Chelsea and baby

Chelsea who had been through so much in her life was so happy to become a mommy to her “sweet prince.” Photo source: Bring Kason Lee Stokes Home Facebook page.

by Health Impact News/ Staff

It should have been one of the happiest times in the young couple’s life. It started out that way.

Two weeks ago, on Monday, February 26, 2018, Chelsea Thomas, 18, gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy in Birmingham, Alabama. Their first-born son was everything that she and her 19 year old fiance’ Brian Stokes had hoped for.

They immediately fell in love with their “sweet prince” who has daddy’s nose and mommy’s lips. Baby Kason was their whole world.

Then, their world was shattered.

At 3 pm the very next day, Chelsea had just breastfed her baby and he was asleep in her arms. A nurse came into the room and said she needed to take Baby Kason to the nursery “for an assessment.”

He never came back.

Less than an hour after the nurse took their baby out of the room, Chelsea received a phone call from a lady with the Steps Ahead prenatal program telling her that she was required to notify the Department of Human Resources (DHR – Alabama’s Child Protective Services) when the baby was born.

She told them that DHR had taken custody of Baby Kason. He was in lockdown in the hospital nursery and the parents were not permitted to go near the nursery.

There was no reason given. There was no warrant. No court order. No emergency circumstance. Nothing. Their baby had only been with them for little more than 24 hours.

It turns out that, even though Chelsea is 18, Jefferson County DHR still legally has custody over her, because she is a former foster child. As such, it appears that they get to call the shots – up to and including taking her baby away from her.

Chelsea new family right after birth

As soon as he was born, Kason was his parents’ whole world. The very next day, he was taken from them. Photo source: Bring Kason Lee Stokes Home Facebook page.

Just before Chelsea was discharged from St. Vincent’s East Hospital the next day, the stunned parents were given 10 minutes to hold Kason and say goodbye, supervised by Jefferson County social worker Ericka Lawery.

They have not seen their baby since then.

It was not until they went to court on Friday, March 2, that they were given any reasons for their newborn being taken. Even then, the reasons don’t make sense to them or to those who know them.

Health Impact News spoke with Brian’s grandparents, Charles and Jean Mitchell, with whom the couple live. They said they have never seen anything like it. The picture painted by the social worker does not remotely resemble what they see. Jean told us that it appears to her that the social worker Ericka Lawery has some kind of “vendetta” against Chelsea. They see no reason why DHR took Baby Kason away from his family.

Chelsea Ericka Lawery FB picture

Jefferson County social worker Ericka Lawery. Photo source: Facebook.

One of the allegations is that Chelsea has “severe mental illness.” The other is that she was “discharged from her prior placement at Childhaven for wanting to harm her baby.” The same report has her on “runaway status.”

According to Chelsea, Brian, and his grandparents, these allegations are simply wrong.

Is This How We Treat Children Rescued from Abuse?

Chelsea, who turned 18 a month after Kason was conceived, is no stranger to the Child Protective System. As a little girl in Arkansas, she was taken from her biological mother when she was 4 years old.

She remembers the horrors from which she was rescued – from a mother who reportedly was a drug addict who trafficked her own children.

She experienced things that no child should ever have to go through. It is for such children that taxpayers have approved the existence of Child Protective Services. It is that knowledge that makes the taking of Baby Kason that much more confusing to his family, who believed that CPS was supposed to be about taking children from abusive parents, not from loving parents.

With Chelsea, her birth mother’s rights were terminated when she was 6 years old, and she was adopted by a couple in Arkansas when she was 8.

However, all was not bliss in her new “forever home.”

The new family moved to Alabama when she was 10, due to her adoptive father’s job transfer. Her adoptive parents split up and her father re-married. Alabama DHR became involved over reports of physical and verbal abuse in the home when Chelsea was 12, and she was removed from their home. At age 14, she was placed into a residential group home in the Birmingham area and has been under DHR custody ever since.

She met Brian Stokes at her 15th birthday party at a local skating rink. While “love at first sight” may not be exactly what they call it, the bond they have forged since that day is strong.

Chelsea daddy holding baby

Brian cherishes his new baby. Photo source: Bring Kason Lee Stokes Home Facebook page.

Drugged in Foster Care

Chelsea told us that, under Child Protective Services’ care, she has been on medications since she was 4 years old, for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anxiety.

This is consistent with data that shows that children in foster care are drugged at a higher rate than the general public.


Foster Care Abuse: Drugging Children Against Their Will

While it might be reasonable to expect that a child who had experienced what she had would have PTSD, it does not follow that she would need medication. Instead of being seen as a pathology that needs to be treated, there are some who suggest that Post Traumatic Stress is not a disorder to be medicated, but rather it is a normal response to an abnormal situation.

Chelsea says that she has asked many times over the years to be taken off of the medications. She has been telling them “as long as I can remember” that she doesn’t need them.

Shortly before she turned 17, she was placed into Hillcrest Behavioral Health Services for what Chelsea calls “medication management.” Hillcrest has a residential program and adolescent group home. Chelsea said that it seemed to her that she was there because they really didn’t have a place for her anywhere else.

After she became pregnant, doctors at Hillcrest took her off of all the medications she had been on. Chelsea says that even though they stopped the meds cold turkey, she is happy to be free of them. She says that she doesn’t need them and that she is doing fine without them.


Since Hillcrest reportedly does not allow pregnant residents to stay there, Chelsea’s social worker Ericka Lawery, the same one who later removed her son, tried to find another placement for her where she could stay while pregnant.

DHR transferred her to Childhaven residential home on September 12, 2017, which was 2 months AFTER Chelsea turned 18. Lawery reportedly did not give Chelsea the option of being released from DHR care, even though she was 18. According to Alabama law, the age of majority is 19, not 18.

Readers might recognize the name Childhaven. It is the place where Baby Braelon and his mother were taken after Shelby County DHR seized them from their family.


Alabama Child Protective Services Steals New-born Breast-feeding Baby from Rape Victim While Still at the Hospital


Mold in the shower at the Childhaven group home. Photo source: Baby Braelon’s mother. See link.

Another young mother recognized the photo from the article, though Childhaven was not named in that article. Shanley contacted Health Impact News with her story:

Alabama DHR Destroys Another Family: Baby Taken Away Because Young Mom was a Foster Child Kidnapped from Loving Parents

[Note: not long after Shanley’s story was publicized, both she and her son were reunited and released from DHR custody.]

Once Chelsea got to Childhaven, she says that the staff told them that the girls over 18 were welcome to leave any time they wanted, as long as they understood that they could not come back.

Shanley told Health Impact News that this was the general understanding at Childhaven:

Once you’re 18, they consider you are an adult there. I got told plenty of times that once I turned 18, I could just walk out.

Preparing for Baby

Shortly after the Christmas and New Year holidays, Chelsea decided to take them at their word. The facility was almost an hour from Brian. On January 8, she left and moved to the house where Brian lived with his grandparents.

Brian and his family were very excited about the new baby and they welcomed Chelsea into the family. They worked together to make preparations for Kason’s arrival.


Everything was prepared for Baby Kason’s arrival. Photo source: Health Impact News.


The bassinet was ready to hold Baby Kason. Now, instead of a baby, the  bassinet holds papers from DHR and hospital records. Photo source: Health Impact News.

Stunned by Allegations

Chelsea and Brian were taken aback at the allegations that they heard in the court hearing on March 2. Ericka Lawery has been her social worker since she was 15. They knew that Lawery was upset that Chelsea left Childhaven, but they never dreamed that she would take it to the level of taking their baby from them.

Chelsea told Health Impact News that, even though Childhaven staff said that she could leave anytime, it is apparent that DHR doesn’t want foster children to know that they have the right to leave.

According to the paperwork she got on her case, she is both “on runaway” and “was discharged” from Childhaven, but she asserts that neither is true. She “just left.” She had someone to pick her up and she went to Brian’s house.

The first time that she learned that she was accused of wanting to harm her unborn baby was in court, 3 days after he was taken from her. That was completely made up, she says.

Allegedly, a broken razor blade was found in the bathroom under the sink at Childhaven, and she is accused of somehow wanting to use that to induce a miscarriage at 34 weeks pregnant. She says she has never seen the alleged razor blade.

Shanley told us that the 2 girls share each bathroom, and the residents are responsible for cleaning their own bathroom and room. If there was indeed a razor blade found, it could have come from the roommate, or even a past resident. There is no evidence that Chelsea had anything to do with it. They do not know where the accusation came from.

Chelsea wanted her baby. Her Facebook page is full of posts about how excited she and Brian were about the baby and how much they wanted him.

Chelsea baby

Kason is everything to Chelsea. He is very much wanted and loved. Photo source: Bring Kason Lee Stokes Home Facebook page.

She told us how Brian and the baby would “play tag” for hours during her late pregnancy. Brian would push on her belly, and Kason would kick back in the spot where his daddy pushed. When he was born, it was clear to her that the baby recognized Brian’s voice:

He definitely knows his daddy!

It is unclear how any of these allegations constitutes grounds to take her baby from her or Brian.

Mentally Ill or Just Had a Rough Life?

Ericka Lawery has alleged that Chelsea has “severe mental illness.” However, the only mental health diagnoses that Chelsea says that she has ever had were Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxiety. These are conditions which might be expected in a survivor of human trafficking. How cruel is it to weaponize such a diagnosis against her and punish the victim that the Child Protective system was charged with helping?

She has been on medication for most of her life, and she has been in facilities that provide therapy. Since she stopped taking medications in early pregnancy, she has been sleeping better and “doing better.” Brian says that he has noticed a positive difference in Chelsea since she stopped taking them. Unless there is something else in her records that she is unaware of, there have not been any other diagnoses.

She has been through some very traumatic events in her life, but that does not make her mentally ill. The way those around her see it, it makes her an overcomer.

Brian’s grandfather Charles Mitchell describes Chelsea as:

the sweetest, most well-mannered girl.

Jean Mitchell told us that she sees no sign of any kind of mental illness. She said that nothing that Ericka Lawery said about her resembled the Chelsea that they have come to know and love.

Jean says she told this to the social worker, but she believes that Lawery just doesn’t like Chelsea.

Chelsea has graduated from high school, and has already taken a couple of college courses. She comes across as intelligent and stable. She has chosen not to let the things that happened to her destroy her; instead, they have made her stronger.

We asked Chelsea why she wasn’t on disability for the alleged mental health illness. She replied:

That’s what I’m wondering if I am so disabled.

Wouldn’t it be the responsibility of her social workers to secure disability benefits if she actually had mental health issues that were debilitating enough to render her incapable of taking care of her child?

Not only is she not on disability, she is not on any kind of medication and hasn’t had any since early pregnancy. Chelsea said that her social worker has refused to give her her Medicaid card, despite numerous requests going back to her time at Hillcrest. She was unable to refill her prenatal vitamins prescription. If she had been given any postpartum prescriptions, she would not have been able to fill them.

Since she is technically still in foster care herself, isn’t DHR responsible for ensuring that she had access to get her prenatal vitamin prescriptions filled? If she were mentally ill, wouldn’t it be DHR responsibility to get her disability benefits? Or is Chelsea mentally stable, and this is simply an excuse to take her baby?

Chelsea new family right after birth edited

This is HER baby. HIS baby. Doesn’t Kason deserve to have his parents? Photo source: Bring Kason Lee Stokes Home Facebook page.

Is the bottom line the fact that Chelsea remains in DHR custody, even though she is 19?

It is clear from other cases in Alabama that some social workers believe that the fact that the mother is a foster child entitles the state to their babies.

Are mothers who are foster children themselves nothing more than breeders for the state? Don’t they have the same right that any other mother has to raise their own child?

If their being a foster child renders them incapable of parenting adequately, isn’t that an indictment on the foster care system itself? Wouldn’t that indicate that the foster system is doing a very poor job of parenting the wards they raise?

It is readily apparent that Chelsea and Brian have plenty of support from Brian’s family. They have embraced Chelsea as part of the family, and they obviously love her.

Brian’s grandparents have raised 5 children and 3 grandchildren. DHR has even placed children with them before. They passed the recent home inspection, and they don’t understand why DHR won’t let them care for the baby if they are worried about the parents.

Charles Mitchell said:

That baby would be so well taken care of here and be loved. We are behind him all the way.

His wife was very clear:

He’s blood. He’s our family! We want him home.

chelsea Jean and baby

Jean Mitchell loves her great-grandson and believes he should be with his family. Photo source: Bring Kason Lee Stokes Home Facebook page.

Could it be that some social workers have grown accustomed to placing children with strangers, because that is where the financial incentive is, due to the Adoption and Safe Families Act?

Perhaps this social worker is unaware of the Family First Act which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on February 9 as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which shifts funds from stranger placement to placement with family.

When Will They See Their Baby Again?

No one in the family has seen Baby Kason since Brian and Chelsea were given 10 minutes to say goodbye on Wednesday, February 28. They were told in court that they are supposed to have some visitation, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Ericka Lawery has not scheduled any visits yet, nor will she return any calls from the family.

Not only is this hard on the parents; it is devastating to a newborn who cannot comprehend being separated from his mother. The psychological damage that DHR is causing to Baby Kason is immeasurable.

The next court date has not even been set yet, but Chelsea said that she thinks it is supposed to be in June sometime. She told us:

We are not willing to wait till June to see our son.

She doesn’t know who the judge is in her case:

I have no idea who the judge is. I have never seen a judge.

There was a “fill-in” judge on the day they went to court.  Chelsea told us that, over all the years that she has been in Child Protective custody herself, she has only seen a judge one time:

The day I got adopted at 8 years old. I’ve never seen a judge since then. Ericka would never let me go in to see a judge.

Information for the Foster Parents

Chelsea told us how Lawery “went on and on in the ISP meeting about how good the foster parents are.”

She makes it sound like they are permanent.

Since they are caring for her son, Chelsea said that there are some things that the fosters need to be aware of in their health history, in case those things are passed on to the baby. Chelsea has allergies to cats, benadryl, and to “a BUNCH of foods.” Brian is diabetic.

How You Can Help

A Facebook page has been set up for supporters, to follow their story and get involved, called Bring Kason Lee Stokes Home. Chelsea and Brian ask for prayer for their baby to come home quickly.

Chelsea FB page

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey may be reached at 334-242-7100 or contacted here. She is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Senator Linda Coleman represents the district where Chelsea Thomas and Brian Stokes live. She may be reached at (334) 242-7864 or contacted here.

Mary Moore is their Representative. She may be reached at 334-242-7608 or contacted here.

Gary Palmer is their Representative in Washington D.C. He is aware of at least some medical kidnap situations. He may be reached at (202) 225-4921 or contacted here. He is also on Facebook and Twitter.