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by Sharon Rondeau

Mrs. Henderson with six of her seven children

(Oct. 24, 2012) — An effort has been announced on Facebook inviting the public to attend a family court hearing in Los Angeles, CA, where the adoption process of seven children is expected to commence against the parents’ wishes.

The Post & Email has been reporting over the last six weeks on the Henderson family, which was torn apart after the parents were jailed in a retaliatory move by the Los Angeles Police Department.  All criminal charges were dropped two and one-half months later after the Hendersons were able to appear before a judge.

Mr. and Mrs. Henderson have stated that they have never abused their children and that at least one of the children has been seriously abused while in foster care.  The children range in age from three months to ten year and have been in the foster care system for approximately 19 months.

At the last hearing, the parents were again ordered to leave the courtroom while the hearing proceeded without them.  An attorney advised them afterward that adoption proceedings would begin on November 19.  When the parents asked if there was anything he could do, he did not respond.

The parents had been allowed to visit the children three times weekly and ultimately unsupervised, but following a hearing in mid-September from which the parents were ejected, visits were returned to supervised by a “monitor” and reduced to once weekly without an explanation.

The Post & Email has contacted the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) on numerous occasions to inquire if the circumstances surrounding the case can be investigated.  While the law prohibits the public affairs director from confirming whether or not the Hendersons or any other families are receiving services through the agency, we have communicated the concerns related to us by the Hendersons, close friends and observers.  The DCFS representative has stated that the incidents described seem “highly unusual” or “not accurate,” but the parents and eyewitnesses maintain their version of events and are now asking for the public’s support on November 19.

DCFS Public Affairs Director Armand Montiel has advised The Post & Email that family courtrooms in Los Angeles County are open to reporters.  DCFS Director Philip Browning does not take calls from the public, but we have left two messages with his assistant, one of which was given to Montiel, who then called us and gave us an interview several weeks ago.  Montiel stated that reunification of families is the department’s top priority.  A “Family Reunification Symposium” was held on September 14, the same day on which the Henderson parents were ejected from the courtroom and in apparent coordination with “Family Reunification Week.”

Mrs. Henderson has told us that she believes that children are considered a “commodity” by DCFS and that large sums of money are paid to foster parents when they accept a new child.  The public affairs director has denied that new foster parents receive a $40,000 payment up-front, as Mrs. Henderson has claimed.

We have been told by a close family friend that the federal government awards large sums of money when a child is placed in a permanent adoption by a foster agency.  There is significant information about adoption services on the DCFS website while other sections remain “under construction.”

Mrs. Henderson reported today that she had contacted the Office of the Ombudsman of Los Angeles County some time ago regarding her complaints about DCFS’s treatment of her children and family but never received a response.

The invitation to the public to attend the hearing on November 19 reads as follows:

Please join us at the next status hearing for the Henderson family as Judge Downing and CSW Eric Lorber continue their attempt to adopt out the Henderson children despite full compliance with the DCFS’ unjustified case plan. We have tried many avenues to obtain justice and reunification and the court has not even allowed the parents in to hear the proceedings the last few court dates. We hope that by showing up with a group of supporters, they may feel the pressure of the public for accountability’s sake. Please join us! If there are enough of us, some of us will carry signs outside and some of us will wait inside for the hearing. We would also like to have some folks who are willing to sit in the courthouse and do nothing but pray. There are soooo many hurting and torn apart families who show up at this court house every day who are also so appreciative to receive any support and love you can spare. Please be aware that the event begins at 8:30am and may last until 4pm… we never know when the case will be called. Parking is $5 for the day and a cafeteria is on site for lunch. The food isn’t great, but if you leave and lunch and come back they charge you an additional $5 to park and there is nothing within walking distance.

An informal invitation reads:

Please plan on joining us on November 19th as DCFS attempts to continue to adopt out the Henderson children. We would love to show the court that people CARE and see their OVERSTEP. Thanks!

The hearing will be held at the Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court located at 201 Centre Plaza Dr., Monterey Park, CA  91754.  Judge Marguerite Downing, who has excluded the parents from the last several hearings, will be presiding.

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