by Health Impact News/MedicalKidnap.com Staff
The story of the 14 year old Alabama mother whose newborn baby was taken away from her by Child Protective Services last summer quickly went viral, and inspired outrage all over the world. That outrage translated into action, with many phone calls, emails, and letters calling upon state legislators to “do something” about the situation.
Local courts and social workers tried to silence the media, and squelch the negative attention that the actions of the Department of Human Resources (DHR) was receiving. But the public refused to back down in their fight for this family, and because of the calls for action, things changed for this family. There is also new legislation pending in the state of Alabama which arose from their case.
Those close to the situation have always believed that, had it not been for the story going viral, baby Braelon’s mother would never have gotten her baby back. Instead of the baby simply being returned to his mother, in the care of her grandparents who had raised her, DHR intervened less than 24 hours after the baby was taken, removing the young mother and her twin brother from their home.
Fortunately, the baby was eventually returned to his mother, but he and his mother were taken to Childhaven, a group home in Cullman, Alabama. Her twin brother was placed in a foster home originally, and then into a group home 2 hours away from his sister. After much public attention, all three children were placed with a relative, but not returned to the grandparents’ home where they grew up.
Since that time, the relative has declined to speak with media. However, Health Impact News has been able to confirm that the children appear to be safe and baby Braelon appears to be thriving, now that they are out of the group home setting.
Our reporter Terri LaPoint was present with Choices4Life founder Juda Myers at Shelby County Medical Center up to the minutes when the baby was seized from his mother’s arms. When it had become clear that DHR was going to take her baby, the mother turned to LaPoint and Myers and asked them to tell her story, and help get her baby back. That is why the story was reported, despite the young age of the mother.
Exclusive Video of the Day Baby Braelon Was Taken
The events of the day were traumatic and emotional. There were several hours during which the family was very calm, simply asking when they could go home. Their questions were evaded at every turn. Late in the afternoon on June 15, 2016, DHR supervisor Ahzshaka Evans entered the hospital room, accompanied by Alabaster police officer Edmunson and 2 other officers, 2 security guards, and several hospital staff, including hospital Risk Management director Ashley Cole-Tyson, saying that they were there to take the baby.
Already present in the room were the young mother, who was breastfeeding her baby at the time, her grandparents Dee and Rodney Prince, reporter Terri LaPoint, and advocate Juda Myers. Big sister Haly Boothe was present also. Her newborn baby had been seized by Shelby County DHR just six weeks prior, simply because they already had her other 2 children, who had been born while she was in foster care.
See Haly’s story:
Should Foster Children who Become Parents as Adults Automatically Have Their Children Seized? Alabama Mother Fights to Get Children Back
Watch the encounter in the hospital room:
In this second video clip, it is difficult to hear Shelby County supervisor Ahzshaka Evans’ words over the rest of the conversation in the room. She leaned down and quietly explained to the young mother:
We have one where we can summary remove, which means that we don’t have to have a court order. Only two people are allowed to do that: the Department of Human Resources of the state of Alabama and law enforcement. Those two people have the right to remove without a court order.
The problem is that that is not what the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says. If the 4th Amendment doesn’t apply to DHR/CPS or to law enforcement, who else would it possibly apply to?
Months Later, “Safety Concerns” Identified – They Were Based on a Lie
During the previous hours leading up to the seizure of the baby, the only reason given for DHR wanting to take baby Braelon was “safety concerns.” The family asked repeatedly what those safety concerns were, but no one would tell them. Officer Edmunson told our reporter that DHR does not require a court order to take the baby. He explained to the family that DHR had a pickup order, and stated that, “they obviously have a reason to do it [to take the baby].”
It was months later before the family learned what those “safety concerns” were. DHR alleged that the grandparents, Dee and Rodney Prince, invited the alleged rapist to the hospital and allowed him to come into the room.
However, that is not at all what happened. Our reporter witnessed Samuel Woods III and his mother coming into the room, and described the incident:
Accused Man Arrested in Alabama Rape Mother Story – Allowed to Enter Hospital Room to See Baby Before His Arrest
The family described the incident in detail to DHR prior to the seizure of the baby. They knew what had happened, but apparently chose to blame the grandparents anyway.
The hospital did not follow their own protocols when Woods was allowed onto the maternity floor without a security badge from the family. The family did not invite him or his mother; he came in on his own accord, facing a roomful of shocked family members. Grandmother Dee Prince had already given out all of the security badges to people the family wanted there. Grandfather Rodney Prince was not even at the hospital when the disturbing incident occurred.
Yet, this incident formed the entire basis for the “safety concerns” upon which DHR took a newborn baby from his grieving mother’s arms.
There was never any imminent danger to the baby, nor to his mother and her twin, who were seized from their home the following day.
Familial Alienation by DHR
DHR appears to still hold this imaginary safety threat against the grandparents, because they are forbidden by DHR to see the twins or baby Braelon at all. The alienation of the Princes by DHR extends not only to the twins, but to their granddaughter Haly Boothe’s baby Avyonna as well. DHR forbids any contact with Dee and Rodney Prince to 2 of their great-grandchildren as well as to the twins whom they have raised since infancy. The week before baby Braelon was taken, a Shelby County DHR social worker had approved the Prince’s home in a home study for baby Avyonna.
This past Christmas was difficult for the Princes. They took Christmas presents for the twins and the baby and left them on the doorstep, much like Santa Claus – delivering gifts with no contact with the children. They wanted to make sure that, no matter what the children are being told, they would see that their grandparents have not abandoned them, and that they will always love them. It is not by choice that they do not see their grandchildren. They are abiding by court orders.
Lawsuit Still Not Dismissed
The court case for the twins, who are now 15, and the baby has been moved out of Shelby County and is now in Jefferson County. However, 2 major players in the Shelby County case remain involved. Jennifer Newman is reportedly still on the case as DHR counsel, and Erin Bell Welborn remains as the guardian ad litem for the the young mother and her baby.
Welborn is no longer involved in the lawsuit that she filed against Health Impact News and reporter Terri LaPoint and others.
See article about the lawsuit:
However, the lawsuit remains. Erin Welborn had filed the lawsuit in the name of the then 1-week old baby Braelon against Health Impact News, Choices4Life, and the Daily Haze, as well as the reporters and advocates, and against numerous family members, for exposing the kidnapping of baby Braelon in Shelby County, Alabama. A judge has ruled that Erin Welborn had no standing to file the lawsuit, and she was removed from the suit. However, the judge has not yet dismissed the lawsuit, stating that he wants to ensure that the rights of the baby are retained. There has been no further activity on the suit since that hearing last year.
Haly Boothe, baby Braelon’s aunt, is one of the defendants named in the lawsuit. In November, Haly filed a bar complaint against Erin Welborn. One of the issues cited in the complaint was a conflict of interest: Welborn represented Haly’s 3 children as their GAL, while at the same time she filed a lawsuit against the children’s mother.
Baby Braelon Case Inspires New Bill
One of the initial complaints about DHR’s handling of the baby Braelon case was that the baby was separated from his mother, who was also a minor. Before anyone outside of DHR knew what the “safety concerns” were, some argued that, if the home wasn’t safe for the baby, how could it be safe for his mother, since she herself was a minor as well. DHR answered that concern by seizing the mother as well as her twin brother.
Again, this was done without a court order, warrant, or emergency circumstance.
In the call to action on the original story, supporters were encouraged to call legislators. It is apparent that the calls were heard, because Representative April Weaver, who represents the Prince family’s district, recently pre-filed a bill ahead of Alabama’s upcoming legislative session that would have required that the minor mother and baby be placed together in foster care. AL HB21 would amend existing state code to add:
“The department shall make every effort to place an infant of a dependent minor mother together with the minor mother in foster care.”
While this is certainly a step in the right direction, it is a small step. Out of all the cases that Health Impact News has written about since it began in October 2014, a bill such as this would have impacted only one case, this one, and that for only the initial first day until the mother was seized by DHR the following day after her baby was taken.
Additional Protection for Families Needed
This bill does nothing to address the greater problems facing families dealing with DHR. As late Arizona Representative Laura Knaperek once told Health Impact News:
What good does it do to pass laws if social workers aren’t going to follow them anyway?
Families already have existing protections in the state laws as well as the U.S. Constitution, but as this story shows, that often doesn’t mean anything to social workers or even law enforcement. While our reporter was at the hospital with the family, National Safe Child advocate Tammi Stefano was on a speaker phone reading aloud to Officer Edmunson portions of Alabama state law that he and others in the room were allegedly in the process of breaking at the time. The appeal to law had no effect.
The 4th Amendment to the Constitution states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Yet, there are apparently many in DHR and in law enforcement who believe that this amendment may be set aside if DHR has a verbal pick-up order from a supervisor. One social worker told a parent that, because a shelter care hearing must be held within 72 hours of a child being picked up, the requirements of the 4th Amendment are satisfied. How can this be, when that is not how the Bill of Rights reads?
The 14th Amendment addresses the right to Due Process and states in part:
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Yet, on a regular basis, parents report that they are denied due process in family court.
Additionally, it has become clear that children are taken from their homes in Alabama, and all across the United States and Canada, without any actual evidence of harm, abuse, or neglect. Hearsay is often admitted as evidence, and social workers routinely lie, in their reports, in talking with parents, and in court.
A panel at the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently ruled that social workers do NOT have the right to lie about parents, and that they do not have immunity from being sued if they do.
Watch judges respond to arguments that social workers should be allowed to lie about parents:
Additionally, transparency in the child protective system needs to be addressed. Confidentiality laws and gag orders, as well as bullying tactics by social workers and others within the system, serve to hide corruption behind a shroud of secrecy. There can be egregious violations of civil and constitutional rights, but victims are powerless to do anything about it. That is surely not what the Founding Fathers envisioned.
Transparency helps to ensure integrity. Child abuse is a horrible crime, and no rational person wants to see children abused. However, when children are seized from innocent parents, the system itself becomes the abuser, causing untold damage to the very children it is charged with protecting.
Elected officials need to address these concerns. What happened to baby Braelon and his family was described by many observers as horrific and tyrannical. How can legislators protect the people against the abuses of power that occurred in Shelby County, Alabama, last June, and that happen all across the country?
Legislative Session Starts Soon
The next legislative session in Alabama begins on Tuesday, February 7. Legislators need to hear the concerns that citizens have regarding DHR. A DHR task force has been conducting meetings to address some of the issues regarding DHR. The next meeting is scheduled for Wed., February 1, at the State House in Montgomery at 1 pm. These meetings are open to the public.
According to the Alabama Family Rights Association, ALFRA:
Alabama has a nine-member task force created to examine the work of the Alabama Department of Human Resources (DHR). If you have issues or concerns about DHR services, your best plan of action is to contact the following legislators/lawmakers and committee members:
Connie Rowe, State Representative, has replaced Mac McCutcheon as the Task Force Chair / 334-242-7600/ email here.
Chris England, State Representative / 334-242-7703 / 205-535-4859 / email here.
Greg Reed, State Senator / 334-242-7894 / he is on Facebook.
The complete list of committee Members can be found here: Executive Order Number 11
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