Amber family hiking

The Mehta family turned homelessness into a great adventure, before CPS. Source: Mehta family.

by Health Impact News/ Staff

Amber is one of those free-spirited people who takes even incredible hardships and turns them into adventures, inspiring others in the process. When her young family wound up homeless, through no fault of their own, she and her husband Krishna Mehta made the best of it. Their children didn’t even know that they were homeless; they thought that they were having great adventures and making lots of friends.

This latest chapter in their saga, however, is a nightmare, and the rainbow is really hard to find in the storm that Child Protective Services has allegedly brought into their lives. Their children, ages 6, almost 2, and 9 months, have been seized by CPS and placed into 3 different foster homes. The two babies were still being breastfed. Social services has gone so far as to accuse Amber of having a mental disorder because she is “homeless.”

Their homelessness was not by choice. Last spring the family was living in a small town in Missouri. Krishna was working, and Amber was a stay-at-home mom and childbirth doula. They were expecting baby Mira to make her appearance soon by mid-summer.

Emergency Trip to Oregon for Dying Mother

Then, they got a call that changed everything. Krishna’s mother’s cancer had come back with a vengeance. The doctors gave her just weeks to live. Krishna, a dual Irish-American citizen, and Amber scrambled to pull resources together to get to Oregon, hoping to see her before she died, and let her see the children. They drove cross-country, but arrived too late. She was gone.

The plan had been to stay at her house, have an unassisted homebirth, or “freebirth” in Oregon, and go back to the midwest when they got back on their feet. But life didn’t work out that way. Mira was born peacefully at the end of July, at home with her family. But shortly after that, they found themselves with no place to live.

Amber baby Mira UC 7 31 2014

Newborn baby Mira. Source: Mehta family.

Making the Best of a Tough Situation

They sank what money they had left into an RV and made the best of their situation. Amber says:

“We faced homelessness with all the courage and hope we could, believing that we were strong enough to make it.”

Winter was coming on fast, and it was expected to be a cold one. An RV in Oregon was no place to live. They headed south, stopping in various places, “helping others where we could,” says Amber, “which is more often than one might think, considering all it often takes to HELP someone is to CARE.”

Slab City

About the same time that the medical kidnapping story of Erica May and Cleave Rengo’s homebirthed, breastfed babies went viral (original story here), at Thanksgiving 2014, the Mehta’s began having troubles of their own in LA – mechanical troubles. They had heard of “Slab City,” billed both as one of the largest “homeless encampments” in the country, and a “free RV oasis” in the California desert. Though they were hesitant to take their family, they were at a point where they didn’t really know what else to do. When they received a warm invitation from a friend who was a full-time “Slabber,” they accepted. They were pleasantly surprised to be welcomed into a community of support, which included other families with children.

Slab City California

Welcome to Slab City. Source: Wikipedia.

According to an article about Slab City in the LA Times, ” this unlikely community appears to be growing, perhaps because of the troubled economy.”

While the Mehtas lived in their RV, they shared resources and meals with others in the community, and fell into a routine as they decided to basically stay put for the winter. They sometimes ventured into larger cities nearby in the effort to make money.

Amber reports that she was just beginning to feel that they would get ahead, and had even posted such on her Facebook page, when the storm clouds came rolling in again, and CPS entered their lives.

Storm Clouds Roll In

They had enjoyed lunch together at Doc’s missionary camp, a place where “Doc” fed anyone who was hungry. It was January 31, 2015. The babies were getting cranky in the afternoon, so Krishna offered to take Tara (20 months old) for a ride in the RV to help her go to sleep, something the parents have found effective in the past. Meanwhile, Amber nursed the baby to sleep as she hung out by the hot springs, while watching Sage play with friends.

As the afternoon wore on, Krishna didn’t come back, and Amber became concerned. By dusk, when he still wasn’t back, she got a friend to take her into town to see if, perhaps, Krishna had a flat tire or something. By the time she got back with no word on their whereabouts, Slab residents told her that the police had come by looking for her. They said that her husband had been arrested and that Imperial County CPS had Tara.

Her mind reeled, trying to figure out what possibly could have happened. She called CPS, who told her they were sending police officers to check on her and the kids, and that they needed to find “suitable” shelter for the night, i.e. a hotel, and they would meet with her in the morning.

Officers came, and were satisfied that the children were safe. The RV had been impounded, with the keys to the minivan inside, along with Amber’s purse. Slabbers got together money for a hotel room for Amber for the night.

Amber RV

The RV that became their home. Source: Mehta family.

Tara did, indeed, fall asleep in her car seat earlier that afternoon. Krishna decided to park the RV at a Circle K, and use the time to ask passersby for help with money. Police arrived, and they searched the RV.

Police told her the next day that he had been charged with driving drunk, having an open container, marijuana possession, and child endangerment. Amber was questioned repeatedly. She says that they told her they would get the RV out of impound and give her Tara back if she would submit to a drug test. She reports that she had no problem submitting to such, as she doesn’t use drugs.

“It wasn’t until his release that we realized they had lied to me in an effort to get me to admit incriminating details, because they didn’t actually have enough evidence to hold our daughter at all.”

During the course of the 2 day interrogation, CPS called the police to pick up the other two children, without a warrant and without cause. Krishna was released after being held for 72 hours, with no charges being filed.

Krishna is diabetic. He was taken to a hospital for blood work after his arrest, and the tests reportedly showed no blood alcohol content, but very high blood sugar. Both hypo and hyperglycemia of diabetes can mimic drunkenness. The “open container” was found in the recycling bags, which Krishna says were torn open as officers searched the RV.

Police accused Krishna of child endangerment for not having Tara in a car seat. However, there are reportedly photos of her buckled in the car seat during the search. When Amber later retrieved the RV from impound, the car seat was still snugly buckled into the ransacked vehicle.

Due to a serious back injury some time ago, Krishna was issued a medical marijuana card in Oregon for “severe pain related to steel rods improperly placed in his fused spine,” so though he did use the drug occasionally, he was not actually charged.

Judge Orders Children Returned

Three days after CPS took Tara, there was a detention hearing. CPS reportedly told the judge that they had been unable to ascertain the safety of their camp, even though Amber says that she invited them to check it out. The judge found no grounds for the children being held, allegedly saying that Tara should have been returned the moment that her mother was found safely with the other children. CPS was ordered to provide services for the family, and Krishna was ordered to drug test and enter treatment.

Amber Krishna and Tara

Krishna having fun with Tara, before CPS. Source: Mehta family.

Nightmare Was Only Just Beginning

The social worker Noemi Silva took Sage in a police car with Officer Vela back to Slab City, because the family van was one car seat short (it was still in the impounded RV). However, they made a stop by the local sheriff’s office first and picked up a couple more officers. Officer Vela reportedly told the Mehtas to head on to Slab City, saying,

“No place for a child, and I’ll see to it.”

As they arrived at the site, Amber called Sage to her, and headed over to Doc’s missionary camp for dinner. The police told her that they had to inspect the site, and she asked if she was being detained. She kept walking toward the campfire, and a woman there told her,

“They are going to take your kids. Amber … RUN!”

The terrified mother realized that she was right and handed a baby to each of two friends, and grabbed Sage’s hand. They fled into the night desert, searching for a place to hide. More police arrived, and they ran deeper into the desert, as her mind flashed to a scene in a book where a holocaust survivor was running for her life to hide from the Nazis.

“I couldn’t believe this was happening to me, to my children, to my family, to AMERICANS!”

They eventually found refuge in an old military bunker where a kind couple took them in for the night. And they wondered what happened to Krishna, whom Amber had last seen arguing with the police. She later learned that he had been arrested.

“The video on the cellphone showed that [their friend] Prax had been attacked, sat upon, choked and tased, simply for voicing his opinion that it was wrong what they were doing to my family.”

She later received a phone call to come pick up Krishna from the hospital. She found him walking back toward Slab City. The terrified and devastated family decided right then to load their family up and head to Arizona, “the closest state away from HERE!” They drove all night and through the next day.

The next day, they contacted their public defender, because they didn’t want CPS to do something “crazy,” like putting an Amber alert out on them for “kidnapping” their own children. He told them that there was going to be a hearing in a little bit, without them if they weren’t there. They told him how frightened they were, but they didn’t have time to get to court for the hearing. Over the next week they tried every day to get back in touch with the lawyer, but it was a month before they heard from him.

Amber laughing Tara Oregon adventure

Tara delighted in the Oregon adventure, before CPS took the light from her eyes. Source: Mehta family.

They decided that Colorado was the best place for them to go next, because they had a friend who had offered them a guest house behind her home. Arrangements were made, and the RV and the rest of their belongings were recovered. They called the local CPS and Imperial County CPS, trying to settle things and letting them know that they had found shelter that the agency should approve of.

And for a while, it looked like things were going to be all right. Krishna got his Colorado drivers license, and the family began to settle in.

“It all came crashing down on the morning that we had an appointment to get food stamps and medical for our family. A social worker came knocking along with a police officer, and had warrants to ARREST our children.”

CPS flew the children back to Imperial County, California, on an airplane, and Amber followed on the ground. Krishna stayed behind to work to get a home and things set up for his family. Amber was very concerned for his health, and she had to go fight for their children.

Less than 24 hours after Amber left, she received an urgent call that Krishna had been found at the bottom of the stairs, “not making any sense.” His blood sugar had plummeted and he had fallen down the stairs, breaking a vertebrae in his neck. Blood was pooling in his brain.

He has somewhat recovered now, but their family is still in great turmoil.

Amber and baby

Amber with baby Mira at a visit. Source: Mehta family.

Children in Foster Care, Separated from Each Other

The children have been placed into 3 different homes. Amber is allowed to visit them 3 times a week for an hour each visit, but she has been forced to stop breastfeeding, because she has been accused of having a positive drug test. She reports that the hair follicle test shows 18 picograms (0.018 nanograms) for marijuana. This tiny amount, she says, is from the second-hand smoke from her husband’s medical marijuana use. (Note: most drug tests only report positive if it is at least 50 nanograms for marijuana).

Amber has been ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation, and was told that “normal people aren’t homeless.” However, her only diagnosis was “adjustment disorder,” due to her very real difficulty being a mom trying to adjust to the fact that her children have been taken away from her.

She was compelled to agree to vaccinating the girls or face charges of medical neglect. Though the girls were previously healthy before being taken into state custody, they have had numerous prescriptions for antibiotics and cough syrup, and were abruptly weaned from breastfeeding. Tara is reportedly taking this very hard and doesn’t understand why her parents have “abandoned” her.

Amber with the children during a visitation. Source: Bring Our Children Home Facebook page.

Sage understands that his parents have no choice in this. He has a history of febrile seizures, but his mother learned long ago that she needed to immediately treat any fever in Sage. If it were allowed to rise, he could go into a seizure. That is exactly what has happened to him in state custody. During one visit, she felt that he was very hot. She told the caretakers that they needed to check his temperature and give him Tylenol or ibuprofen to bring down the fever. His temp was 101.5, but they refused to treat him, saying they had to have a doctor’s order in order to give him anything. She theoretically still retained medical rights over her children.

They accused her of overreacting. However, as is often the case, her mother’s intuition and knowledge of her own child proved correct. Finally, someone took her seriously, and took him to the ER. He started seizing in the waiting room. He wound up spending 3 days in the hospital. Sage begged his mommy to stay with him in the hospital and the social workers told them that she could stay. However, just as they were getting ready to go to sleep, they reneged, and she was forced to leave him there with strangers, in a place he wouldn’t even be if they had just given him Tylenol.

Since the children have been seized, the family’s RV has been approved as acceptable, but the children are still in custody.

What Happens Next and How You Can Help

Their next hearing is on May 18 in Imperial County. They have been able to raise some funds to hire a private CPS attorney, Evelyn Cox, to represent Krishna. Amber says Cox is “the highest recommended lawyer in the state of California for cases like this.”

Amber and Krishna are hopeful, but scared. Even though they were homeless, they have always been a very close-knit, attachment-parenting family. Their children were always with them. The emotional toll of the last few months has been devastating. Through all the difficulties that Amber has faced in the past, she has remained strong. She is the one in her circles who helps people to find the hope and the rainbows in all the storms. Now, she is the one needing support and encouragement for her and her family.

A Facebook page has been set up for the family to keep up with updates, called Bring Our Children Home.

Mehtas Facebook page

Governor Jerry Brown is the governor of the state of California. He may be reached at (916) 445-2841, and contacted here.

The Senator for the district that Slab City is located in is Senator Ben Hueso. He may be reached at (916) 651-4040, and contacted here.

Assembly member Eduardo Garcia represents the district. He may be reached at (916) 319-2056, or contacted here.