Redemption For A Mother

My wife is my best friend. I’ve never know a women to handle persecution with such grace. I created this page in efforts to give my wife a fighting chance to be a part of her children’s lives.

Redemption For A Mother
4 years ago, while giving birth to our son, who weighed 12 lbs, Elijah apparently received fractures to the ribs due to the stress and strain of doing the delivery naturally.  While in NICU, due to being such a large baby, and possibly having meconium aspiration, the doctor and nurses approached us and informed us that he had some swelling and bruising.  But, that it would resolve itself.

We took their word for granted.  Over the next month, we reported to the hospital, and his pediatrician, on three seperate occasions, that Elijah had been showing signs of discomfort and grunting.  Every time, we were told that it was gas.  Again, we took their word for granted.

The Nightmare Begins

When Elijah was a month old, his older brother picked him up and tried taking him from his hammock to his baby seat and dropped Elijah on his knees. Elijah’s calf began to swell.  We took him to the E.R. where doctor’s noticed that he had a fracture on his tibia.  But, they also noticed some old, healed, fractures in his ribs.  They immediately began to interrogate us, and called CPS.  When we offered up suggestions that they were from when he was born, they shot us down and stepped up the pressure on us, hoping to get one of us to confess to child abuse.

My opinion, looking back on it, is that they became defensive because he was born in the same hospital in which we were visiting the E.R.  We felt helpless. Here we were, two concerned parents for their baby boy, and we were being treated like criminals.  The mood in the E.R. drastically changed.  We were found guilty in the hearts of the staff and it showed in how they dealt with us.

CPS was able to open a case against us under the cause from an “unknown perpetrator”.  They used a ton of legal jargon that convinced us that they had the power to take him and that we had no say.  It was the worst experience ever.  Our idea of freedom and the justice system was taken from us and our innocence would be changed forever.

Drug & Parenting Classes, Counseling

Over the next ten months, CPS had us taking every parenting class, counseling session, and drug class (even though we never tested positive for any drug use) that they could throw at us.  We were given psych evaluations and home visits.  Meanwhile, Elijah was placed with my father.  We could only see him when a CPS caseworker could meet us at his house.  I was now restricted from going to my own father’s house for the first time in 30 years.

After everything that CPS had us complete, including a clear and normal write up from counseling, the psychiatrist and drug counseling, CPS, on the last day of court, threatened to place Elijah with my father permanently, due to the fact that no one was ever found to have injured Elijah.  [Side fact: the doctor that delivered Elijah, was willing to speak up for us, as well as his pediatrician, that his injuries were caused at birth.]

We were so tired of going through the process with CPS, and felt like we did not have the support behind us, especially financially, to go up against the hospital and the overwhelming threats from CPS, that we sign permanent placement with my dad.  We had planned on going to court, in another district, and request Elijah back into our care.

CPS never accepted any of the findings during our service plan (the requirements like counseling, and classes) and they never introduced the testimony of the doctor into court.  They wanted a guilty parent so bad that they rejected the truth all the way, to the last day in court.  Don’t let me get started on the politics in court, and how the lawyers and judges are all friends and how that can affect how you are dealt with in court.  But, we were hoping that approaching our case in another court district would allow us to introduce evidence on our behalf and get our son back.

A year later, still crippled from the traumatic year with CPS, both emotionally and financially, the event that is causing me to create this Go Fund Me happened.  We had another son, Fallon.  CPS was out of our lives, we had our baby, and were working on getting Elijah home.

One afternoon, after being at the zoo all day enjoying a family outing, our oldest daughter jumped onto the bed and stepped on Fallon’s arm…panic set in.  I freaked out and fainted.  Our family was not the same anymore because of our experience with CPS.  Our family was never to be like other families where children will be children, things happen, and kids just get hurt sometimes.  This is the day that I will never be able to live down.  I still have a hard time, even as a believer in Christ and his mercy, being able to forgive myself.  I would give anything to go back and change this one thing.

I was so afraid of Fallon possibly being hurt that I did not say anything to my wife.  After a day, he had no bruising or swelling in his arm, so I convinced myself that this would just pass.  I felt so heavy inside that I told my wife the next day what had happened.  We had been getting onto the older kids the previous weeks because of jumping on the bed and couches.  They had been addicted to watching, “How To Train A Dragon”, and they loved jumping around like they were flying dragons.

So, we sat them down and talked to them about how they needed to be careful around their baby brother.

A family member, who does not care for me, for reasons I do not know, decided to call CPS on us.  And, this time, I admit, they had a reason.  We were charged with medical neglect for not reporting Fallon’s injury.  They were really swift in their actions this time.  It was only a week and they had the full extent of their powers laid on us and Fallon was removed from us.

I let my family down.  It does not matter that our interaction with CPS the first time put a bitter taste in my mouth for the whole “system”.  I allowed that experience to cloud my judgement and put my fears in front of my son’s health.  It was later ruled that Fallon’s arm was not a bad injury.  If I would have just taken him to get checked, our situation would have never happened.  We would have been well on our way to getting Elijah back home and making up on lost time together.  Instead, we were further separated, and now I put me and my wife in a situation where we were now convicted felons.

I sometimes think that I am the worst parent, husband, friend, and man that has ever existed.  But, God has been good.  He is a God of redemption.  He has used this situation to help us see just how much we really love our children.  We have come so far in seeing how much our character has changed for the better.  But, the past few years on probation have been tough financially.  They demand quite a bit from us each month that it is hard to maintain any kind of stability.

Since on probation, we have had two cars stolen from us, I have been injured at work twice, which required surgery, putting me out of work, and subsequently meant losing a stable job due to the loss of transportation.  We have had no consistency in payments at the probation office, but we have kept on fighting.

If you have made it this far into the description of this page, bless you.  I know it’s a lot to take in.  I’m really leaving out so much that has happened to us, but the point is this…

Alicia is eligible to get off probation in January.  This is great!  She can start working on getting the kids back.  I will still be on probation for another year, but Alicia has a chance to live normally in just a few months.  But, in order to get released, she has to have all probation and court fees paid 60 days prior to release.

We have one month to raise the funds or she could face going to prison for 2-3 years.  The system just wants the money and will let her off.  I’m pleading with you, humbly, as a man who put his wife in this situation, to help her.  I am the leader of the family, and one bad choice has sent my wife’s life into an uncontrollable spiral.  I already have to live with this decision for the rest of my life, but please, stand with my wife and help her from facing further punishment.

I wanted to note, that if we are able to raise more than we are asking for, the money will be used to retain a lawyer and approach the courts to get custody of our boys.

Thank you in advance.  I owe you all an endless debt of gratitude.

Dean

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Family wages 5yr Battle to get Kids back from AZ CPS / DCS

Sara Ybarra-Johnson with son Jayden just prior to his removal from her custody this past February.

Every day, more and more Americans are exposed to the horrifying child removal campaigns being carried out by state and county offices of the Dept of Health and Human Services. Each year, more than 300,000 children are taken away from their parents by the government. Many for little or no reason, or just by mistake. One of those families is currently waging a desperate fight to get their four boys back, and after five years, they’ve nearly exhausted all their options, but they refuse to quit.

Imagine it’s you and your children

Imagine you’re a young 19-year-old new mom. You’re not wealthy, but you have a solid support system and family to help. Yet some behind-the-scenes Child Protective Services employee doesn’t think you’re a good enough parent, regardless of how well you’re caring for your son. So, the agency removes your child from your custody. You fight back, thinking you’ve been vindicated when the agency’s own medical experts refute the allegations of abuse and report that there was no evidence at all. But that only makes the CPS caseworker angry.

They refuse to return your son, and instead spend the next five years taking away your next three children just to punish you for tirelessly fighting to get your first child back. That’s the heart-breaking five-year nightmare that one Arizona mom, 24-year-old Sara Ybarra-Johnson, has endured. It’s a young mom, a grandma and four small boys fighting to be reunited as the family they are and should be, against the most powerful government on Earth, determined to demonstrate that the state is in charge of America’s children, not their parents.

Karla Johnson, Sara’s mom and the boys’ grandmother, first reached out to us here at Whiteout Press for help a couple weeks ago. We did as much research as a vigilant one-man operation can and came across a report from a grassroots parents’ rights organization detailing Sara and her sons’ case. Zed McLarnon of Justice for Families looked into the accusations and was horrified by the abuse of power and seemingly endless violations of the law and of the family’s rights.

In a video the organization produced about the ongoing battle, McLarnon explains their findings saying, “We chose Karla and Sara’s case to demonstrate that Child Protective Services use false allegations of abuse. Police departments break into houses to snatch children without a warrant or pick-up order. Attorney Generals prosecute parents they know to be innocent. And judges suppress evidence and manipulate the court records, all to take into custody as many children as possible.”

Sara’s story

In Sara’s case, one would think that a non-stop five-year campaign to get her child back would be enough to prove her dedication, sincerity and capability as a parent. But to Child Protective Services, it only indicates a failure to submit to government authority, even when those government employees were proven to be wrong. And as punishment for fighting for her parental rights and the return of her son, Sara Ybarra-Johnson has had all four of her children removed from her by CPS.

Zed McLarnon from Justice for Families explains his group’s findings after looking into Sara’s story. “What intrigued me about this case is the fact that the Judges in Superior Court, once they had appointed Sara a Public Defender, claimed that she was no longer a party to the case,” McLarnon reveals, “Imagine, a mother being maliciously prosecuted to terminate her parental custody, not a party to the case. Why did they do this? So they could refuse to give her any court documents, including the allegations against her.”

Even worse, the various Public Defenders assigned to represent Sara in her effort to keep her children have all refused to introduce the evidence that proves her innocence, including the government’s own doctors’ reports of her son showing there was absolutely no evidence of neglect or abuse. According to Justice for Families, that’s no accident and one of the most common tactics the government uses to thwart parents’ attempts to keep their children. Most parents give up eventually. But not Sara.

Retribution and revenge

Most Americans know by now that it’s dangerous to be right when the government is wrong. You will get arrested if you push your case hard enough, regardless of how right you are. That seems to be how this whole horrifying five-year episode began back in 2009. That’s when Child Protective Services was investigating Sara Ybarra-Johnson and her 1-year-old son Isaiah for, according to the CPS report, ‘Medical Neglect - Seizures.’ Examining doctors quickly ruled out any neglect or abuse and Isaiah should have been returned to Sara that instant.

Instead, during the vicious and terrifying interrogation by CPS officials, Sara’s mother and Isaiah’s grandmother Karla Johnson fiercely argued and fought for the return of the 1-year-old baby. But according to Grandma Karla, that only enraged CPS caseworkers and their supervisor. Karla explains that while the agency did their investigation, they put Isaiah in a state foster home where he ended up being physically abused, and they have pictures.

One of the more shocking parts of this ongoing tragedy comes from a police report, where CPS supervisor Rhonda Cash is quoted explaining to Sara why the agency is keeping Isaiah and not giving him back. “I don't care what documentation you have of doctors care for Isaiah,” Cash reportedly says, “I am taking Isaiah because your mother has pissed me off.” How many readers have ever been arrested for breaking that law? Your author has, a few times. Like we said, it’s dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

Keep in mind, the official reason for removing Isaiah from his mother Sara was the accusation that she wasn’t providing Isaiah with enough medical care to treat what the agency erroneously believed were recurring seizures. In June 2009, just five weeks after CPS seized the child, they took Isaiah to neurologist Dr. Kevin Chapman at the Barrows Neurological Center who examined Isaiah and ruled that the child hadn’t had a seizure in more than a year. His suspicion was that Isaiah may have had a seizure at the time of birth and not since. That should have been all the evidence the family needed to get their child back.

A Maricopa County Detective carried out an impartial investigation. His findings concluded, “Dr. Chapman’s report should have resolved this case in 2009. Isaiah should have been returned and the other boys should have never been removed.”

Taking all of Sara’s children

Over the course of five years trying to get her son Isaiah back, Sara and her mom Karla have accumulated a mountain of evidence regarding CPS misconduct, abuse and outright lies. One example comes from Sara Ybarra-Johnson’s CPS case file. Karla Johnson explains, “My daughter’s CPS file has an email from Cash to Kara Vanhise - Arizona Ombudsman’s Office - on June 9, 2009. Cash admits CPS did not conduct a removal review and Cash states, ‘It was based upon evidence submitted by DDD.’”

When Karla and Sara reached out to the Department of Developmental Disability (DDD) regarding the alleged evidence they supposedly submitted to Rhonda Cash, the CPS supervisor who removed Isaiah in the first place, the reply was stunning, but not surprising in this case. DDD’s official response reads, “Please be advised that the Department of Developmental Disability has no record indicating that Isaiah E. Johnson is or ever was a client of the Division of Developmental Disabilities.” In other words, the evidence Rhonda Cash fraudulently cites for removing Isaiah from Sara’s custody simply doesn’t exist. But this and all the other evidence from the government’s own agencies have been banned by the Judges in Sara’s case.

If fighting for the return of your 18-month-old son isn’t traumatic enough, try doing it while being six months pregnant with your second child. Five months after Sara’s horrifying ordeal began with the removal of her son Isaiah, she gave birth to her second son Wilfredo. Eight days later, Child Protective Services sent the Phoenix police to forcibly enter the Johnson’s home and remove the new baby - no warrant, no charges, no reason. The agency only gave two causes for taking Wilfredo. One was that they already had Isaiah. The second, cited by Judge Christopher Coury in his removal decision, detailed, “Termination of the parent-child relationship would benefit the Children because these Children are adoptable.”

Flash forward two years. Sara is expecting her third child and visiting the state of Oklahoma. She goes into labor and gives birth to her third son Josiah. Somehow some way, the state’s own Child Protective Service is alerted to Sara’s ongoing legal battle to force Arizona to return her two sons. Like an unthinking and uncaring machine, local Oklahoma CPS officials take Josiah away from Sara and place him in state custody for his own protection. 14 months later, Oklahoma Judge Brian Ishikawa terminated Sara’s parental rights of Josiah, even though CPS’ own investigators testified there was no abuse or neglect of the child. Instead, Josiah was admittedly taken simply because the government had already taken Isaiah and Wilfredo, and like the other cases, because “A termination of these parental rights would further the plan of adoption.”

Flash forward two more years to 2013. Sara and the boys’ grandmother Karla are still fiercely fighting for the return of the children. They’ve filed appeals and even lawsuits, only to find that justice has not only been unattainable, but vengeful and vindictive. In June 2013, Sara gave birth to her fourth and youngest son Jayden. Eight months later, Child Protective Services removed him as well.

Threats, terror and injustice

The campaign to remove Sara’s youngest son Jayden from her custody began at 1am on January 11, 2014. That’s when Phoenix Police and CPS caseworkers showed up at the Johnson’s home demanding to be let in so they could strip and examine the 6-month-old baby. The family refused to let them in without a warrant or court order, which the raiding party apparently did not have. Over the next three weeks, the Johnson family was terrorized by CPS employees, some of whom threatened to arrest the whole family for refusing to cooperate and for secretly tape recording the agency’s threats and intimidation.

On February 5th, Phoenix Police and CPS caseworkers again besieged the Johnson home, demanding they turn over Jayden or they would all be placed under arrest. The family cooperated, but emphatically argued that the agency had absolutely no legitimate reason to remove the child as there was no evidence of neglect or abuse, which the police report confirmed.

The agency also admits in its own documentation that it didn’t conduct any investigation of abuse of Jayden. Its own pick-up order showed the wrong child’s name on it. And it wasn’t even signed by a Judge as required by law. CPS actually filed a police report citing Jayden as a ‘missing child’. The report was later amended to reflect that it was an error and the child was in his mother’s physical custody all along.

The CPS official at the heart of Jayden’s removal, Michael Messinese, has recently testified that he did not write a case report to the court which bears his signature. He also admits in court documents that he never even interviewed Sara or Jayden or conducted an investigation before ordering the confiscation of her child. On August 7th and August 15th of this year, Sara testified in court in her never-ending nightmare to get her children back. According to her mom Karla, “Sara literally kicked CPS' butt in the court.” So much so, that the CPS official in charge of Jayden’s removal repeatedly responded under questioning, “I don’t recall.”

Next steps

Sara Ybarra-Johnson’s nightmare is far from over in her effort to regain custody of her children after a five-year legal fight. And while local police officers have been seemingly behind the family, unwilling to document evidence of abuse where there was none, CPS and court officials have doubled-down on their obsession with taking all of Sara’s children away from her for no legitimate reason but simply because they refuse to admit they made a mistake in the first place.

After five years of waging a very public publicity campaign to shed some light on their horrifying ordeal, some of the government officials at the heart of the injustice are feeling the heat, and they don’t like it. Karla, the boys’ grandmother, has been so outspoken that the Arizona courts actually printed up a ‘Be On The Lookout’ poster bearing her picture and personal information in an attempt to bar her from court proceedings. She’s obtained emails from the court and from CPS where employees discuss secret investigations of the grandmother and the data-mining of her Facebook and other social media accounts.

Karla says that never before in the five-year ordeal has she been banned from the courtroom and unable to be there to witness the proceedings and support her daughter, until now. She also reports that the Judge presiding over Sara’s case, Judge Bradley Astrowsky, suddenly and mysteriously recused himself from the hearings. The family reports that Sara, Karla, their supporters and all witnesses were inexplicably ejected from the courtroom by Sheriff’s deputies and court officers, while CPS officials were allowed to stay.

After exhausting all their legal options in Arizona, including the rejection by the Arizona Supreme Court to hear their case, Sara and Karla filed a federal lawsuit alleging the violation of Sara’s civil rights. But rather than even look at the content or merits of the case, the federal court in San Francisco threatened Sara to drop her lawsuit or face “sanctions both punitive and financial.”

The culmination of this ordeal is mind-blowing considering there was never any evidence that showed any neglect or abuse of any of Sara’s boys. By contrast, all of the government’s own experts and evidence unanimously admit there was never any abuse or neglect. But for some bizarre reason, all the doctors’ and caseworkers’ reports stating such have never once been allowed to be introduced as evidence by any of the 23 state and federal Judges that Sara and Karla have appeared before over the past five years in their vain attempt to get the boys back.

Taking children from parents for profit

Zed McLarnon and Justice for Families insist Sara and her sons’ tragedy isn’t unique. He argues that millions of American children are being taken away from their parents by government agencies across the country for absolutely no reason other than for profit. The grassroots parents’ rights organization introduces case after case after case where officials across the country have been caught falsifying documents and perjuring themselves in CPS child removal proceedings.

They also point to a recent announcement from Arizona Child Protective Services that offers one possibility of what this widespread epidemic of child removal is all about. Just three months ago, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer announced the creation of a stand-alone Department of Child Safety and a check for $60 million to the very same individuals that have terrorized Sara and her boys for the past five years. Officials actually confirmed that the new mega-agency was in response to a state investigation showing there were an estimated 6,500 more children Arizona CPS could have removed from their parents but didn’t for some reason.

Sara and Karla Johnson have their own problems however. They’ve exhausted all their options on the state level and the federal Judge, Judge Snow, appears to be ignoring the law, case precedents, and ignoring the evidence of the warrantless seizure of these boys and CPS' omission of evidence from the proceedings in state court.

As grandma Karla explains after this exhausting and heart-breaking ordeal, “My daughter Sara had barely turned 19 years old when our fight began in May 2009. She just turned 24 in December 2013. Five years of her life, our lives, the boys’ lives, have been stolen because of CPS' criminal activity.” As far as Sara’s concerned, she just wants her children back. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask considering she never did anything wrong in the first place.

Just in the past couple months, the family has opened two ‘Go Fund Me’ accounts, one to help pay the legal costs of trying to get the boys back and the other to help support the family after nearly bankrupting themselves with a five-year legal battle against the unlimited resources of the government. From one victimized parent to another, we at Whiteout Press wish Sara and Karla all the best in their fight. We wish there was more we could do to help.

No Parent should Experience this Emotional Pain and Trauma

On July 10, 2007 my children were taken due to false allegations made by a Bakersfield Memorial Hospital Physician’s Assistant. Kern County Child Protective Services and Kern County Child Sheriff’s Dept showed up without a warrant and removed my children from the home. They were taken to the local children’s detention center where they were imagined for signs of abuse. It was the recommendation of their very own doctor that NO SIGNS OF CHILD ABUSE were present, but yet the children were still detained from my custody.

There are also reports for two other medical professionals that state that child abuse was not a factor in my daughter’s injury. In 2009, during my battle to get my children back my daughter was injured at the hands of the foster parents. It is required by law that parents be notified of all emergencies with their children, but Kern County Child Protective Services DID NOT notify me of the emergency. My daughter showed up to a visit with stitches in the corner of her right lip and a bruise on her forearm, and also a bruise underneath her chin. No one was held accountable for the incident, and I had even informed my public defender and had photographic evidence of the incident.

On Sept 23, 2009: I was told that the children were supposed to be coming home. The home had already passed inspection, and everything was looking good. Visits were good, and I had done everything that I was supposed to. Yet, parental rights were terminated, and the children were freed for adoption. My public defender tried to force me to commit perjury on the stand, and I refused. I was assigned an appellate attorney that I never got to meet with or even so much as speak to and she did nothing to assist me in regaining custody of my children.

The adoption was finalized in Aug 2010 well before my appeals had been completed. Kern County Child Protective Services refuses to speak to me regarding the adoption claiming that it is a closed adoption, and that I cannot contact the children until they are 18 years old. Parents are not given a choice if the adoption will be opened or closed, and are forced to have no contact with their children until their 18th birthday.

My children are currently 7, 9, and 10 and I have had no contact with them since Nov 2009. No parent should have to experience the emotional pain and trauma that I have had to experience. I have reached out to local news stations, local congress members, ACLU, and other legal members and nothing has been done to hold Child Protective Services accountable. As a result of contact with Kern County Child Protective Services and Kern County Sheriff’s Department I have become fully disabled, and I continue to struggle with ongoing depression and panic attacks.

Arizona Mom needs help

On Friday, May 2,2014 at 3:18 pm, I went to pick up my two older girls, ages 10 and 13 from middle school. A case worker from CPS was there holding my children, in the office. She never stated why I was there. I later read my paperwork and found allegations of “Neglect”. Neglect from what specifically was not ever clarified.

1781097825_b607d8e234_n[1]I figured I had nothing to hide so I told her some old story, of a domestic issue in 2006.

I was told that:

  1. We could no longer live in our home
  2. My children could not be around their father
  3. I could not be alone with my children and
  4. My mother has to be around the children at all times.

I never did violated those terms but because the caseworker found me with my children and my mother at our home, where we were told that we could not live, the caseworker claimed that I did indeed violate the terms.

If I did violate them then why didn’t she say so on that particular day.

The caseworker never stated that my children could not not return there with my mother  and plus my husband was not there he was at work. My children were taken and separated.

(My son, 8 and is at a kids shelter, my daughter,10, is at group home all alone, and my 9 and 13 year old are together in foster care.

I did not violate. We just purchased  a very nice home. How can I put my story “out there” where others can read it and offer me advice? My children are all depressed and I’m desperate PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!

Bullied to death by Social Services

Bullied to death by Social ServicesHow a devoted mother with a loving middle-class family was forcibly separated from her son - with fatal consequences

Late morning, April 2003, and for the tenth time in two hours I called my cousin Pam’s mobile.

Again there was no answer, and I was beginning to worry. Earlier, I’d driven past her house and had considered stopping for a coffee — but it was very early, so I’d gone home.

Half an hour later, I’d called her mobile. Then her landline. Then I’d tried texting her. Nothing. For someone who always loved talking on the phone, it was unprecedented.
Proud of his mum: Jack today, with his mother's cousin Sally Jones. His mother Pam took her own life after a series of problems with social services

Proud of his mum: Jack today, with his mother's cousin Sally Jones. His mother Pam took her own life after a series of problems with social services

There was further reason for my fears. Since her teens, Pam had suffered periodic bouts of depression, and this had intensified recently.

A single mum, Pam was despairing at being parted — on the diktat of Social Services — from the son she adored, 11-year-old Jack. I knew I had to return to her house.

As I drove, the words ‘She’s dead’ hammered ominously in my head. I battered on the door of her house but there was no answer. Peering through a window, I saw Pam, motionless, on the sofa.

I strained my eyes, desperate to see a hint of breathing, but my tears blurred my vision.

I searched feverishly for something to break the window but the double glazing looked impregnable. I rang 999 and within minutes the place was screaming with police cars. Eight blows of a sledgehammer smashed the lock and paramedics rushed in, confirming what I already knew.

‘I’m afraid your cousin’s dead — must have been for hours,’ said one. ‘There’s no way you could have saved her even if you’d come this morning.

‘No, don’t go in. Far better you see her and say goodbye at the Chapel of Rest when she’s been tidied up and looking nice.’

In shock, I rang my family to tell them the news. Her mother, sister and I went to the home of Jack’s foster parents, and we broke the news to him as gently as we could.

Jack was distraught. He loved his mum and had always said he wanted to live with her full-time when he reached 18. We all stayed at my house that night to support him.

Amid our grief, we felt growing anger at the role which Social Services had played in Pam’s death.

Rather than support my cousin and help manage her (admittedly difficult) situation, we strongly felt they had made things much worse.

In short, we believed she felt persecuted and that this contributed to her suicide.

Pam and I had always been close; as children, we had often played together. Her father was an engineer; her mother, a secretary.

Pam was a year younger than me (I’m now 59), and we shared a zany sense of humour. We even looked rather alike, though she was prettier than me.

I was lucky enough to go on to study English at Oxford University, and later made a career at the BBC as a reporter, but even as a child Pam began to lose her way.
Pam taking Jack out for a trip when he was about 5. A single mum, Pam was despairing at being parted - on the diktat of social services - from the son she adored

Pam taking Jack out for a trip when he was about 5. A single mum, Pam was despairing at being parted - on the diktat of social services - from the son she adored

Her parents split when she was 11, and she moved schools several times. She was highly strung, and suffered occasional times of psychological turmoil, but nothing was diagnosed.

Her choice of men sometimes worried her family, too. But at 24, she finally seemed to settle with a steady boyfriend and moved to the Channel Islands.

When she became pregnant, however, the relationship deteriorated. Pam moved back home and was supported loyally by her mother and sister, who lived nearby.

Gemma was born in 1981 and Pam lovingly cared for her little girl. But she began, too, to suffer spells of depression and feelings of inadequacy. Sometimes she heard voices, and occasionally bouts of paranoia, which puzzled her doctors.

They labelled these mood swings  ‘transient psychotic episodes’ — a nebulous phrase. She was never diagnosed with anything as severe as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

They prescribed various drugs, which often made things worse. Pam would often be woozy or confused as a result of the medication, which was intensely distressing for her and us.

Although several family members visited her regularly, and cared for Gemma if Pam had an episode of confusion, social services claimed she was an inadequate mother.
Jack was born in 1993. Because she was a vulnerable mother, Pam spent several months in a hospital mother-and-baby support unit, caring for him in a sheltered environment

Jack was born in 1993. Because she was a vulnerable mother, Pam spent several months in a hospital mother-and-baby support unit, caring for him in a sheltered environment

They put her under unnerving supervision, noting every time she was panicked or confused — failing to see that it was their dictatorial supervision which was heightening her troubled state of mind.

Finally, when Gemma was two, the little girl was taken away, amid absolutely heartbreaking scenes.

Pam never saw her daughter again. Understandably, it fuelled her lifelong fear of social services.

Pam tried to get on with her life, but in the late 1980s began a relationship with Jason — an unpredictable drug-user who periodically beat her up. Her family were horrified.

She became pregnant again, and Jack was born in 1993. Because she was a vulnerable mother, Pam spent several months in a hospital mother-and-baby support unit, caring for him in a sheltered environment.

Jason visited only periodically, and he had little contact with Jack, which eventually dwindled to nothing.

Once home on her own, Pam’s panic attacks and depression intensified. She became convinced that social services were plotting to take Jack for adoption, as they had Gemma.

Social workers handled this spectacularly badly. They were mostly young and childless, and would often visit her nervously in pairs, as though she were a dangerous animal.

I was there once when they visited, and noticed how cold and accusing they seemed — and how intimidated and jumpy Pam was in their presence.

They criticised minor slips, such as when she didn’t immediately spot that Jack had a dirty nappy. Any mother would have felt intimidated — but with Pam’s history she felt overwhelmed.
Pam was allowed to see Jack, supervised, for just six hours a week because social services claimed she might be a danger to him

Pam was allowed to see Jack, supervised, for just six hours a week because social services claimed she might be a danger to him

A few months later, two-year-old Jack was placed in foster care ten miles away, where he received little stimulation. I collected him regularly for Pam’s access visits, and noted that he was usually watching TV (which maddened Pam, as she loved taking him to play in the park).

When he broke a leg in the foster family’s home in unexplained circumstances, the incident was brushed aside as an unavoidable tumble.

And because Pam’s condition remained ‘unchanged’, social workers judged that she was still an unfit mother. Not once did they take note of Pam’s large, loving and respectable family unit, who were a constant presence in her and Jack’s life.

And so, heartbreakingly, Pam was allowed to see Jack, supervised, for just six hours a week because social services claimed she might be a danger to him. This was despite the fact that she’d never shown the slightest aggression towards him and he always begged to be with her.

Worse was to come. Six months later, Pam was informed that her visits would be reduced to just three hours a week. Social Services didn’t even deign to give her an explanation.

Distraught at her lack of contact with Jack, she believed — with good reason — that Social Services were reducing her time with her son in preparation for having him taken away full-time. She was near-suicidal with despair.

It was down to Pam’s own mother, now a determined pensioner, to spend thousands on a last-ditch fight through the courts to try to prevent Jack being taken into full-time care.

To Social Services’ amazement, the judge — impressed by the level of family support from her mother, sister and me — gave Pam’s mother short-term custody of Jack, allowing mother and child to re-integrate gradually. It was the news Pam had been waiting for.

The following year, the court returned Jack, by now a bubbly five-year-old, full-time to Pam. She was overjoyed.

With Jack to herself, Pam was the happiest I had seen her. She was exhilarating company, with a ribald sense of humour. She was also a talented cook, who adored making dinner for her friends.

Sadly, Social Services continued to pursue her. They frequently called unannounced and monitored every minor problem.

Pam tried desperately to carry on. We all saw that, despite her problems, she and her son had the most powerful, loving relationship. It’s a tragedy that Social Services could never see this for themselves.

In 2000, social workers decided that Jack should once again be fostered during the week, citing Pam’s continued panic attacks. Again, they couldn’t see that they themselves were fuelling her panic.

Jack was sent to a kindly foster family nearby and allowed to see his mother for a few hours at weekends.
Today, Jack is a delightful 21-year-old who remembers his mother with affection and love

Today, Jack is a delightful 21-year-old who remembers his mother with affection and love

He was forbidden to stay overnight unsupervised — not even, to Pam’s fury, on Christmas Eve, when she longed to see the look on his face when he woke up and saw his Christmas stocking.

Then, in the autumn of 2002, and frustrated by what we all thought were the social workers’ unreasonable demands, Pam disobeyed their instructions and took her son for a day out in London.

But what began as a happy day went wrong when she suffered a panic attack, becoming breathless amid the throngs of shoppers. Jack, by then a capable ten-year-old, coped sensibly, finding a cafe where she could recover.

But the damage was done. Social Services found out and applied for a full custody order, claiming that Jack was at risk.

It was a turning point. With the court case scheduled to take place in April 2003, Pam was miserably aware that she was about to lose her son. She made a string of anguished calls to her psychiatric unit’s crisis team, but no one helped. The night before she died, the phone line was unmanned.

And this time, unusually, she did not ring her mother or me to say how desperate she felt.

An inquest several months later decided she had killed herself with a massive overdose.

Sifting through her possessions after her death was heartbreaking.

We discovered 1,550 capsules of 18 types of prescribed drug, and scores of desperate text messages stored on her mobile, one explaining that she was taking her own life as she felt utterly alone and dreaded losing her son.

After her death, we tried to remember the good things about her life.

Today, Jack is a delightful 21-year-old and we see him regularly. He remembers his mother with affection and love.

‘She was a great Mum,’ he says. ‘She always encouraged me and made sure I finished my homework. She fought to make sure I got into the best senior school nearby.

‘After her death, my extended family constantly helped me. I went to a good university and I’m hoping to work in ophthalmology.

‘I like to think Mum would be proud of how I’ve turned out. The way she brought me up is definitely part of that.’

He also recalls those hard days when social workers penetrated their happy family bubble.

‘I know Social Services have an important job to do, but I feel they often don’t realise how their behaviour affects the families they’re dealing with. They were cruel to my mum.’

‘A few years ago, because I’d turned out so well, Social Services asked me to be a poster boy for social work in this area. I refused, furious that they were trying to take credit for how I’d turned out after all they’d put us through.’

To avoid further pain, we did not pursue a formal complaint against Social Services — but they knew all too well what we thought of their role in it all.

But Pam’s death robbed a young boy of the mother he adored, and left her family angry They failed to see that she had the loving support of an extended family.

We have always accepted that anyone who has problems like Pam needs to be watched carefully. But rather than help with her problems, social workers micro-managed, bullied and unnerved her. They substituted understanding with heavy-handed surveillance that only intensified her troubles.

We can never forget their failure to accept their role in triggering her attacks, and their glaring absence at her moments of greatest need.

A spokesperson for the County Council involved, which is in the Midlands, said: ‘We are unable to comment on this individual case.’

Some names have been changed.

A version of this column originally appeared in: