DCFS TRANSFERS CASE AND KEEPS PARENTS IN THE DARK; STONEWALLS ON VISITATION, REUNIFICATION
by Sharon Rondeau
(Nov. 27, 2012) — On October 31, The Post & Email sent a letter to Judge Michael Nash, who is the head judge at the Edmund C. Edelman Children’s Court in Monterey Park, CA, regarding the case of Jeffrey and Erica Henderson, whose seven children have been in state custody for nearly 19 months without efforts at reunification having been attempted.
Nash is responsible for opening Juvenile Courts to the press and the public early this year. He has served in the juvenile court system since 1990, having worked for a decade as a Deputy Attorney General on criminal cases. He is a member of the California State Judicial Council and was chosen as Juvenile Court Judge of the Year in 1997.
The Henderson parents were falsely imprisoned in May 2010 and were reportedly not given a chance to make arrangements for their children’s care before they were placed in four different foster homes. The Post & Email was told by Erica Henderson that one of the children has been seriously abused while in her foster home, and another child was seriously injured above his eye, with Erica discovering it only after her husband attended his weekly visit.
We have recently been informed that the case has been transferred to a different DCFS office, but the parents have not been provided the name of the new social worker. While Mrs. Henderson was told that the Pasadena office will handle the case, Mr. Henderson has been told that an office located in or near Torrance, which is 30 miles away, will handle it and has been given a telephone number of 310 972 3299. When Mrs. Henderson called the Pasadena office, she was told that the case was not there. Although a social worker called and left a telephone number with her last week, Mrs. Henderson tried the number on Monday and reported that it was not functional.
As a result of the case apparently having been relocated, Mrs. Henderson’s regular weekly visit did not take place this past Sunday, and she has not been informed as to when visitation will resume. After Mr. Henderson’s last visit on Wednesday, he reported that the older children had not been taken to see him and that the three young children with whom he was able to visit were emotionally distraught.
Prior to their separation in May 2011, the Hendersons had homeschooled their two eldest children and were a tightly-bonded family whose members were rarely apart from one another.
On November 19, a hearing took place at the Edelman court which was expected to result in termination of the parents’ rights and the commencement of the adoption of the six elder children, despite the parents’ claims that they have fulfilled every requirement placed upon them and are working with the court-appointed attorneys, as recommended by DCFS Public Affairs Officer Armand Montiel.
A video which Mr. Henderson posted of Dennis Smeal, who he described as “the head of all attorneys” at the Edelman Children’s Court while participating in a form of entertainment during business hours has been removed by YouTube, which claims that the video violated its policy with the intent to “harass, bully or threaten.” Henderson had identified Judge Michael Nash, who responded to The Post & Email, and Judge Marguerite Downing, who has been presiding over the Henderson hearings, as participating in the entertainment session while the Hendersons were awaiting Downing for a hearing for which she was reportedly “20 minutes late.” Henderson had named the video “Dennis Smeal in high heels.”
On November 19, Downing did not issue the adoption order for the six elder children because Mr. Henderson’s attorney told her in court that the Hendersons did not receive proper notification of the hearing. Eleven or 12 members of the public attended the hearing and reported that Downing spoke more respectfully to the parents than has been reported on previous occasions. While the children were not returned and spent Thanksgiving in their foster homes, another hearing was scheduled for December 20.
After the November 19 hearing, Mr. Henderson was encouraged that his attorney, Thomas R. Hayes, appeared to be speaking up for him, but on November 26, Mr. Henderson reported that Hayes was not responding to his emails requesting updates on the case and that he and his wife be allowed to visit the children together since Mrs. Henderson cannot see her children as things stand. He also told Hayes:
I need you to request that the next hearing be held in a larger courtroom. In an effort to avoid the despicable display of inhumanity that occurred at the hands of Downing when she suggested that my dear father, who traveled over fifty miles one way, go and wait in the lobby while the fate of his grand-children was decided. I have just been informed that not only are many of the same people expected to show, but this time we might very well have double the amount of people attending. I come from a very large family (just on my father’s side I have 12 uncles an 3 aunts), and my wife has many friends that are very dear to her and my children. Lastly, please make sure that the appearances of my children are not waived. My daughter is ten, and by law she has a right to notice and an opportunity to be heard.
The letter from Judge Nash follows.
The Post & Email did not request in its letter that Judge Nash divulge information about the Henderson case, but rather, that he review the actions of Judge Downing and take appropriate action of his own if warranted. We note that copies of Nash’s response to us were provided to Judge Downing and a supervising judge, Margaret Henry.
Editor’s Note: Edmund C. Edelman, after whom the juvenile court building in Monterey Park was named, was reportedly a strong supporter of social services and helped to found DCFS in Los Angeles.
Update, November 29, 2012: Mr. William Windsor of Lawless America has produced a video of Mrs. Henderson speaking about her experience with the child protective and judicial system in Los Angeles. Mr. Windsor traveled across the United States to film numerous individuals who told their stories of victimization at the hands of America’s courts and judges and plans to testify before Congress on January 9, 2013 on the topic.
Mr. Henderson’s story is here.