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Blameless Mother Loses Children for Six Months
December 3, 2014 permalink
Milwaukee mother Natisha Street disagreed with a social worker's assessment of her ability to care for her children and took her case to a jury. The jury ruled in her favor, and the family was reunified. But even being ruled in the right, she lost her children for six months.
Child taken from mother for 6 months
MILWAUKEE -- Natisha Street appreciates every hug from her son, Samuel. The 9 year-old is back home now. But for six months Street was denied the right to talk to and even see her son.
“The state came between us unnecessarily,” Street said.
In April the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare suddenly called Street.
“We got a complaint stating you didn’t want your kid and that you’re threatening to shoot him or leave him in a park, I said are you serious,” explained Street.
BMCW removed Sam from school and placed him in foster care for six months.
“I missed her and I knew she missed me,” Samuel Street said.
Records show the boy’s teacher made a complaint to BMCW. His mother said that complaint came the same day she and the teacher had disagreement over the phone.
“She called him a name and I went off on her. I did not cuss her out,” Street said.
A judge denied the I-Team access to review this particular case. But this mother copped every notice, appeal and complaint. She provided us a chance to review the case file. In a petition filed by the BMCW for protection it stated the following: Her son was “profoundly fearful of home situation.” It went on to say Ms. Street “attempted to give Samuel then 5 years old up for adoption. It concluded by saying “Without CPS intervention there will likely result in severe harm or death.”
Street denied all of the allegations. She refused to admit to any of the claims which lead to six months of no visits, no conversations or any contact with her son. She decided to fight and racked up $12,000 in attorney fees to prove BMCW did not do a thorough investigation.
“This is the first time I've ever experienced a mother really not having any contact with her child until a jury said this is wrong,” said Thomas Kurzynski, Street’s attorney.
Kurzynski said it wasn’t until after a three and half day trial, a jury answered one question looming for six months.
“Is this child in need of protective services? They answered no,” Kurzynski said.
“Certainly there were mistakes made,” said State Senator Nikiya Harris Dodd.
Harris Dodd sits on the BMCW Partnership Council. This council was created when the state took over the county run agency. It’s designed to provide oversight but can only advise the bureau on what it should do.
“We're tired of the excuses that you're doing all you can, we need you to do more,” explained Harris Dodd.
That’s why Harris Dodd has called for an audit to investigate BMCW.
“We need to hold them accountable. So you don't have another incident like Natisha's situation,” Harris Dodd said.
But it goes beyond this mother and son. Earlier this year, the BMCW’s director resigned abruptly, after sending a scathing letter about unmet safety concerns and excessive workloads for case managers.
Soon after it was revealed the agency had close to 3,000 backlogged cases. The Department of Children and Families Secretary downplayed the problem in the summer.
“Paperwork is not a crisis,” said Eloise Anderson, a DCF Secretary.
Despite Street’s case being closed, BMCW refused to speak about what happened. A spokesperson cited confidentiality laws. When asked about who the bureau answers to, the spokesperson said, “I think we answer to the legislation every day.”
But Harris Dodd disagrees.
“I’m the elected official, I’m the one they have to answer to and I still don’t get information I need,” explained Harris Dodd.
BMCW said it has reduced the backlogged cases by 60 percent to more than 1,100 cases. As for the audit, BMCW was last audited in 2006. Many of the issues raised then are still being worked on currently.