Jane Crow: Children's Services' Overreaching Practices

New York’s Administration for Children’s Services was created to protect kids from the abuse or neglect of their families. However, there has been a disturbing trend in Children’s Services that allows them to take kids away from their parents on the grounds the child’s safety is at risk without sufficient evidence to prove such an assertion. This trend has been a particular problem in poorer neighborhoods.

The agency’s requests for removals filed in family court rose about 40% in the first quarter of 2017 compared to the year before, according to statistics obtained by The New York Times. When interviewed, dozens of lawyers working on these cases say the removals typically target parents who have few resources. The parents who are usually punished for “poor parenting” are poor black or Hispanic women. The practice has led to some calling it “Jane Crow,” in a historical reference to the racist Jim Crow laws enforcing racial segregation in the South.

In one case of Jane Crow targeting, a woman, Maisha Joefield, who was taking a bath after she had put her daughter to bed, came out of the bathroom to an empty home. Ms. Joefield’s daughter had gone across the street to her great-grandmother’s apartment. However, the police became involved. Law enforcement, instead of listening to Ms. Joefield’s story, automatically removed Deja from her apartment and Children’s Services placed her into foster care. Ms. Joefield was then charged with endangering the welfare of a child.

Lawyers who oversee these cases also understand that the same kind of mistake made by a woman in a richer neighborhood wouldn’t result in the same type of punishment. When interviewed about the situation, a lawyer at Brooklyn Defender Services, Scott Hechinger, said the following about the double standard: “Society both infantilizes them [poor mothers] and holds them to superhuman standards.”

Family law attorneys who represent the victims of this type of double standard find the removals tend to happen after high-profile failures in the Children’s Services systems. For example, last December, two children who were both being monitored by the agency were beaten to death in separate incidents. Early this year, as seeming response, 300 emergency removals happened in January and February.

Ms. Joefield was eventually released from jail, and her daughter was returned to her 4 days after her court hearing; however, the case stayed open for a year, and Ms. Joefield had to take parenting classes and endure caseworkers stopping by her home to check her cupboards for sufficient food supplies and her daughter for any bruises.

While some cases of removal are needed, even short-term removals for circumstances that make no logical sense can have a lasting effect on the development of vulnerable children. Even a brief stay in foster care can be terrifying for a child and can upset family life. Mrs. Joefield, who was by all accounts an excellent mother, was put on a state registry of child abusers for years. This registry prevented her from working with kids, which, as a former day care worker, was a terrible strike to her employment.

Likewise, the threat of Children’s Services has been used as a weapon by landlords who want immediate payment from lower paying tenants. In one case, a woman named Bernadette Charles complained to 311 about the condition in which she and her family were living in. Water damage affected the ceilings and ruined their furniture, large rats were taking over the kitchen, and she had found black mold in the bathroom. The landlord found out about her complaint and punished her by calling Children’s Services. An agency worker arrived 4 days later, cited unsafe conditions, and took Ms. Charles’s children away.

Read more about these cases on The New York Times website here. If you’re being targeted by Children’s Services, don’t hesitate to protect yourself and your family from needless persecution. Talk to one of our skilled New York family law attorneys at Eiges & Orgel, PLLC. We have more than 40 years of legal experience to offer your case. Let us see how we can use our expertise to help you.

Contact us at (347) 848-1850 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation with us today.

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