I must begin this story with a few facts. Most importantly, this is a true account. Nothing has been made up or embellished in an attempt to get your attention or to make a point clear. The outcome of this story is not yet known. Names have been changed to protect the innocent; in particular, the child who is not quite two years old at the time of this writing (August 13, 2006). However, the location is factual – I would not want someone to mistake the real locale for another. Some assumptions have been made, but they are duly noted.
A few years ago, a young man and a young woman fell in love. They set up housekeeping together and began to plan their future. The young woman, we’ll call her Laura, became pregnant. That was when the beatings became serious, probably causing the miscarriage. We might assume that the young man, we’ll call him Richard, had become comfortable beating on his wife, and the beatings continued. On different occasions he broke her thumb, broke one of her ribs, chased her down the street in the snow to beat her while she was wearing nothing but a shirt, and threw her in a bathtub and choked her until she quit breathing. Apparently, when he realized that she was not breathing, it scared him; and he let go of her throat. Air was then able to reenter her lungs. She survived.
Over the first couple of years of their relationship, Richard told Laura much about his family’s history. He would reminisce about the times that he was walking home from school and found his mother trading sex for drugs in the ditch by the side of their house . . . with one of his friends or older siblings of his school buddies. He told her that, since he was the oldest, he was left to raise his younger siblings since his mother was, in all senses of the phrase, a crack whore. This started when he was five years old. He and his siblings had been removed from his mother’s care by the Department of Human Services, beginning when he was 12 years old. The charges against his mother, we’ll call her Janice, included abuse and neglect. He had several domestic violence charges against him, some filed by members of his own family including his mother, sister and others. Laura felt that he had been driven beyond human tolerance by his mother and that Janice had been getting what she deserved. Laura felt sorry for him and hoped that their relationship would be strong and loving enough to help him restore himself. Not so.
Richard’s brother, Joseph, moved in with Laura and Richard when his mother threw him out of the house (again) for whatever reason. Since having a job was not one of Richard’s strong points, Laura supported the three of them. Again, she heard more of the horror stories of living with Janice. Laura became close with one of Richard’s cousins, Theresa, who was also vocal about Janice’s unreasonable behavior, including the time Janice had called the Department of Human Services on Theresa for feeding her children a popular variety of frozen dinners designed for children. During a visit to Janice’s house, Laura was stunned to find out that the local police of Fountain, Colorado, were on a first name basis with all members of the household, and they were curious about whether or not her husband had ever decided to finish high school.
Richard spent some time in jail for DUI’s, domestic violence and other charges. Laura worked, paid his bail and kept the household “together”.
She became pregnant again. The beatings continued, and Laura continued to hope that her love would save him. She’d somehow forgotten about herself. As was usual, Richard had lost another job by the time the baby was born. Laura went back to work a week after the birth. She was working two jobs to make ends meet, and Richard stayed home with their son, Ramon. When the baby was two and a half months old, Richard went on one of his regular benders, came home in the middle of the night and began beating Laura, as was his habit. Ramon had been wakened at about 2 AM on several occasions to listen to his mother’s screams as his father took out his pent up aggressions. However, on this one evening in particular, Ramon had not been asleep when his father came home, and Richard wailed on Laura as she was holding Ramon. She implored Richard to let her at least put the baby down before he continued. This was met with more abuse. When he beat her to the point that she lost consciousness and woke up in the hospital Laura realized that her son was also in danger. She pressed charges and got a restraining order. When Ramon was four months old, they moved and hid from Richard.
So that we all understand, Laura did not have a pristine past. She was on probation for check fraud and was doing her best to meet all the requirements of her probation, which was shortly coming to an end, having realized, especially after the birth of her son, that she needed to be the provider of all her child’s needs. She had been making every effort to turn her life around, mostly for her son.
Seven months later, she was picked up on another check fraud charge – not one that she committed. It seems that a year ago (when she was about seven months pregnant) a girl not matching her description had attempted to pass a stolen check at a retail store. The clerk had photocopied the woman’s ID and had quite a bit of information concerning the woman, including her foot size since she’d been attempting to purchase shoes. Laura spent a month and a half in jail while her cousin watched her son. Due to lack of funds, she was not able to make bail. She was in jail for her son’s first birthday. Being away from her son was breaking her heart, so she plea-bargained to a lesser charge and took a new, extended probation in order to go home. When she was going through the release procedure, the officer handling the paperwork asked her about her alias. She told him that she didn’t have one, that she’d never gone by the name Tracy and got out of there as quickly as they’d let her. She started looking for a new job since she’d lost the one she’d had while sitting in jail and again attempted to put her life back together.
In the meantime, her divorce proceedings were moving along and the court had ordered visitation for her almost ex-husband. Against her better judgment, she took her son to his apartment for his three-day visitation. Richard called Laura on the second day of his visitation and asked if he could keep his son until Christmas since she had had the boy on Thanksgiving. He wanted to spend holiday time with his son and his family. This would turn the three days into just short of two weeks, but Laura didn’t want to be one of those mothers who refuses to allow her child to know his other parent. She agreed, hesitantly. On December 17th, around midnight, Richard decided to go out drinking with his girlfriend and left the 14-month-old Ramon home with a sleeping roommate who had no idea that he was in charge of the child. The Colorado Springs Police picked up Richard at 5 AM on a DUI charge and put him in jail. He told the police that he needed to call his mother to go pick up his son. At some point (while he was still drunk, mind you) he told the police that he had no idea where his son’s mother was and hadn’t seen her in months.
It does not appear that anyone was particularly concerned that no one was taking care of the infant while his father was out drinking and joy riding. Janice was notified and picked up the child from the roommate who, now that he was awake, found that the baby had been roaming the house for quite some time, pulling things down and making a general mess. A few days later, Laura attempted to call Richard’s house and left a message. After leaving a few more messages, she began to worry. She finally got Richard’s roommate on the phone and found out that Richard was in jail and that Janice had picked up Ramon. She went to Janice’s house and found that she’d moved. No one around there knew where she’d gone. Laura spent several evenings driving around and calling relatives looking for some clue as to Janice’s – and her son’s – whereabouts. She filed a missing persons report with the police and continued to try to find her son.
A few weeks later, Laura was contacted by DHS (Department of Human Services). She had been reported as an absent parent and custody of the child had been turned over to his paternal grandmother – the woman whose children had been removed from her home ten years before. Laura was told that she needed to meet certain conditions, and her son would be returned to her. A caseworker came to her home, conditions were met but nothing happened. Laura began calling DHS to get in touch with the caseworker. She left messages, but no one returned her calls. Soon, she found that the caseworker who had contacted and visited her had left DHS. She started to leave messages with the former caseworker’s supervisor. Again her calls were not returned.
Remember that Laura was on probation. The database for DHS and the Probation Department are shared. There should have been little reason for DHS NOT to be able to locate Laura immediately. As a further note, Laura’s real name is a little unusual. If it is typed into PeopleFinder.com one could have acquired her exact address and phone number for the cost of $9.95 even without the help of the El Paso County database. Laura went to her Probation Officer, who had been made aware by Laura of the situation from the outset and had records of speaking with both the former caseworker and with the DHS Investigator, and asked for help locating her son’s case in order to allow her to contact the current caseworker and find out why her son had not yet been returned to her. Although one would think that this would be a simple procedure based on the shared database, difficulties arose since Grandma didn’t seem to know the boy’s real name. In the DHS case files Ramon’s name shows as Raymond. Laura was lucky to have a probation officer who didn’t give up until she found the case in the computer system.
Laura contacted the new caseworker and found that she was required to take random drug tests twice a week, be tested for alcohol consumption, take drug and alcohol classes, attend several therapies and various classes for numerous mental conditions and must have a battery of psychological exams before she would be allowed to see her son. Her son was taken by his paternal grandmother in mid-December, and Laura would not be allowed to see him again until June; and, then, only under the supervision of DHS staff at a visitation center.
It came to light by about this time that the file of the actual perpetrator of the check theft had become mixed with Laura’s file. She got a copy of the mixed file and requested that the incorrect information be removed. She was told that since Tracy was in jail at the time, there was nothing she could do and nothing that the police would do. It was this mixed file that had caused all the additional drug and alcohol classes and additional therapies that were being required of her. Laura acquired a copy of the discovery on the case. It shows that Laura’s picture had been shown to the clerk in the store and was not identified as the perpetrator, Tracy. Her picture was also shown to the manager of the apartment where Tracy lived. The manager stated that she looked something like Tracy’s sister but that she wasn’t Tracy. Keep in mind that there was a copy of Tracy’s driver’s license on file. They look nothing alike. Their ages are different. There heights and weights are different (and Laura was very pregnant when the crime was committed) and their shoe sizes are different. However, since these two women had the same last name and Laura sort of looked like the SISTER of the perpetrator, Laura was arrested, jailed and tried for a crime she didn’t commit and now owes $5000 in restitution and her probation was extended three years – AND she has someone else’s long list of arrests and convictions on her record. What is going on in the state of Colorado?
The reality of this scenario is that it doesn’t get any better. The attorney assigned to Laura by the court in the DHS case is not a member of the Bar, and his specialty according to his phone listing is traffic violations. He doesn’t show up to scheduled meetings with DHS nor does he show up at court. When Laura asked him to subpoena the records that her Probation Officer had concerning the contact she’d had with the first caseworker, he refused. Records show only the lies that were told by Richard and his mother, none of which were ever substantiated. Records also show that the first caseworker was not able to contact Laura, although the investigator’s report is clearly in the file as well and shows that Laura had been located, and the Probation Officer’s records corroborate the contacts that the first caseworker and investigator had with Laura and her Probation Officer. DHS’s own file contradicts itself.
An example of one of the allegations made against the mother was that the child had scoliosis and that early neglect caused it. Scoliosis is genetic (the child’s maternal great-grandmother has scoliosis), the cause is unknown and there is no form of prevention. It would appear that Janice was not aware of these facts when she lied about the condition. She did take Ramon to a doctor who verified that he did not have scoliosis. Either way, there has been no evidence that suggests any form of neglect, except during the child’s stay with Janice . . . and remember what happened to her children. By the way, the child has acute asthma and Janice and her friends and other relatives sit in the same room with the child and smoke.
In order to be a foster parent, one must pass a background check. DHS has not to anyone’s knowledge performed a background check on Janice, although DHS’s own records show a case in connection with Richard’s name from 1996 – ten years ago when he was 12. It shows that he was a child in the case and that the case involved both neglect and abuse. Exactly who did DHS think the parents were in that case? Ramon was forced to live with this woman for seven months, from the time he was 14 months old until he was 21 months old, and Janice has been paid as a foster parent by the state of Colorado. During a meeting among DHS workers, the Guardian ad Litem, the father, the mother, the paternal grandmother, the maternal grandmother (by phone) and the child’s uncle (the same man that lived with Richard and Laura and whom she supported for a time because his mother kicked him out), among others, Janice and Richard cooked their own geese by allowing some truths to slip out. At that time, the child was placed with the sister of Janice’s new husband. Does anyone else see the inequity here?
When the maternal grandmother (Barbara), who lives out of state, requested phone contact with her grandson, the request was denied until she passed a background check. She agreed, in writing, to the background check. That check has never been run, but the question must arise as to why a check is necessary for her to be able to talk to the boy on the phone. However, DHS has still not run a background check on the woman with whom they allowed the boy to stay for seven months. Barbara’s background is clean.
This is just the tip of this iceberg. Laura would appreciate your comments, thoughts or suggestions. Please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org for forwarding.
Be well and question everything.