Police stop a black couple in Tennessee and take their children

Police stop a black couple in Tennessee and take their children

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About a month ago, Bianca Claiborne, Deonte Williams and their five children were driving from Georgia to Chicago for Claiborne’s uncle’s funeral when a highway patrol officer stopped them in Manchester, Tennessee.

That moment — about 60 miles outside of Nashville — has upended their lives ever since as Claiborne and Williams tried to regain custody of their children after they were “abducted” by state authorities for what they say was a small amount of marijuana in the car. Tennessee Lookout First report.

The separation described by Claiborne and Williams fits a historical pattern of US child welfare services that segregate poor, black, and indigenous families, particularly based on alleged neglect and abuse, fueling disparities between who stays in a family and who doesn’t.

Related: The black Virginia man was pinned to the ground by deputies before he died, the family says

“I have to believe if my clients looked different or had a different background, they would have just been given a citation and told to keep these things away from the kids while you are in this situation and they would be on them. way,” said Jamal Boykin, an attorney for the family, according to Tennessee Lookout.

in his curse book, Torn: In How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families – and How Abolition Can Create a Safer World, University of Pennsylvania law professor Dorothy E. Roberts describes how the US child welfare system has historically punished families – especially black ones – for living in poverty. They face charges. Neglect or inability to meet housing, health care and other basic needs of children.

Roberts argues that racial stereotyping affects the way child welfare workers and policymakers approach investigations of families of color. One in 10 black children They are forcibly removed from their families and raised as adults. he wrote in a quote More than half of US black children will face some form of child welfare investigation by the time they turn 18, while less than a third of white children will.

In the case of Claiborne and Williams, troopers stopped their vehicle for having tinted windows and driving in the left lane without actively passing, according to citations reviewed by Lookout. Officers searched their vehicle and found five grams of marijuana, a misdemeanor offense. He arrested Williams and took him to the local jail. Claiborne followed, while her children cried.

While Claiborne awaited Williams’ release on bond, an officer detained him while state officials took custody of his five children, including his four-month-old baby. Courtney Teasley, an attorney who has represented the family since late February, said the Claiborne and Williams cases reflect “how government systems that say they are there to protect have the power to use those same protections to oppress them.”

Describing Tennessee’s Department of Children’s Services as “overwhelming,” Tesley said her clients’ children are now being moved from Georgia “to some school they know nothing about.”

“We already know that… [most] The children that were hurt were black children,” Teasley added. “This is a light shining [shows] What is being done to black people in real time. It leads to mass incarceration and all that comes with it: generational trauma, the school-to-prison pipeline.”

The state Department of Child Services eventually alleged that Claiborne and Williams were being abused in order to obtain an emergency order to take the children away. The removal went through even though court records showed a state caseworker brought in after the stop “only resulted in the father being arrested,” Lookout reported. Nevertheless, on the same day, the agency received a court order to take the children from Claiborne and Williams.

About a week later, during their first juvenile court hearing, the couple was asked to take drug tests, which showed mixed results.

A urine drug test came back positive for Williams but negative for Claiborne. Follow-up, rapid hair follicle testing ordered, came back positive for both fentanyl and oxycodone. Both denied taking the substances, and the local medical court administrator told Lookout that such tests are generally inadmissible as evidence.

Teasley said it was “outrageous” to take someone’s children based on an unacceptable test. “How many people has this happened to?” she said.

Tennessee Democratic lawmakers have called for the couple’s children to be returned. State Senator London Lamar told reporters Friday that the state’s action was “ridiculous” and an “abuse of power,” describing it as “borderline discrimination.”

State Senator Roumesh Akbari said Friday that state officials “exercised extreme and flawed judgment in taking their children and appear to have doubled down on this bad decision.”

In an interview with the Lookout, Claiborne said she couldn’t believe it when officers surrounded her for six hours and prevented her from reaching her nursing baby. He said one of them: “Don’t touch him. He is taking away from you.’

“I breastfed — they didn’t give me anything,” Claiborne said. “They just ran away with my kids.”

Teasley said the couple returned from their home in Georgia to visit their children in Nashville, where they are with a foster family. Claiborne struggles with the after-effects of being unable to raise her child and being hospitalized for panic attacks.

“They are on the road all the time now [to] Watch the kids and stay with them as long as they can,” Teasley said, adding that the babies cry whenever their parents leave. “It escalated, because it seemed like they were never going to get their kids back.”

Meanwhile, “kids … know nothing but ‘I want to go home,'” Teasley said.

The case is scheduled for hearing on Monday.

Teasley added that he took the risk face retribution Just to talk to the media about the case. On Friday, he said the attorney for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services filed a motion against him “for sanction and referral for trial.” The motion argues that Teasley violated confidentiality provisions, which he denies.

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