It is no surprise to me that American Idol star Syesha Mercado had her children taken from her under these horrific circumstances, because I went through something similar. Mercado was seeking help and care for her child –– and instead, her one-year-old son and newborn were both taken away. Tragically, this is common within the world of family policing, commonly known as “child welfare”. Many Black parents, myself included, have sought support from hospitals, only to be met with new traumas and more health issues.
While I was pregnant with my son, I had gestational diabetes which caused my son to be born bigger than normal. During my pregnancy, they threatened me with an ACS case if my diabetes wasn’t controlled.
When my son was born, doctors were surprised that he was not “thriving” to their standards.
I was going to his pediatrician every week for weigh-ins, but I struggled to get my son to drink his whole bottle. He was fragile and growing weaker by the day. The doctor reported failure to thrive as one of the reasons for her call to CPS.
Ironically, my son then spent three weeks in the hospital and had to have a tube put in his nose because even the hospital could not get him to take the bottle. However, I was villainized, labeled a child abuser and told that I neglected my son.
I will never look at hospitals the same way again. Hospitals are supposed to care for us; however they have too much power over patients and not enough resources to support families. Hospitals are one of the biggest institutions that feed Black and brown families into other systems, like family policing, that cause us harm. When hospital staff asked questions about my child, it felt more like an investigation than a check up.
Black women have the highest mortality rate giving birth in hospitals. We are drug tested without our consent. Our humanity is stripped, our names erased and we are turned into numbers in databases that create statistics that are used to “support” and enforce their policies.
Mandated reporters (required by law to report suspected child maltreatment) hold power that can be easily weaponized against someone they have biases against. It will always be their word over mine. The harm of mandated reporting laws needs to be discussed, analyzed and addressed.
When I wrote my story, I contrasted my experience to that of a white actress named Jenny Mollen. She accidentally dropped her son and he fractured his skull. The hospital believed her that it was an accident. She wrote about her woes in the newspaper, describing how hard it was for her family and thanking hospital staff for taking care of her son.
Syesha Mercado and her partner, Tyron Deener, are both Black. The way they were treated is drastically different from the way Jenny Mollen was treated. This couple was pulled over for a “wellness check” and had their infant taken away by child welfare agents with police in tow. Where is the public outrage about the violence and harm inflicted on Black families by the family policing system? Poor Black and brown families have been targeted by this racist system for generations. It’s a shame that it takes a famous person experiencing it to spark any kind of media attention. It’s embedded in American culture to separate Black families without a thought. Not only are policing systems killing us, but they are boldly taking our kids from us — it happens all the time and it needs to end.
- Sign the petition to bring Syesha Mercado’s son, Amen’Ra, home to his parents.
- Learn more about how to support Syesha Mercado.
Related Rise Stories and Interviews:
- Targeted by Two Systems by Imani Worthy
- The Danger of a Misdiagnosis of Child Abuse
Q&A with Stephanie Clifford, journalist
- ‘I Was Scared for Anyone to Know I Was Pregnant’ – How to Protect Against Removal at Birth
Q&A with Emma Ketteringham, The Bronx Defenders