' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Desperate moves of parents who lose custody

Friday, December 2, 2011

Desperate moves of parents who lose custody

In early fall Nephra and Shanel Payne, parents who "kidnapped" their eight children from a foster care center in Forest Hills, New York, were all over the news. They and their kids--all safe, just after dinner in their car--were located a week later in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The couple was arrested and charged with eight counts each of kidnapping--one per child. The kidnapping charges were later dismissed after they agreed to plead guilty to second-degree custodial interference, a misdemeanor for which they were each sentenced to 90 days in jail and three years probation. They were released the day before Thanksgiving.

Stories about parents "kidnapping" their own children always catch my attention for I do not immediately assume that the state is automatically right in taking
custody away from parents, and think that the "kidnapping" charges are, well, like using a three-ton slab of stone to swat a mosquito. The Paynes emerged the other day and gave a lengthy interview to The New York Times. Their side of the story sounds like an over-eager system, ready to take children from parents because they are poor and not white. Child welfare authorities are not talking.

In the interview, the Paynes said the trouble all started when one of their boys showed up at school with a bloodshot eye, a result, they said, of a squabble between the boys. We don't know if there were other suspicious acts, because child welfare authorities would not talk about the case. In any event, the kids were removed from the home and placed in foster care. Some of the children have been in foster care for three years. From the Times:
“It’s either do something or let your kids get swallowed by a system that does not have a heart,” Mr. Payne, 35, said. “To do nothing would have been more hurtful, more reckless.”
The couple have jobs--Mr. Payne is a construction worker, and Mrs. Payne is a beautician. During the time the children were in foster care, they said they showed up at every child visit with platters of food, home-baked cakes and even a juicer, they said, and they were devastated to hear that several of their boys had been medicated for things like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). They were terrified, they said, when two of their children complained of not being fed enough and showed up to visits with split lips and bruises. Agency officials said those claims were not reported.

The Paynes, teenage sweethearts, said they learned in mid-September that Children’s Services had set a goal of adoption for the children--they range in age from 11 months to 11 years--and it was as if a switch had flipped. At one visit to the Forestdale agency, Mrs. Payne simply led the kids out to the car waiting out back, and off they went. During their life on the run--they went to South Carolina where they once had lived and then to Harrisburg where their family still had land.
“Acres of land, produce growing out of the ground,” Mr. Payne said, a smile reaching each side of his lean face. “It was going to be that freedom to see our kids just running around — to be happy, to be safe — with their mother and father.” 
Describing their odyssey, Mrs. Payne recalled, her son Shalee, 6, awoke with a start. “He said: ‘I thought this was a dream. Thank you so much for taking us,’ I know that what I did was right because I heard it from my son.” They said they had stayed at motels, paying with cash so as not to be traced. They listened to music rather than the news even though the oldest boy had seen newspaper reports about the family. Their last evening together sounds like a party--which is how they described it--because after a chicken dinner in the van, they ended up at a park in Harrisburg where some of the boys got up on a stage and showed off break-dancing moves, the girls and Mrs. Payne watched cheerleaders.

Then came sirens, the order to "Freeze!", the barrel of a gun pointing at Mr. Payne. The baby began screaming. Mr. Payne collapsed and had to be taken to a hospital. "All I could hear was my baby screaming," he said.

Okay, this story hardly requires comment, but it aptly demonstrates what people will do to keep their children. At the same time we are reading this, here comes an alarming report from the Government Accounting Office:

Psychotropic drug use among American foster children is horrific and startling: in 2008, children in Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and Texas who’d been removed from their parents and placed in the care of state child welfare agencies were being prescribed psychiatric drugs at rates 2.7 to 4.5 times as high as non-foster care children on Medicaid. Thousands of children were taking medications at doses that exceeded FDA-approved maximum levels. Hundreds of foster children were taking more than five medications at once and some were taking up to ten drugs simultaneously. Even some infants were being prescribed psychiatric medications.

Remember the Paynes said the boys reported being medicated? They had obviously fallen into the foster-care-medication trap, as it's one way to keep boisterous children quiet. At the moment, the Paynes are forbidden to see their children--any of their children--or even speak to them on the phone. They will return to Family Court on December 15 to seek visitation rights. Visitation? If there really are no other reports of abuse, if the parents do have a plan for keeping the family together, if this whole case is the result of a jittery-and-overworked child welfare officer, the children should all be returned to their parents, ASAP. We know that not all families are perfect; we know that some poor families have topsy-turvey lives, but that is no reason to split them up and parcel out the children. Not only are the older boys going to have a difficult time being "adopted," the lifelong emotional costs of that alone for any of the children is a good enough reason to find a way to keep them with their parents who are desperate to keep them close.  At least the Paynes have a lawyer (Norman Steiner) working for them. Stay tuned.--lorraine

And if you have not seen the video of Loretta Young making a pitch for a foundling home (just added), check out the previous post: Loretta Young's 'adopted' daughter wasn't adopted at all


  1. Lorraine wrote:". Not only are the older boys going to have a difficult time being "adopted,"

    I just wanted to point out that all the kids could have a difficult time being adopted even the 11 month old. I highly doubt you meant this but that line sounded like something from the BSE and the bull$h*t blank slate theory. As in well as long as the child is placed early enough s/he won't have any problem with being adopted.

  2. This story breaks my heart! I currently have 2 foster children in my home. Their mother loves them so much and has jumped through all of the hoops the state has placed in front of her. Hopefully they will be back with her in the next month or two. That being said, I feel that they should have never been removed from her. The trauma it has caused these poor children is unbelievable. We (my husband and our biological children) love them so much but it cannot compare to a mother's love. Sure we can provide material things, fun experiences and educational opportunities that their mother will probably never be able to give them, but I know that they will absolutely be better off with her. I get comments all of the time from well meaning friends and neighbors about how lucky the children are to be with us and have these a fore mentioned luxuries. I cannot agree with them and spend a lot of time educating people.

    I read one of the several articles about this family. While I realize that we do not have all of the facts, I firmly believe that these parents should get their children back. So many people make comments degrading the parents because they didn't use birth control, the children supposedly slept in the van and were dirty. None of those things are illegal!! There may have been abuse but they have taken the required classes and are doing whatever they could to get their children back. I desperately hope that this family will be preserved.

  3. I understood Lorraine's statement to mean that there are not as many PAPs looking for older children as there are looking for little ones.

  4. Thanks Anon 5:13 maybe I misunderstood.

  5. Robin, I really have to watch every single word with you guys! You are the best editor.

    Yes, the commenter above is right. I meant that the older boys would have the harder time than the young children finding a family to take them out of foster care, if it comes to that. But you might take a peek at the update in the post your comment suggested to me. :)

  6. Anonymous at 5:10--thanks so much for commenting. We need to know that there are foster parents like you.

  7. "You are the best editor."

    LOL. I hope I don't overstay my welcome picking out every little thing :)

    Slightly off topic but the story was on the news that singer Mindy McCready is wanted for "kidnapping" her son. It seems her mother has custody. Mindy's defense is that it's not possible for her to "kidnap" her own kid.

  8. I hate to say it - those kids are never going home. It is not going to happen. Because of the notoriety of the case, it is highly unlikely that social services will back down. They now will do everything they can to prove that these people are the "demon" parents that they are portraying them as.

    I went through this with my daughter.... 30 years ago. I moved, while my daughter was in my physical custody and after a judge had already ordered social services to close the case, and they came and got her - bringing with them the police. The social worker, in spite of the judges order to close the case, decided that I was not a good enough parent (no allegations of abuse ever arose - not even a little bit) and so she would just "leave the case open."

    I despise social workers that do this stuff - and they out number the good ones.

    The children are being abused by the state - for their own good.

    I feel sorry for them. I feel anger at the situation and disgust that there is not more public outcry in NY!

  9. This story brings tears to my eyes,my mother tried to kidnapp me and my siblings from the home for children whom are intended for adoption,she was told that she would go to jail if she does not sign the contest that she will not bother her own children again.i remember this so well i was six years old.she cried so much,that she signed the the papers,not undrestanding She will never be seeing us again.she was tricked to sign for adoption,she thought it was temporary foster care.

    by the way they separted all the sibling t o different families,thank god they left my sister with me.all my brothers ,i never saw again.

  10. The parents in this situation are jackasses. They never bothered to get married, yet they had eight or nine kids. They don't have steady jobs and they gave all their kids the same name. They are nothing like most of the good women who gave their children up and post here. If you expect people to stop romanticizing adoption and to be more sympathetic to birthmothers, don't hold up these fools as examples of biological parents "desperate" to be reunited with their children.

  11. That's right "birthmothers" shape up and stop supporting natural parents who might choose to parent a little differently than NORMAL (ie married and working) Ugh.

    Hello Anon 8:14, are you serious? You realize why most of these womens children were coerced from them? They were told that their children would be better off with married folks with money. Including my mother.

    I'll be my next paycheck you're either an AP, PAP or a Social Worker. Who the hell cares what anyone else names their children? George Foreman did it, why can't they? I bet those kids don't care, they just want to be with their parents and siblings, their FAMILY.



  12. Tamara, I didn't say birthmothers in general should be coerced into giving up their children. I am very sympathetic to birthmothers, which is why I adopted my son from foster care. (I didn't want to take anyone's baby away from her.) My point is that there are sound reasons why the public in general is not sympathetic towards the bio parents in this case. They choose to eschew middle class values -- they're not married, they have an enormous number of kids, and they don't have professions -- which is their right. HOWEVER, they are on WELFARE every step of the way, which means that those of us who embrace middle class values are paying for their lifestyle. Google "Angel Adams" and "15 kids" and then tell me how all birthmothers are entitled to raise their bio kids AND to be supported by the state while doing so. If the birthmother who blog here want people to be more sympathetic to birthmothers in general, they wouldn't post stories about jackasses who name all their kids "Nepher" and "Nephertiti". P.S. George Foreman paid his own bills.

  13. What do you mean they have no professions? One is a beautician and the other a construction worker. Those are professions to me.

  14. i don't think being on welfare is a justifiable reason to separate children from their parents. no one complains about big corporations taking tax breaks and banks taking bailouts but god forbid giving people in need a "hand-out". apparently it is more immoral to be poor. children don't know the difference as long as they are loved.
    taking them away from parents that they love is not psychologically healthy to either party. and that is abuse in and of itself. the state does not care about your children except to make a profit. they are a corporation. if they cared, then why are so many dead? but let's not complain about the tax dollars they are wasting. pick on the families in need. poverty is like death in the way that it does not discriminate and can strike at any given time. so would you want your rights taken from you if you suddenly found yourself in a situation? this is why they need to be protected. my daughter was recently adopted by her paternal grandmother. she was taken from me by the state in 2007. i did not abuse or neglect her and i did all the services i was asked to do, even though i didn't feel that most of them applied to myself, like let's say drug counseling since i did not have a drug problem. in 2009, believing i would get my daughter back, i became pregnant with another child and she was removed from the hospital upon her birth simply because i had a case with my older daughter and they "couldn't let me have one child and not the other". of course not, it would make them look bad. my daughter was born healthy, weighing 7lbs 15oz with rosy cheeks. my labor was over 30 hrs. she died of suffocation while in placement because her caregiver was laying her face down on top of her own chest to put her to sleep and then laying on the couch where she would then fall asleep. this would not have happened had she been with me, or had they placed her with my sister as i requested. anyway, my only fault was that i was in an abusive relationship and when on my way to leaving it with restraining order and car keys in my hand, they were called, by the mother of my abusive boyfriend who is now "legally" yet immorally my older daughter's mother. did i have a job at that time? no. was i on welfare? no. i was a stay at home mom being supported by her child's father's income while trying to finish college. my daughter has had cavities since living with these people from eating too much candy. she was spotted recently with her grandmother and father at a local mcdonald's. her father voluntarily gave up his rights, but apparently gets to see her whenever he wants. i have not seen her since 2011.i tried to sue and took my case to the supreme court. i am now waiting on the aclu.



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