Not being informed of court hearings. Falsified drug tests. Threats and accusations to intimidate and coerce. Social workers, her state representative and even the attorney assigned to her case ignoring emails, not returning calls. Her daughter ripped from a happy home and placed in a non-English speaking foster home without critical, life-saving medications. A system that seems to have already decided her family’s fate, without even the most cursory attempt at justice.
Mayan Hewes describes these events and wonders what happened to her rights, and the rights of her six-year-old daughter Layla, in L.A. County, California.
Are Family/Juvenile Courts Today “Kangaroo Courts”?
Almost 50 years ago, the Supreme Court noted that being a child in the United States should not excuse an abandonment of basic human rights. In a case that established that children in juvenile court have the right to DUE PROCESS, the Court reasoned, “Under our Constitution, the condition of being a boy does not justify a kangaroo court.” (RE GAULT, 387 U.S. 1, 87 S. Ct. 1428, 18 L. Ed. 2d 527)
Merriam-Webster defines “kangaroo court “as “a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted.”
Today, more and more families are alleging that this term still describes the U.S. child and family court system. Mayan, her family and friends are certainly convinced.
Spurned Suitor Retaliates by Lying to Child Protection Services – Layla is Kidnapped
Last fall, Mayan relates that a male neighbor propositioned her, but she had turned him down, telling him she was very happy with Layla and didn’t want to add confusion to Layla’s life. A single mom who lived with her little girl, Mayan says she and Layla had a good life together. Mayan works at a home demolition company, and Layla attended the local school where Mayan says she was doing very well, even bringing home awards.
Little did Mayan know her spurned suitor would retaliate by reporting her to DCFS (L. A. County Department of Children and Family Services), spiraling her world into a nightmare.
On Oct. 8, 2014, Mayan’s neighbor called DCFS and reported she was “out looking for drugs” with her daughter. In fact, Mayan says she and her daughter were at a play date all day at another friend’s home – a claim later validated by the friend in a letter to DCFS. The next day, DCFS removed Layla from her school. When Mayan was informed that her daughter had been “taken into custody” she was shocked and bewildered.
Court Hearing “Vanishes,” Then Has Suddenly Already Occurred
With no answers provided, Mayan was told there would be a hearing on Oct. 15. However, on the 15th, Mayan reports the hearing seemed to “vanish” – “it was like no one knew there was supposed to be a hearing“, she said.
However, what Mayan discovered later was that there had been an emergency DCFS hearing prior to the 15th. A hearing of which she says no one had informed her, and so could not attend. At this emergency hearing, Mayan says the DCFS worker gave the impression to the judge that she did not know where Mayan was, and that she must be skipping out. However, Mayan says she has proof that the DCFS worker knew exactly where she was.
False Drug Accusations Made to Justify Kidnapping
The DCFS worker, who Mayan says she frantically tried to reach any number of times throughout the process, eventually informed Mayan she had to take classes with an out-patient drug program that included testing. Mayan says she initially refused – why should she participate in a program that might go on her record, making it look as if she was, in fact, somehow guilty of drug use?
When DCFS informed her she must do this to have any chance of getting her daughter returned, Mayan reports begging to be drug tested as soon as she was entered into the program. While it was not the program’s policy, she desperately wanted to prove her innocence. Mayan says she insisted on being tested two different times prior to the next court date Dec. 3.
Suitor Confesses, Friends Validate Innocence
Meanwhile, the spurned neighbor sent Mayan an email apologizing for falsely reporting her and telling her he was checking in to a mental health institution. The friend, Veronica De Leon, whose house Layla and her mother were at during the day the allegations reference, sent a letter attesting to not only their presence at the play date, but also affirming Mayan as a mother. “Layla adores her mother and Mayan is an excellent mother and takes excellent care of her….You can absolutely tell without a doubt Mayan has put an enormous amount of time into raising that little girl.”
Mayan says she provided both the neighbor’s confession to fabricating his allegations to DCFS and the proof that the play date had happened to DCFS. Mayan says she has at least seven more notarized statements from various close friends protesting the allegations and affirming her and Layla. With this information, Mayan thought the case should have been closed. Instead, she says, it seems to have been ignored.
During this time, Mayan was initially told she could see Layla twice a week. But when she sought to set up an opportunity to see her daughter, Mayan says all of her phone calls and emails to the DCFS contact were ignored – literally not responded to in any way – for a month and a half. Mayan says she learned later that Layla was told by DCFS that her mother “didn’t want to see her,” or was “too busy,” yet Mayan says she was calling or emailing virtually every day, desperately wanting just to see her precious daughter.
Life-Saving Medications Denied for More than a Month
During that time without contact with her mother, Layla, who has “extreme asthma” was not provided her protective medications such as nebulizer, inhaler and a long term medicine that helps prevent attacks. Mayan says she contacted DCFS repeatedly and forwarded documentation demonstrating her daughter’s need, concerned that Layla was without her life saving medication. Instead, she says Layla was told by the DCFS worker that “she doesn’t really need it,” despite Mayan’s proof of ER visits and doctor records to the contrary.
Layla Placed into Non-English Speaking Foster Home
When Mayan was finally able to visit with her daughter, she discovered that her daughter had been placed in a non-English speaking home, though English is Layla’s first language. The school teacher advised her this was not good for Layla at this critical time learning to read and write the language. In a pattern that was becoming all too familiar, Mayan says, DCFS made no response to her concerns.
However, not long after Layla was taken by DCFS, Mayan says the supervisor called to request that Mayan sign forms allowing Layla to be examined by a medical doctor. Uncertain what was going to be done to her daughter, Mayan says she did not agree.
The next day – a Saturday –Mayan reports she was surprised when the DCFS supervisor arrived at Mayan’s home in person, again requesting the medical permission forms be signed. When she refused, she says the supervisor informed her that she was being accused of sexually abusing her daughter. Stunned and horrified, Mayan again refused, and the supervisor left, telling her they would get a judge’s signature.
When Mayan says she called DCFS the following Monday, asking for information about this new accusation, the office staff informed her that no such charges or accusations were involved in her case, and denied any knowledge of the supervisor’s allegations. Mayan says the allegations of sexual abuse have never again been brought up.
Hoping the nightmare would end when she could finally talk to the judge, Mayan looked forward to the hearing where her compliance and the drug tests would set all to rights and she could bring Layla home. She was in for a terrible shock, however.
Falsified Testing and Fabricated Statements?
At the December court date, both drug tests were reported as “dirty.” Stunned, Mayan says she knew drugs were not a part of her lifestyle – she knew the tests were obviously wrong. She feels they were deliberately falsified. DCFS also provided statements from Layla’s school teacher and principal indicating she was not a good mother and possibly used drugs. “This is when I knew it wasn’t just ‘honest mistakes,’” Mayan says. “I had a great relationship with both of them.”
Mayan later followed up with Layla’s teacher and principal, and reports they were horrified by what appeared to be blatant lies. She says they have agreed to be subpoenaed to attest to Mayan’s character and her positive relationship with her daughter and with them.
“You’re Never Getting Your Daughter Back”
Mayan had a public defender at her hearing, but afterwards, she says, he refused to give her his business card and has ignored all of her calls. She reports filing to request a new defender multiple times, but says she was recently told the county has no record of any of these requests. After the hearing, Mayan says she was chilled by a comment the DCFS worker made that she could “take all the classes and testing you want, you’re never getting your daughter back.”
Given six months to comply with drug classes and testing, Mayan says she immediately sought a reputable lab for which she paid out of pocket. Over the course of the intervening months, Mayan says to date she has seven “clean” independent drug tests. However, she says DCFS told her these tests “don’t matter” because they are not from the specific program DCFS requires her to be in.
Mayan says her brother, who lives in Florida, has been working to have Layla transferred to him since the ordeal began, and has only finally been able to bring her home with him as of June 12. This was because DCFS, according to Mayan, required that he become a foster parent in order for him to keep Layla at all. DCFS is mandated to put children with family members whenever possible, and requiring him to become a foster parent, Mayan believes, was a way for the department to obtain further money.
On June 23, Mayan has her next hearing, to follow up. Mayan says she has contacted her state representative, Don Knabe, multiple times, even going to his office, but reports there has been no response. She continues to fight for Layla’s return, and says she is reading all legal requirements and writing and submitting legal documents as her own lawyer. She says she has documented and submitted proof of DCFS lies, but is terrified that DCFS is going to manufacture more evidence and continue to ignore anything she offers. Whenever she has tried to defend herself, request information, or in any way interact with DCFS, she says, “It’s like I wasn’t even talking.”
Speak Up For Mayan and Layla
For Layla to be returned to her mother will require concerned citizens calling, emailing and voicing their concerns that Mayan receive a fair hearing, admitting ALL sound evidence.
California Governor Jerry Brown can be reached here – 916-445-2841
California Representative and LA County Supervisor Don Knabe – 213-974-4444
DCFS Supervisor Linda Hernandez – 562-903-5384
DCFS Contact – Ha Phan – 562-903-5380
A Facebook account supporting Mayan and Layla is here. (Page going up soon).
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