IN FIVE-YEAR-OLD SAGA
by Sharon Rondeau
The appeal was filed August 14, 2016 in the Second Appellate District, Division 4, in Los Angeles.
A hearing not yet scheduled is expected to address their remaining parental rights for the youngest child in November or December.
Downing also presided over the cases of the Henderson children, all eight of whom were eventually placed in adoptive homes in 2014 to the best knowledge of The Post & Email. When the children’s father, Jeffrey, interviewed with us in December 2013, he characterized child protective service agencies as “a machine” with the intent of placing children in foster care for “little or nothing” on the part of the natural parents but financial and other rewards for the foster parents.
Jeffrey reported that he was repeatedly denied access to the court files on his children and that Downing summarily dismissed his arguments, citing him as a “probable” abuser because “he got mad in court.”
The parents in the most recent case, Roosevelt and Kanika Williams, find similarities in the way the Hendersons’ and their case have been handled. The Williamses have reported that statements and conclusions reached about them by DCFS social workers and Downing over more than five years are erroneous and that Los Angeles DCFS has obstructed their right to raise their children in a loving environment without government interference.
They object to the planned adoption of their two eldest children by Kanika’s parents and have decried a system which they say has cast them as unfit parents when neither has a history of child abuse.
An “unpublished opinion” filed exactly two years ago, before the youngest Williams child was born, was issued in response to an appeal filed by Roosevelt objecting to a November 4, 2013 court order relating to the status of their eldest child, a son, born in 2007.
The Post & Email does not release the names or initials of minors, although the California appellate court did so in the cited opinion.
The document contains the following disclaimer:
and makes a significant number of allegations which the Williamses have refuted. Because of the breadth of the allegations made, the Williamses’ responses will necessarily span a number of articles, beginning with this one.
On page 4 of the opinion, the appeals panel stated that Kanika “had a mental breakdown” in September 2011. However, she told The Post & Email that it was in May of that year that police officers, inexplicably called to the home she shared with her parents and young son, ultimately tore her son from her arms, arrested her, summoned an ambulance and facilitated her forced admission into a psychiatric institution for three weeks.
Neither Kanika nor The Post & Email has been able to obtain a copy of the police report.
Kanika maintains that she has no history of psychiatric care or drug rehabilitation. An only child, she grew up in California in what she always believed was a caring, loving home.
Kanika said that during her ordeal at Harbor-UCLA Psychiatric Center, she continually told staff that her admission was made in error. Kanika believes that she was forced to take medication against her will while there and recalls the screams of patients occurring throughout the night.
During a visit her parents made while she was in the hospital, Kanika alleges that after she begged her father to arrange for her release, he said, “I can’t and I won’t.”
Kanika said that after she refused to eat and lost consciousness at one point from weakness, her parents cautiously sought her release and participated in a discharge meeting to facilitate it. In a recorded interview on September 7, Kanika told The Post & Email that after her parents came to retrieve her on the appointed day, it was as if the involuntary hospitalization had not occurred. “As we drove home, they asked me, ‘Are you hungry?'” she said.
Upon arriving home, Kanika said she asked for a few minutes to shower and make herself presentable while her father took her son to a nearby restaurant. Despite a joyous reunion with her son, she said her perception of the situation was, “I knew something was beyond me, and I went into survival mode. I knew I had to get out of there.”
Kanika described packing her and her son’s belongings and driving virtually non-stop to Alabama, where Roosevelt was residing.
In a recorded interview on September 22, Roosevelt said that he wondered why Kanika’s family did not appear concerned that their daughter, who had just spent three weeks in a psychiatric institution, drove alone from California to Alabama with their son.
He told The Post & Email the following:
I was in the state of Alabama at the time all of this was going on. So when I was calling her every morning to talk to her – because she left Alabama to go back to California to finish law school – her parents were telling me, “Well, Roosevelt, she’s studying.” I said, “She’s studying?” and they said, “Yes.” “Let me talk to my son,” I said. I would talk to him for about 4 or 5 minutes and ask, “Where’s mom at?” and he would say, “She’s studying,” so I would leave it at that.
So I would call every day, and I knew something was going on, but I didn’t know what. Every time I called, they said, “She’s studying. You’ve got to understand that she’s in law school…” and I was the one who pushed her to go back to law school because she was so close to finishing. But I knew something wasn’t right.
“Had you met her parents at this point?” The Post & Email asked.
I had met her mom. Her mom had taken us out to dinner one day when I came to California. We had a conversation during which her mom said, “Well, Roosevelt, you know that my daughter is used to having everything that she wants in life. We have paved the way for her so that she doesn’t have to work for anything.” Then she turned around and asked me, “How are you going to be able to take care of her?”
I said, “Well, Miss Katie, your daughter and I have to work for what we want in our lives. What you guys leave her is extra, but Kanika and I have to work for ourselves because we have a son, and we have to work to provide for him.” And that was it.
From that point on, she didn’t talk to me; she didn’t like me. I was just being honest with them.
I’ve worked all my life. I was a professional DJ and worked in admissions at the local hospital for 18 years. I have also coached college basketball. I was doing all those things when I met Kanika, which was when I was DJ-ing at her family reunion in 2006. Her parents didn’t think it was going to go anywhere with me in Alabama. But we fell in love, we had a child, and her dad and mom, in so many words, wanted a son. They never had a son.
One day, they asked if they could pay for my son’s schooling, but Kanika and I had different opinions. Kanika wanted to home-school; I wanted him to go to public school. I did fine in public school, so I didn’t see any problem with him going to public school. I said, “If you want to pay for him to go to school, you are his grandparents, and that’s the role you’re going to play. I don’t have a problem with that, but I’m his dad and Kanika is his mom, so we will have the last say-so on what we want to do. She and I will come to an agreement about what we want, and if we want to say “no,” that’s the way it’s going to be. I left it at that and returned to Alabama.
That’s when everything started to happen. Kanika came back to Alabama, then returned to California to go to law school, and things started happening that I knew nothing about.
Kanika said that had she transferred her California-earned law school credits to Alabama, she would have sacrificed a year’s worth of study, which was a factor in her deciding to take Roosevelt’s urging to heart and finish her studies in California. She told The Post & Email that she had not intended to live with her parents while finishing school, but through a strange set of circumstances involving her parents was not able to live in the apartment which had been reserved for her in Inglewood. Finding herself literally “homeless” upon returning to California, Kanika acquiesced to her mother’s entreaties to live with them. At the time, she was pregnant with her son and engaged to Roosevelt.
“One of the things that always stuck out with my father and that now is such a contradiction to me when I see all of the people he is choosing over his own family was that when he was a child, his tooth was hurting so bad. Back then they had only wagons, and he only had one pair of shoes, and those shoes had holes in them. His grandfather couldn’t afford for him to go to the dentist. They finally walked ten miles to go to the only dentist in the town, who said he would not take care of him, that he “would rather put his hand in the mouth of an elephant than in the mouth of a n—-.” He told me that. My father is still the same person who told me that, and I felt that pain for him, but he is now doing the same thing that this man did to him, except it’s a notch higher because he’s doing it to his own child.
“While I was finishing school, it was a good time in my life. Roosevelt and I were still seeing each other; I was raising my son, and my dad, who is an attorney, helped me with my studies,” Kanika said. “I graduated in 2010. Law school was something that we both thought would help our family be a lot more stable and not have to worry about certain things financially. Looking back, you’re always 20-20; if I had it to do over, I would not have left Alabama. I would have just stayed there and we would have raised our family, law school or no law school. ‘Who cares, I’ll work, we’ll figure it out.’
“When I came back and my apartment was gone, that was the other side of my family that I had never seen before.”
Roosevelt then added:
When she had our son, I told her she could leave him in Alabama while she was in school, but she told me that she wanted to keep him because she couldn’t be without him. She thought it would help keep her mom and dad together. I told her, “Well, that’s not his responsibility to keep them together; that’s my and your responsibility.” But we came to an agreement that she would keep him, and I said I understood.
This article will be continued in a subsequent installment.