HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?
by Sharon Rondeau
(Aug. 8, 2017) — A father and mother whose legal address is in Alabama but whose three children were placed with their maternal grandparents in California by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) are continuing their efforts to overturn the decisions of the Edelman Children’s Court terminating their parental rights and clearing the way for the two elder children to be adopted.
Adoption of their third child by the mother’s parents is also in process. All three currently reside with their grandparents, Willie and Katie Grant.
After oral argument took place on July 13, 2017, a three-judge appellate panel issued an “unpublished” opinion supporting the state’s position that the two children should be adopted and parental rights terminated.
The Williamses have repeatedly stated that they never abused or neglected any of their children before the now six-year saga began in May 2011. That claim is supported by page 445 of a DCFS referral report for the eldest child, dated September 13 and 14, 2011, which states:
…there are not any safety factors present regarding the child with mother that would warrant requesting a removal order…therefore DCFS did not have a legal right to keep the child from mother…
[Editor’s Note: Roosevelt and Kanika said that the report was provided to them with the black redactions from DCFS. The white markings are The Post & Email’s redactions of the child’s name.]
Of the blacked-out areas, Roosevelt told us, “There’s something they didn’t want us to see.”
As The Post & Email reported in its introductory article to this story, Kanika Grant Williams said that in May 2011, she was finishing law school while living with her parents and raising her son, completely unaware of what was about to unfold that summer.
At that time, Kanika told us:
In May 2011, DCFS got a call allegedly from “a neighbor” saying they heard a disturbance at my parents’ house, where I was living. I was going to law school at that time. The police showed up to my parents’ house; it was just my son and me home at the time. I came to the door and said, “There are no issues here. There’s no reason for you to be here; please leave.” They said, “No, we have a right to be here; we can do what we want.”
Kanika said that she was arrested and taken by police car to UCLA Harbor Medical Center, where she spent the next three weeks against her will in a psychiatric facility. “I do not have complete understanding of why I was arrested,” she told The Post & Email. “When I read the social worker’s report, it doesn’t even say why they arrested me. It says that I said I was God, and I never said that. They had said something about God, and I said, ‘I don’t worship your god; I’m a Christian.’ That’s all I said.”
[Editor’s Note: On page 3 of the Appellate Court opinion, it states that “Mother had a mental breakdown, claiming she was God, that God was talking to her, and that the police officers and medical personnel who came to evaluate her were devils.”]
According to both parents, O’Neal never appeared in court for any of the children’s cases.
Kanika said her parents also visited her in the hospital but refused to advocate for her release.
As evidenced in the recent appellate opinion, DCFS has reported that Kanika was diagnosed with schizophrenia, a claim she disputes. “They never got my medical records,” she told The Post & Email.
In a referral report with a “Service Date” of August 16, 2011 and “Contact Date” of August 9, 2011, DCFS “Staff Person” Martha Acosta reported that she spoke with a social worker from UCLA-Harbor. The report states that upon discharge, Kanika “did not have a diagnosis” and that Kanika’s mother allowed her to operate the family vehicle en route to their home.
How a hospital social worker was permitted to discuss Kanika’s medical information over the telephone with another social worker has not been explained.
Once reunited with her son for the first time in three weeks, Kanika said she packed her belongings and those of her son and drove to Alabama with him to join Roosevelt, expecting never to return to California. She told The Post & Email that she encountered no difficulties during the trip.
Roosevelt said that shortly after Kanika arrived in Alabama, he received a package from O’Neal containing medicine with instructions to administer it to Kanika daily. At the time he believed it was a legitimate prescription and adhered to the directions he was given.
Within two weeks, Roosevelt reported, Kanika began exhibiting strange behavior culminating in his restraining her “so that she would not hurt herself” after which he said he immediately “called the police.” By that time, however, not knowing the cause or duration of her illness, Roosevelt had already made the decision to send his son, in the company of relatives, back to California to stay with Kanika’s parents temporarily.
Upon request, he dispatched a note to O’Neal indicating that he intended his son’s stay in California to be short and that he remained his son’s legal custodian.
O’Neal claimed on page 444 of the September 2011 referral report that “Father stated he was happy DCFS will be detaining XXXXX.” However, Roosevelt told The Post & Email, “They lied. I never ask them to detain XXXXX.”
Both parents reported that Kanika spent three days in an Alabama hospital near their home, where a physician identified the medication she was taking as the source of her uncharacteristic behavior and ordered it discontinued.
Regarding the many claims appearing in a number of “unpublished” opinions in their children’s cases alleging that she and Roosevelt have engaged in a pattern of “violent altercations,” Kanika told us:
I threw the boiling water on Roosevelt while I was still under the influence of the unprescribed drugs. It was all one incident. When Roosevelt restrained me, he called the police and I was deemed misdiagnosed after the police took me to Monroe County Hospital. The physician on duty, Dr. Hamilton, put me in ICU. I rested and felt 100x better. It wasn’t a history as DCFS and the Court claimed; it was one incident.
Even when I was under the influence of the drugs, I knew my son wasn’t there. With a mother’s instincts, I was very angry and while under the medication, it just made it worse. It was a very stressful time.
Kanika said that once she stopped taking the medication, she began to regain her equilibrium and health.
The first court hearing for their son occurred in September 2011; less than two months later, social worker Tim Reeff informed Roosevelt in an email that “adoption” was a possibility.
While declining to speak about any specific situation, DCFS Public Relations Director Armand Montiel told The Post & Email that only in very rare circumstances is “adoption” a consideration at that point in any child dependency case. Montiel has repeatedly said that “reunification” of parents and children is the primary goal of the Department.
By that point, Willie and Katie Grant had been “appointed as responsible persons” for their grandson, Reeff wrote in his November 10, 2011 email.
The message reads, in part:
Concurrently with reunification services, we are initiating an adoption assessment. Relatives have priority to adopt. If there has not been substantial progress toward reunification by the beginning of April 2012, the Department will be recommending termination of family reunification at the May 5, 2012 hearing and selection of a permanent plan, which could involve adoption.