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Husband asks for Divorce...6 months later reports me to Child Services-taking my babies from me.
April 6, 2013
11:13 pm

Below is the true story of my seven year old son, Ethan and the tragedy that has befallen him and his two younger brothers; Oliver (5) and Uriah (2).

On Monday, September 17th, 2012 I went to my first divorce provisional hearing; a divorce in which I had originally been contesting.

On Thursday afternoon, September 20th, I slapped my seven year old son, Ethan, on his cheek for making a sarcastic comment coupled with a roll of his eyes. I have never, ever slapped any of my children. I immediately fell to my knees and proclaimed incessantly to Ethan that what I had done was wrong and how sorry that I was. He was not crying. We were both hugging and I was the one crying.

On that Sunday, September 23rd, my to-be ex-husband, Nico, learned of the slap from Ethan. Nico took Ethan to the emergency room > the doctor called DCS > DCS came to my home to tell me that my boys are NOT coming home tonight > nor for six weeks…that was SIX MONTHS ago!

On Tuesday, September 25th, I went to DCS court and the judge ruled in favor of DCS’s recommendation for my three, young boys to stay with their father for six weeks! I wailed uncontrollably all the way home.

On Tuesday, October 30th, my case worker came to my home to pick up a document she said that she had left with me in a prior visit to fill out. She arrived an hour and a half late. She presented me with the document she needed filled out. I had never seen this document before and certainly if I had, I would have had it filled out and posted in the mail on the same day. As I completed the form she dropped her pen two times, she thought it was Monday as she doodled (and admitted to this and I have the paper) during our interview. As she stood up to leave, she stumbled. As she walked to the front door, she swayed. At that moment, I was convinced that she was drunk. Although, I could not smell alcohol, she did wreak of cigarette smoke. I reported this immediately to her supervisor. I followed up on Thursday, November 1st with DCS and they assigned me with a new case worker.

On November 5th I called DCS and they said that I would not meet with my new case worker until our court date. Parenting classes still had not even been initiated. There was much work to be done and no one was doing anything. The supervisor ended our conversation by stating that I may not be awarded my children for another six months! Imagine my surprise and sorrow.

On November 9th I appeared in court. Nothing at all came from it except that the CASA (Court Appointed State Advocate) allowed my boys to be removed from their wonderful school & enrolled in a school/daycare in GARY, Indiana (please realize that she did this without any knowledge/personal visit to either location)! A new court date was placed > March 4th 2013.

Parenting/Counseling sessions finally began shortly after the November 9th court date, as well as, four hour-a-week supervised visits. Both the counselor and supervisor are through an outsource department called Family Focus. Both of these women, Kimberly Brown & Sonya Brubaker are advocates for me and see me as an incredibly loving, great mother. They advised me to hold a Family Team Meeting to move things along faster.

On December 10th, we held a Family Team Meeting. In attendance were: my second Case Worker-Caryn Timmons, two best friends, two neighbors, our piano teacher and the two aforementioned women from Family Focus. This meeting was very positive and we all felt that things were moving forward toward reunification. In fact, nothing came of the meeting as Miss Timmons was without our knowledge being considered for a promotion and she completely dropped my case load and over-looked it completely. By doing this, she failed to follow up on court appointed recommendations, two of which were absolutely required in order to receive reunification 1) psychological evaluation and 2) psychiatric evaluation. Upon my waiting for something to occur, I followed up with Miss Timmons and learned of her not scheduling these very important evaluations. As she left the position, she finally made the schedules > of course they were far off to the future!

On January 4th, I was appointed a THIRD Case Worker, Eugene Wilson. Although he is a sweet, old gentleman, he is incompetent. I have three examples; 1) In giving Mr. Wilson directions to my home, he interrupted me and said, “And, then I will be in Illinois”. I replied, “No, Mr. Wilson, I definitely live in Indiana and that is why I am in your system and not Illinois’s.” 2) Mr. Wilson showed up to my home on another occasion thinking that we had a family team meeting scheduled that evening when we did not. 3) When we did finally have our family team meeting, my case workers supervisor also presented herself. Quickly in the meeting, the supervisor took control of the meeting, as Mr. Wilson was clearly in over his head.

On January 18th I had the psychological evaluation with Dr. Christine Mendenhall. This was a five hour evaluation and very fatiguing mentally and emotionally. At the departure of our meeting Dr. Mendenhall stated two very upsetting things: 1) “I find it strange that you only receive four hours a week-supervised visits, as I have known many worse cases, sexual abuse cases that receive far more visitation time.” 2) “My report will take four to six weeks for processing.” Let me remind you, Dr. Mendenhall’s report is vital in order for me to get anything more than the four hours/week visitations. I calculated this and worse case scenario I would not have more visitation time with my precious children until the end of February! The court date is March 4th. This only proved that my case worker Miss Timmons not scheduling this appointment immediately severely delayed my children’s time with their mother/home.

On January 22nd I had my psychiatric evaluation with Dr. Sonia Yballe. This meeting was supposed to be a one hour meeting. I left her office within fifteen minutes. She was laughing and smiling and curious to why I had even been sent there.

On January 25th we had another family team meeting. Nothing that was confirmed to be set into motion at this meeting has begun as of today 03.17; 1) counseling for Ethan & I and 2) co-parenting classes for Nico (my husband) & I.

On February 6th on WBEZ I learned of the TN DCS Commissioner’s resignation upon pending investigations (this story is pasted at the very bottom of this page). This news only confirms my fears. I have since learned that the Indiana DCS Director is being replaced by a new chief, Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura – not sure why. Meanwhile, my three boys have been in the custody of the state of Indiana for five months. The Indiana state appointed court advocate (CASA) approved my children to reside in Gary, IN without visiting the home, school or daycare. Hearing the Morning Shift on WBEZ this morning was a report about two mothers who live in Gary, IN that feel the need to own guns for life is so dangerous in Gary. And, here I sit, with my hands tied. This is why I reach out to you, today!

Also, on February 6th, my middle son came home with hives. He and his father were up until 3am in the morning. Their father decided to take the following day off of work to get some sleep. Meanwhile, he sent my son who had hives and little sleep to school and daycare. Is this in the best interest of my child? I say “NO!” This is only one example.

On February 13th my DCS caseworker, his supervisor and the regional director called for a meeting with my two service providers from Family Focus today. From my service provider, Miss Kimberly Brown, I learned that DCS failed to recognize that I had completed a parenting assessment and have lost this certificate. They are also asking my service providers to complete their reports in a different manner now; bullet pointing my accomplishments. In essence, still no movement forward > rather back-peddling as now my two service providers from Family Focus must ONE) resend the Parenting certificate and TWO) redo their reports, back-dating to November in bullet point format. I saw my second service provider on this night, Miss Sonya Brubaker, and she said that both she and Kimberly left the meeting with DCS feeling very frustrated. They have long wanted the children’s reunification with me/home.

On March 4th we had a hearing with Judge Commons who awarded unsupervised visits rather than reunification. Another court hearing is set for April 3rd. Although, this is a nice thing, inevitably it is a very small win. My boys only get to come home on Wednesdays after school and every other Weekend. On March 19th there will be a third Family Team Meeting; this one with the Deputy Director Richard Ban. Let’s hope that after six months something positive for my children will be done.

On March 19th we had a Family Team Meeting. After much emotional testimony from myself and three invites (two friends & the boys piano teacher) absolutely nothing was done on the DCS side. They will not admit to this six month time span, children removed from mother, as a warrant for alarm or a cause for concern of my children’s well-being. In fact, they specifically stated that their hands are tied and that they can do nothing and it is all in the hands of the courts. I believe this to be a lie. Based on DCS recommendation, the Judge moves. They are not recommending reunification and will not state as to why.

On March 26th, I learned from my attorney after he had a meeting with DCS that my children may not be returned until the Fall. That will be one whole year that my poor children have been without me. Let me state again that my children want to come home.

On April 4th we had a hearing with Judge Commons-nothing really came of it, except further hearings…April 29th DCS status hearing & July 19th custody case.

I have provided DCS with proven statements, exhibits of written letters (one of which was faxed to DCS on September 24th) showing that on the day of the occurrence I was filled with deep remorse – wanting to work with my counselor toward better parenting. Again, let me stress that this occurred the day of the slap, before DCS involvement. I wanted to make things right. DCS is preventing my working with my children, caring for my children, giving my children the best that they deserve.

Six months has been far too severe a sentence for a slap. I am not diminishing the devastation of that occurrence, but this sentence of my children being away from me for over six months is hurting my three boys far more than that slap.

I have complied with everything that DCS has asked of me, I have jumped through every hoop and performed every circus trick, but this meat-grinding system is slow going. Nothing has moved toward reunification, such as; overnight stays or at home trial. My three beautiful children – very young boys, have been removed from my home for six months now. Our being apart is affecting my three sons in the most horrific way. My two year old asks if I am his Mommy. My five year old wails uncontrollably at the departure of our meetings. And, my seven year old is deeply affected; he has built up a wall against me upon our initial meetings. Once we are together for an hour, he is himself again. My boys are so confused and so hurt and so sad. They want to come home.

One example of my child’s life with their father > My middle son was picked up from daycare by my soon to be ex-husband with hives. He and his father were up until 3am in the morning. Their father decided to take the following day off of work to get the sleep he had lost from the night. Meanwhile, he sent my son who had hives and little sleep to school and daycare. Is this in the best interest of my child. I say “NO!”
Another example > This coming Friday both my children’s school and the daycare are closed for the Easter Holiday. My husband has to work. Rather than be willing to letting them come home to be with me, he is sending them to a co-workers friend whom he has never met, nor knows nothing of her home or background. I stated to him that he has no idea how this impacts our poor children – for them to be placed in the care of an absolute stranger. I begged him to consider allowing them to come home, for their happiness. He has refused. It breaks their hearts.

Here is a list of all of the attributes of my children’s life here at our home – the place in which they have wrongfully been removed from for SIX MONTHS, now. These were established, consistent, positive activities that the boys WERE involved in – in and around our home. I do my best to keep continuity with these activities during our short visits.
• Winter Baseball camp > Monday nights
• Spring Little League > practice 2 nights per week/game Saturdays
• Piano > Tuesday nights
• Gymnastics > Wednesday nights (six week classes – on & off)
• Singing classes > Wednesday nights (six week classes – on & off)
• Dance > Saturday mornings
• Full-time Nanny
• A family counselor (to deal with the loss of Dad in our home)
• Harrison Park immediately across the street with
o tennis courts
o pond/bridge
o jungle gyms
• Our huge home with several rooms loaded with amazing activities
o Bounce house
o Books
o Piano
o Guitars
o School sized chalk board
• Our huge yard with a tree swing
• A wonderful school with
o great teachers
o great schoolmates
o great after school activities (read with Mommy)
• We used to walk to and fro for school every weekday and often visit FireStation 5.

NOW my boys live in Gary, IN and are in daycare for twelve hours Monday through Friday. Like Gary, IN the daycare is not a viable place for my boys.

Each day I struggle to survive – feeling like I will certainly die from missing my children so. In these hours alone, in our home without my boys I recall all of the beauty that I have as a parent. I feel now, more than ever a great belief in myself as a wonderful mother; from the songs I sing, my method of teaching, the food I feed, the beds I tuck tight and how many times in the night I easily wake to watch my boys breath. I pray every single day that my children are safe in the care of strangers. They have been forced into daycare 7am to 6pm when they could be safe at home with me. There is no threat greater than their care being provided for by people who are in over their heads and do not have true unconditional love and responsibility for their welfare. I have this.

My children want to come home. I want them to come home. If only their husband and the state would see this.

DCS Commissioner resigns day before scheduled testimony
Just one day before the commissioner for the Department of Children's Services was scheduled to testify before a state legislature committee, she has resigned.
Commissioner Kate O'Day quit Tuesday in the middle of one of the most tumultuous times for the state agency as it faces questions about the welfare of children in its care.
"Kate has informed me that she felt the time was right to step down," said Gov. Bill Haslam in a statement. "She was concerned that she had become more of a focus than the children the department serves."
State Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville first asked DCS nearly 15 months ago to provide information regarding the deaths and near-deaths of all Tennessee children who had contact with the state agency since January 2009.
Fifteen months later, Jones said DCS still hasn't released that information, and now the commissioner is gone.
"I think she was a little in over her head, and this will be a good step for the department," Jones said. "The bad thing is so many children had to die and so many children had to be placed back with perpetrators."
Haslam appointed Jim Henry, who currently heads up the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), as interim commissioner.
The former commissioner was set to testify before the state Senate Health and Welfare Committee on Wednesday, and it is unclear whether she will now testify. Henry said he plans to attend the DCS hearing.
Henry is a man with a good reputation, but now he leads a department that many say has been broken for years.
"This is only about the children in the state and how we treat them. And it's our fault if they get hurt again, and it's our fault if they die. And we don't want that to happen anymore," Jones said.
Monday, DCS said it would cost a group of media outlets, including WSMV-TV, some $55,000 to acquire the information surrounding the 200 deaths of children in the agency's care since 2009.
Jones said she hopes Henry's first act is to reconsider what she calls nonsense.
"I knew that the department would come back with some outrageous number on redacting information, because that's what they do when they don't want to do something," Jones said.
Jones has filed legislation that would create a joint Department of Children's Services Oversight Committee to ensure that the children in DCS custody are not place in harm's way.
O'Day joined the Haslam administration in January 2011. Prior to that, she served as president and chief executive officer of Child & Family Tennessee in Knoxville. She began her career as a youth counselor with the Broward County Sheriff's Office in Florida and later served as vice president of program development and evaluation for Children's Home Society of Florida and director of program services for Covenant House of Florida.
"I appreciate Kate's service to this administration and to this state," said Haslam. "She has done a lot of good work in identifying longstanding problems that have hampered the department, and we will build on those efforts as we move forward."
Henry is the first commissioner of DIDD, which was formerly a division of the Department of Finance and Administration before becoming a state department on Jan. 15, 2011.
"I am grateful to Jim for agreeing to take on this interim role," Haslam said. "He has significant experience both in the private and public sectors and has devoted the better part of his life to caring for some of our most vulnerable citizens."
Before joining the Haslam administration, Henry served as president and chief executive officer of Omni Visions, Inc, a company serving adults with developmental disabilities and children and families in crisis. A Vietnam veteran and former mayor of Kingston, Henry spent 12 years as a state representative and six of those years as minority leader.
Henry will continue to serve as commissioner of DIDD during his interim role of leading DCS. The governor will immediately begin a search for a new commissioner of DCS.
Copyright 2013 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

April 8, 2013
12:19 pm
admin- Tina

Dear Joanna,

Thank you for sharing your heartbreaking story with us. I cannot imagine what you are going through. It is difficult for me to know what to say… only that I pray the best interests of the children be realized. In my heart, I do believe that you are a good mother and that your children should have the right to speak, be heard and acknowledged in the midst of all of this and that their need, desire and yearning to be with you should be taken into consideration. I think that as mothers, we all make mistakes and non of us are exempt from that. I truly do pray for the best for you and for your children. I know that this must be the hardest most painful experience and no doubt it must feel like a nightmare. What I believe to be true of any situation is that love opens doors and changes everything. So… perhaps my best advice is that even in your fighting, anger and perhaps even hatred of your husband and all who are against you, perhaps if you can find the ability to send love and appreciation, if for anything, that he was a part of bringing your children into this life. Love yourself…. be gentle and kind to yourself and forgive yourself if you have not already done so. If you are spiritual, keep praying and for whatever you cannot do on your own, ask for guidance and help from the heavens. Keep finding ways to bring gratitude into your life. I could be wrong, but I think that keeping the energy of love, kindness and gratitude in your heart raises the energy and has a way of bringing good into your life. Trust that everything will eventually flow from that place and all that it touches is transformed. Therefor, it will have an effect on those who are against you. Continue to do what you do best which is loving your children, send them loving thoughts and prayers and perhaps even begin to write them letters every day sharing your heart with them. They may not understand everything now but one day, you can share those letters with them and it may be something that helps them to understand what may be difficult for them to make sense of right now. I pray that very soon, you will be in a place where you can co-parent. I believe that your children need both parents in their lives.

Again, thank you for sharing Joanna!!!
Love and blessings,

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