My story is about how my son’s school came into my life and changed it in a way that I don’t know if I can ever be who I was before.
It’s about how I got arrested. Lost my job. Have sleepless nights.
A part of me has been stolen.
If I had the power, I would let the system know that child protective services needs to do proper investigations. Don’t label me without knowing me.
I live in the South Bronx. In my neighborhood, there are a lot of investigations. If I lived elsewhere and my son went to a different school, I think this would have never, ever happened.
CASE 1: “INDICATED”
The first case against me began when I was working as a home health aide. My son was 7. One weekend in the spring, near the end of the school year, my son was playing basketball. He fell and cut his knee. Nothing to worry about.
The next week, when it was time to go to school and work, I told my son, “Go get your sweater.” He stood there staring at me. I repeated myself four times. He still stood there staring. I pushed his shoulder so he could realize I was talking to him. As soon as I pushed him, he threw himself on the floor being dramatic. Since he had long pants on, I didn’t see that the scab on his knee came off.
When he got to school he went to the nurse, told her his knee hurts. She asked him what happened. He said, “Mom pushed me.”
At 11:15 p.m. CPS knocked on my door. My heart dropped. I had to take a deep breath. The investigator asked, “What happened?” I told him I pushed my son’s shoulder but he already had a scab. The investigator was polite yet he had doubts.
I wanted the investigator to talk to the school, my daughter’s day care, my children’s pediatrician. I wanted him to understand what kind of mother I am, and that my son’s school wasn’t the best. When my son was 4, he walked out of class one day, crossed the street and came home without anyone knowing. But none of that was done. Instead, the investigator indicated my case. CPS said I would have announced and unannounced visits. I was upset.
BULLYING IN SCHOOL
In the winter of the next school year, my son started getting bullied by two boys in school. They pushed my son on the stairs, cut his hair, kicked him and put out a foot so he could trip with his lunch.
Once the bullying started, my son started acting out. I was at the school all the time. The assistant principal said, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of the bullying.” I wanted to ask the Department of Education for a safety transfer, but the CPS worker said that it would look suspicious. So my son stayed and the bullying continued.
Around that time, CPS asked me if I wanted to voluntarily enroll in preventive services. My husband said, “All these people in our home are unnecessary.” But I thought, “If they see who I am, they will know how I treat my kids.” After that, CPS and preventive services both came to my house twice a month.
The preventive worker was sweet and understanding. She went to the school, met with the principal and assistant principal, the teacher, the nurse. She helped me get therapy for my son, who was crying out in his sleep about the bullying.But CPS was a different story. I wasn’t being heard and, by staying in the school, my son wasn’t being protected. It was a lot to deal with.
FALSELY ACCUSED, TAKE II
A couple of months after the bullying started, my son went to the school nurse again. Later, when CPS investigated, they found terrible bruises all over his back.
In all the interviews with CPS, my son said that he got beat up in the bathroom by one of the two boys who were bullying him. My son said the boy slammed him in the wall, then threw him on the floor. I later learned that the mother of that boy works in the school. I think the school blamed me to protect itself.
The CPS report stated that my son also said that sometimes I hit him when he behaves badly, and that one time I hit him with a belt on his leg.In the report, ACS said that my son “admitted that the allegations were true in nature.” (Because my case didn’t go to trial, ACS never explained what that meant.)
Again, CPS came to my house at 11:30 p.m. I felt like I’d been stabbed when the investigator told me that both my kids needed to go to a relative’s house for a few days.
The next day, I was interviewed by detectives at the Administration for Children’s Services Child Advocacy Center. I arrived at 1 p.m. and left at 10:30 p.m. I was tired and scared. But the detective talked to me like she was my friend.
She asked me if I hit my kids. I said, “No. I punish them by taking their TV, phone, playtime away.” I reminded her that my son told her that I didn’t give him those bruises. But she asked me did I ever hit my son before.
I said that I’d spanked him on the butt when he was bothering my daughter.
She said to me, “Write an apology letter to your son for hitting him so that I can show the judge and it could look good on your behalf.” The letter I wrote to my son said: “I love you dearly. Mommy is so sorry for hitting you in the past. Don’t be upset with Mommy.”
I thought she was trying to help me, and three days later, the judge did say that my kids could come home as long as I did anger management, took Parenting Journey, had preventive services, had court-ordered supervision, and had announced and unannounced CPS home and school visits.
But a few weeks later, I found out that the detective had used the letter I wrote to my son against me, and I was called to surrender myself for arrest. I was in a holding cell with 10 other women and one toilet from 9 a.m. until after 10 p.m.
At 10:45 the judge called my name, opened my file and found…nothing. The judge got upset. She said, “This woman has been arrested with no evidence.” She gave the DA a month to get evidence. But when we went back to court a month later, all they asked for was anger management and parenting, which I was already doing. They also ordered a limited order of protection against me saying that if I hurt my children, I’d be arrested.
After that, my job was sent an alert and I lost my job. I was at a doctor’s appointment with a client when my supervisor called. She said, “You’re terminated. Get off the clock. Leave.” I got my client in a cab and took her home. Then I left.
SO MUCH INJUSTICE
Now I’m jobless. I feel worthless. I get depressed. I lost my income, my peace, my privacy.
My son used to be a loving kid. Now he doesn’t trust people. He has an attitude. Recently, I went with my husband to the district and got my son a safety transfer. He’s in a new school, but they say he’s pushing kids and name-calling. I think it’s part of his response to being bullied and not being believed.
I take him to therapy once a week. Recently we changed therapists and my son is having fewer tantrums. But still, it’s hard for me to witness how he has changed.
I have changed, too. Now I see so much injustice in the world.
I just hope for my case to get closed, and for my son and our lives to be like before.