuser was filled with spelling and factual errors. In addition, she said, the state labeled her son’s age at the time ofHis so-called abuse was “18 years old.”She said that system workers deliberately withheld information regarding how to rectify and remove errors. fromHer history
“I felt like it was conspiracy,”She spoke.
The family claims that a conspiracy was involved. ofThe lawsuit described a larger intent as “unlawful internal diversion”To let “operators of the system essentially have their choice of children placed into the state’s custody.”.
“Why would they do it,” asked Leigh Crutch, the baby’s great-aunt. “Because they’ve been doing it for so long and never expected to get caught,”She believes.
Crutch was behind the scenes and conducting her own investigation in an effort to uncover the truth ofWhy her family is constantly being kept out of the young child’s life.
Crutch and other relatives believe that they found the reason when they learned about the baby’s birth. fromThey had been adopted by a foster family that had strong connections to the foster care system. The foster father was, at the time, a board member and a foundation trustee for the same Clay County foster agency that fought to terminate Taniyah and Rodney Williams’ parental rights.
“I was furious,” said the baby’s biological mom. “I felt like it was a setup,”She spoke.
The Williams aren’t alone
“I can’t even describe the pain that we experienced as a family,”Judy Miller stated that she was also unfairly disqualified along with other family members. from taking care ofRelative of a baby who was also taken fromHer 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 relativesAre you available, willing, and able take custody? ofThe baby was rejected by the system.
“They did two home studies and they were both approved,” Miller said ofHer attempts to obtain custody ofHer granddaughter. Miller is also pursuing legal action.
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 ofThe lawsuit was filed by the family claiming that the baby was taken in with a stranger. “system-connected.”
“You can’t write off the whole family,”Anna DaCosta and her husband said so.
Their daughter’s half-sister was also removed fromBecause of their biological families 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,”DaCosta.
“It’s happening all over Florida”
“It’s happening all over Florida,”Octavia Brown, an attorney ofFamily and Children’s Community Law She’s part ofA team ofThe complaint was filed by attorneys.
LaGrone suggested that the lawsuit should be filed accusedBrown responded to kidnapping outside and within the system “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.
While Brown believes the system, overall, protects children from abuse, 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 agreed. “When they [system staff]They either come in with the false stories, or with false accusations ofThe judge will not say anything about caregivers with backgrounds ‘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.
Board member adopts baby
Rodney Williams and Taniyah Williams are now parents to a baby boy. Their older son was taken away. fromThey were able to place their baby girl with their paternal grandparents at the same moment.
But their only daughter wasn’t. She’s still with them. fromAfter being adopted by the same board member and his immediate family three years earlier, the family now has her.
Questions about adoption and potential conflicts ofIn an email, the ex-board member expressed interest. “I would certainly like to speak to you regarding our daughter. I’m sure you’ve heard several fabulous stories which are not true,”He said.
The board member never elaborated because his attorney wouldn’t let him. Custody cases are, by law, confidential and can’t be publicly discussed according to his attorney.
The system responds
According to a Department ofChildren and Families Dashboard: More than 21,000 children and adolescents are currently in state foster care. We refer to DCFThe most recent performance report for the year, fromfiscal year 2020-2021. The report shows that the number ofFlorida foster care system has slightly higher children entering than the national average. Florida had 3.5 children for every 1,000 people in its system in 2019, as opposed to 3.4 children nationwide.
Responding to the lawsuit DCFThe following statement was sent by Laura Walthall, spokesperson:
While you probably won’t include any ofWe are proud of our achievements, so it is important that we highlight the Department ofChildren and Families are still contributing to the well-being of children our top priority. As a system ofWe will do everything we can to locate a relative or nonrelative caregiver for the children who have been removed. fromThey are their biological parents. We strive to preserve the family whenever possible. Over the past couple of years, we’ve actually been more successful in this goal. ofFor years, we have put considerable resources into achieving this goal. We are able to attest that Florida is at an 18.-year low in removal. fromFamily caregivers. Florida also has millions invested in family caregivers. ofFamily placements have improved by $2.5 billion over the past three years.
We are committed to maintaining integrity ofOur mission is to work with local communities in order to protect the vulnerable and to promote strong, economically self-sufficient families.
However, the Williams’ and three other Florida family names in the lawsuit insist that they did not experience this. Now, they’re hoping the justice system can do what, they believe, the state’s child welfare system went out of its way and against the law not to— bring these children back home to them.
“She’s a black child, raised in a white household and she’s going to find out that she was stolen and stolen from an excellent family, “ said great-aunt Leigh Crutch about the Williams’ daughter.
“The system is a lie, that’s what it is,” the baby’s mom said.