As part of our election coverage of shaming the neoliberal welfare state who treat the poorest and most vulnerable amongst us with contempt, here is Kates* experience of how CYFs stole her children.
When a child is taken it is heartbreaking in so many ways.
I find it hard to verbalise my thoughts so have put them down.
I love my children dearly.
CYFS came back into my life in a time of distress when early in my pregnancy with Elijah I wasn’t coping with having to stop a lot of my medications.
I said some silly things which I instantly regretted.
My house was messy at that stage however I made every attempt to do what CYFS wanted and clean myself and my house up ready for my baby.
I was constantly told differing outcomes, I would have my baby or I wouldn’t depending on how social worker ‘Donata’ felt.
In November 2015 I went to an FGC ( Family Group Conference) at CYFS where I was essentially forced to give up custody of my daughter and given no choice about it. Give it up there or they would take me to court. So I gave it up on the premise that I could keep and raise my son. I got given every other weekend with my daughter.
On Emma-Lee’s first visit after this my then husband told me he was cheating on me and was suicidal, soIi phoned the Police on two occasions to calm the situation.
In no way was Emma-Lee in danger or even knew what was going on but it was still written down as domestic violence and reported to CYFS.
CYFS contacted Emma-Lee’s father and I lost full and complete custody the Friday that week, the day after I gave birth to Elijah.
The following Monday I also lost Elijah despite being told I wouldn’t.
Elijah went to stay with elderly caregivers in Kelvin Grove, Palmerston North.
He was considered blind and deaf until he was three months old.
I remember him always having bruises and scabies and school sores in those first few months and despite my repeated asking, nothing was done.
Elijah and I developed a close bond during the first few months of his life that we still have till this day.
I did not see Emma-Lee from December 2015 till March 2016 and Emma-Lee did not see Elijah regularly again until June or July 2016 (as the outcome of an FGC).
The goal for the first six months of Elijah’s life was a return home goal however my marriage breakdown was the first barrier to this.
CYFS promised that once I had a house and it was set up for Elijah to live in that I could have him back.
They did not keep their promise or even check the house.
Furthermore a parenting assessment was done on me through Across Social Services and the supervisor was a lady named “Diane”. This was a confusing and contradictory assessment that CYFS ultimately took negatively and stated they no longer supported a return home.
They said they would need to find Elijah’s father and assess him or pace Elijah in a Home for Life and they reduced my visits to once a month.
CYFS refused to talk sensibly to me or answer my questions so I took them to court.
A Judge, Judge Moss, reinstated my four times a week visitation with Elijah and I did a full parenting and psychological assessment in November.
I sat this directly after suffering a concussion, at the insistence of CYFS, and subsequently failed.
The outcome being him to never return to my care and to either be placed with family or a Home for Life.
All the while this has been going on I have only seen Emma-Lee once a week and she has been begging me to come back to me full time.
Can you imagine what it is like to be a mother and have her children, her whole heart, ripped away from her?
To be lied to and led into a false sense of security, only to have these people deny you the very things they promised the day before?
To have someone smile to your face and be twisting the knife in your back?
My heart yearns to be a mother.
To take Emma-Lee to school and wave to her as she enters the gate.
To wipe Elijah’s little face as he finishes eating.
To cuddle up on the bed reading a story or watching a movie.
Or even going down to the park on a fine warm day for a picnic and a play.
But this is a privilege denied to be as it is to many through the CYFS system in New Zealand. And instead of a beating heart where mine should be there is a hole, because my children have my heart.
The pain of separation or alienation is great. I know this can’t help me but I hope it will help you reconsider when making judgements against other loving mothers.
Kate* is a pseudonym to protect her identity so CYFs can’t punish her for going public.
Have you been treated poorly by our neoliberal welfare state and wish to bring attention to your experience anonymously so that they can’t punish you? Check out our 2017 election campaign to do just that.