FROM OUR PRINTED FEB. 2020 EDITION:
FOLLOW-UP ON A MORE THAN DECADES-OLD HORROR IN MASSACHUSETTS. CHILDREN TAKEN, FINALLY RELEASED TO MOTHER.
Mom Asks DCF for Parenting Help with One Child, They Take and Harm all Three
by Kevin Hall
Citizens Commission on Human Rights New England
BOSTON — In 2004, single parent, certified nurse’s assistant and hairdresser Latifa Smith asked the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS) (now Department of Children and Families (DCF)) for help in parenting her very active toddler who was 2 years and 5 months old. She described him as “regularly being in aisle eight of a supermarket looking at toys when she’s in aisle one.” Unlike his other siblings, Albert didn’t respond to discipline or simple communication, so she was hoping to find an expert to assist.
DSS did respond and closed the case in 2006, but they are never really out of one’s life. Two years later, in 2008, Albert was causing more problems and a school bus driver talked to her about his disruptiveness on the bus. The bus driver gave Albert the idea that Latifa was going to beat him, so he wouldn’t come into the house. She then called the Boston police to help as they may have more authority. The result is that the police report gave a false statement, per Smith, that she had locked him out of the house. The police then took all three younger children to DCF who kept them for years in abusive foster care environments, according to the mother and some documents she possesses.
Ms. Smith unsuccessfully appealed to DCF, the mayor of Boston and several other officials for help in having her children returned. Although her children wrote and often spoke about wanting to return to their mother, Smith claims that DCF lawyers and other officials regularly lied in court by stating they didn’t want to be with their mom. She was so distraught about wrongfully having her children removed that in 2009 she protested in front of the White House, asking for help with a sign and photos of her three removed children. The Secret Service asked for her sign and promised to help. Their help was to bring her to a Washington, D.C. Department of Mental Health facility. Soon they released her due to having no mental health history or issues.
Albert, now 17, has been returned and the older daughter, now 19-years-old, aged out of the system while the youngest (14) still hasn’t been returned, despite him never being a problem. While at the Italian Home for Children in Jamaica Plain, the mother took notes showing Albert to be on a Dr. Frankenstein-like cocktail of five drugs, including Adderall, Depakote and Clonadine. She also claims he was put on the powerful antipsychotic Risperdal. Psychiatric drug cocktails are given to over 10% of the children taken by DCF in the commonwealth, as their parents aren’t in a legal position to protect them. While held captive, the Italian Home for Children also featured Albert in one of its promotional videos that is still posted on Vimeo. Now at home, he is doing fine and is drug-free, minus an asthma medication.
I tried to help Latifa with a visit in 2011 with the DCF ombudsman, but that was to no avail and just an empty promise on their behalf. She’s also taken several actions to help gain the return of all her children such as taking and completing over a dozen mandated DCF courses and graduating in Liberal Arts on the Dean’s List at Roxbury Community College. She’s received positive reports from several mandated mental health evaluations along with many positive recommendations from friends and neighbors, yet DCF still won’t give back her youngest child. Per Smith, one of the reasons may be money as she claims they are still taking SSI disability checks for Albert even though he is 100% in her care. Additionally, DCF mental health residential contractors often reap $150,000 or higher per child annually.
“Albert” is a pseudonym used to protect his identity. ♦