Nightmare In Family Court: Amber James' Battle Continues
The ACS case against the Jamesâ€™ family was created, in the first place, from an unproven allegation. ACS Commissioner John Mattingly, and the first Family Court judge to hear the case, Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, learned that Amber James was in no "imminent risk," after ACS caseworker Geraldine Fowler submitted her first home visit report.
Amberâ€™s James Family Court Battles
[On The Spot]
The saga continues. And the beasts also tried to take me down.
A week after I first reported the James family’s legal woes in Family Court in the Black Star News, (please see www.blackstarnews.com/?c=135&a=5406) the State Supreme Court Appellate Division made its decision public on February 24th, which was hardly in the best interest of the child.
One of the four judges was ready to send Amber James home to her real parents mentioning a few recommendations for the mother.
The ACS case against the James’ family was created, in the first place, from an unproven allegation. ACS Commissioner John Mattingly, and the first Family Court judge to hear the case, Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, learned that Amber James was in no "imminent risk," after ACS caseworker Geraldine Fowler submitted her first home visit report.
Judge Richardson-Mendelson, who was later promoted to Supervising Judge, sent Amber home with her parents. "Judge Mendelson was the judge and said ‘there’s no neglect here,’" recalls Vanessa James, the mother. "‘By the way Ms. James do you mind if ACS gives your daughter an educational evaluation?’ I told her I didn’t mind because she was a very smart little girl. Then the judge said to come back the following week to clear the matter up," Vanessa continued.
By the time the James family returned to court, Judge Marybeth Sara Richroath was now the new hearing judge. Let the nightmare begin.
Amber’s parents, Marvin and Vanessa James did not know they were going to lose Amber until the judge ordered that she be turned over to the custody of the Administration for Child Services (ACS), the dreaded City agency. The parents were ordered to get emergency psychiatric evaluation. They were promised before taking four psychiatric evaluations, which they both passed, that Amber would be returned to them. Of course, she was not.
This case and many others I have now covered mirrors what many parents say is a common occurrence within the system. Judges and the system wresting children away from parents on flimsy charges in order to get them into the labyrynthian ACS system, where children become commodities.
Readers may want to know that even as a reporter of these alleged injustices, I myself was recently victimized. My regular check from disability was illegally interfered with and withheld by the government. The publisher of The Black Star News fired off an angry letter to the compensation Board and copied it to Governor David Paterson; within less than two weeks, my checks, including the missing one, were in my pockets. The Publisher of The Black Star News informed the governor that he did not believe that it was a coincidence that someone tried to interfere with my livelihood and that of my family after I started focusing on ACS.
Back to the case at hand.
Vanessa James, who was a stay-at-home mom strongly feels the judge targeted her mainly because she protested in front of the court for her child. It does appear this case has become a cover-your-ass case, where judges are not adjudicating facts, and protecting the court’s seal. Is this a case of poor judgment and abuse of power on the part of Judge Richroath?
Amber James’s parents engaged in rallies in front of the Queens Family Court in their child interest, after Judge Richroath ordered Amber from the home. A hearing is supposed to commence under Family Court Act 1028 within 72 hours after a child is removed. Judge Richroath invoked, "imminent risk to the child," in order to remove her from the parents before all the facts were determined.
The day Amber was taken, everyone in the courtroom but the judge knew there was no, "imminent risk to the child," and there is no imminent risk to the child even today.
Marvin and Vanessa James were hoping and praying for the Appellate Court to send their little Princess back home; but the odds are too high and the stakes are too great.
The case is back before the Family Court to continue with a neglect proceeding, which the judges said would leave Amber in limbo for at least another year, if not permanently. Appellate also stated that "the mother continue in therapy and compliance with any course of medication, if indicated".
Heartbroken Vanessa James laments: "This is what Judge Richroath wanted. Those judges did not get our whole case they made their decision on fraud. They just want to keep my baby".
The Appellate Court judges who concurred with Judge Richroath – clearly failed Amber.
In their decision, these judges seem to have made the same remarks ACS and Family Court made, that "the child be enrolled in a school outside of the home."
"We never said Amber was going to be home schooled. I don’t know where they got that from," Marvin James stated.
"Amber was not of school age and became of school age in ACS’s care. We promised the court that we were going to put Amber in private school and the judge agreed with that," Vanessa James recalls.
One misleading telephone call made by a doctor who just met the James family continues to draw questions. "I took Amber to Dr. Julia Garber’s office and was in there for 15 minutes. She didn’t examine me. She knew nothing about my family medical history," Vanessa stated. "How can these people get away with making this stuff up?"
Vanessa was alleged to have Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (MBPS), a condition that involves the fabrication or exaggeration of illnesses or symptoms by a primary caretaker seeking attention; it’s a harmful form of child abuse.
I spoke with a few doctors who said it is hard to charge someone with MBPS without knowing the patient and having a detailed medical record of visits. None of which Dr. Garber presented to the Family Court.
"When she testified, she said her records were shredded," Vanessa said.
If this is true, many questions should be raised about the James family’s legal representation in the court. How much do 18B lawyers make on each case?
I visited the ACS building in Brooklyn and watched Amber James jumping around playing with the other kids until her father walked through the glass door. She jumped up and screamed "Daddy" and ran to hug him. It was like a scene from a movie; had these judges witnessed it, they would have all agreed to send Amber James home on the spot.
Amber’s mother, Vanessa, said she carried her around like a doll, never had to beat her, did not ever abuse her, and cared for her like a mother should.
However, Judge Richroath issued an order of protection on Vanessa, which prevented her from visiting Amber for almost a year now. Amber does not know why she is not seeing her mother and asks for her father for her on every visit. Isn’t this a form of child abuse?
In another Queens Family Court case that has made the rounds of all the newspapers recently, a mother lost custody of her daughter to the father. She then hired a hit man to kill the father in a playground right in front of their four year old daughter’s eyes. Even while in jail this mother still got to visit with her daughter. She was recently convicted.
The James family had a unique address. They lived right over Assemblywomen Michele R. Titus Queens’ office. "Assemblywomen Titus knows Amber; she would see Amber when Marvin came home from work and took her to the store," Vanessa recalls.
Telephone calls, faxes and emails sent to the Assemblywoman’s Queens and Albany offices, since November 2008 have not received a reply to date.
My last article in the Black Star News has attracted the attention of many parents across this country who are being bullied in Family Courts and being ordered to take psychiatric evaluations, medication, and being forced to admit to guilt before the trial even ends. I have received numerous phone calls and e-mail messages. Can all these cases be mere coincidences? Who is benefiting from these tests being ordered by Family Court?
We know what happened to the guinea-pig kids, where children in ACS and foster care lost their lives. Now, it seems, the parents are becoming the guinea-pigs. This has to be stopped.
Many good parents who are not abusing their children are being ordered to jump through hoops and are being degraded because they want their children back. Some parents never get their children back even when they jump though those hoops.
"My five year old son is in foster care and he has been seriously injured without me being notified," said Sandra Allen, an aggrieved parent. "The judge ordered me to take a test, which is going to cost me $10,000 and I still may not get my son back," she adds.
Allen is expected back in the Queens Family Court March 23rd, to learn the fate of parental rights.
When the Family Court case commenced, Allen was forced to take a leave of absence from her job and her husband was deported out of the U.S.
"When you have an ACS case, you can’t keep any employment," MaShon Baines, another parent with a case of her own, lamented.
More stories are coming.
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