It was a sequence of events that could happen to any new mother, but Brenda Maney of Richmond, Kentucky, could never have anticipated that it would result in her losing her children, perhaps forever. But that is what is happening. In less than a month, on May 7, Brenda faces a hearing to permanently terminate her parental rights.
Brenda’s baby girl was born two weeks early via c-section, and it was love at first sight. Soon after birth, little Tanaieah coded twice. She went to the NICU and was in a coma for eight days. She was diagnosed with sleep apnea and severe GERD, and required an apnea monitor when she was finally released to go home. Tanaieah met her 11 year old special needs brother Aaron, who was both excited to meet her, and a little bit jealous of this tiny, demanding person who was requiring so much of his mother’s attention. Between an infection in her surgical scar, and a monitor that sometimes went off every half hour or hour, Brenda wasn’t getting much sleep.
She didn’t have much help either, because her mother had passed away not long before the birth, and she was a single mom. When her baby was 6 weeks old, she learned that she was going to have to move soon because the building she lived in was being sold. By this point, she was still under doctors orders not to lift anything over 10 lbs. She had no savings and no family to help her.
Then the transmission on her car went out.
It was a bit overwhelming, and Brenda called a friend, crying about the series of unfortunate events. Her friend offered to try to help her. Her friend was a bit naive, and called CPS to help the new mama, believing that their role was to help parents in time of need. That is when the problems really started.
An Unwelcome Knock on the Door
Brenda was not nearly as naive as her friend. She was stunned and terrified when a pair of social workers knocked on her door. One of them convinced her that her friend explained everything, and they were just there to help. She let them come in, if nothing else to show them that she had a well-kept, safe home with plenty of provisions for her children. One worker talks to her while another went searching through her house. When Brenda asked her to stop, she allegedly told her, “we are just checking to see if we need to bring you anything.”
Psychological Diagnosis by Social Worker
While one social worker proceeded to check closets, cabinets, bathrooms, and more, the other allegedly decided that Brenda was suffering from post-partum depression, and told her so, even though she is not a doctor or licensed medical provider with the ability to diagnose. Brenda told her that she did not have PPD, that she was “just stressed out about where and how to move so unexpectedly.”
However, the social worker insisted that she had post-partum depression and needed to find a family member to watch the children so that she could go to the hospital. Under protest, Brenda gave the name of her nearest relative, a distant uncle. The worker called him, and he and his wife agreed to take the children temporarily. Brenda believed that they would find nothing wrong with her if she went to the hospital, but hopefully if she agreed to go there to confirm that, it would get CPS off of her back so they would leave her alone. She signed the papers stating that she was voluntarily agreeing to go to the hospital.
Children Taken by CPS
While Brenda was packing things “for a few days,” the social worker came back into the room, stating that there was a “change of plans; we are taking the children.” The uncle had called back saying that they were only able to take one of the children, not both. Therefore, CPS was going to take them because they didn’t want to separate them. (At least at that time.)
Accused of Suicidal Ideation
When Brenda reacted predictably as a mama bear, telling them “over my dead body, you will take my kids,” the social workers allegedly tied that statement to a discovery made in Brenda’s medicine cabinet. They found NyQuil and a prescription medication, Flexaril, which had been prescribed for her sciatica. That combination of medicines, combined with her statement, was allegedly taken as indication that Brenda was “suicidal, with a clear plan” to commit suicide. This was allegedly used as the grounds for asserting that Brenda’s children were in “imminent danger.”
Police were called in to back up the social workers when Brenda became upset, but the officer allegedly told CPS that they were not doing the right thing, and that this was obviously a good mother. He allegedly stated that the children were well-cared for, clean, with plenty of food and baby supplies to last for some time. Further, reports Brenda, he told the social worker that “all this mother needs is some help with housing and moving; that isn’t a reason to take and traumatize her children.” The social workers were unmoved and proceeded with taking Brenda’s son and baby girl into state custody.
Brenda assures Health Impact News that she was, in no way, suicidal. She was stressed, yes, but like everything else in her life before, she was determined to overcome and find a way to make it through.
She never had that chance.
Doctors Find Nothing Concerning
After she spent several days in the hospital, she was released. The medical doctors found no suicidal ideation or behavior, and only mild depression, with “postpartum exacerbation.” She had experienced a great deal of stress since her baby had been born, but it was nowhere near approaching anything like postpartum psychosis, or anything that would be dangerous to her children or her. One nurse allegedly told her that she did not need to be there, and Brenda was permitted to sign herself out of the hospital.
Despite this, her children were not returned. Brenda met with the social worker supervisor and her caseworker shortly after she got home, and she asked when her children would be returned. The supervisor told her that it doesn’t work that way in Kentucky. She would have to work a case plan in order to get the kids back, and those took anywhere from 6 months to a year or more.
Neglect Charge Added
Brenda missed a doctor’s appointment for the baby, but that was because it was scheduled for the day that CPS took the children from her. Nonetheless, a charge of neglect was added to the allegations against Brenda. That charge includes allegations that she neglected her own mental health, even though previous evaluations have allegedly found no issues. She reports that her court-appointed attorney stipulated, or agreed, on her behalf to the neglect charge. She fired her on the spot. She now has a private attorney.
Targeted by CPS Because She Herself Was a Foster Child?
Brenda believes that a major reason that the state refuses to leave her family alone is rooted in her prior history with CPS. That history has nothing to do with her being an unfit parent, but everything to do with her being a former foster child herself.
She says that the CPS position is that she is “damaged” because of her childhood, which was largely spent in foster care. She says that being a former foster child makes a person an automatic target for CPS. It has become clear to Brenda that the social workers believe that:
A person who has been through all the things that she has been through couldn’t possibly be sane.
Brenda was taken from her mother for the first time at 18 months of age, and was bounced around for years between relatives’ homes, foster homes, and her mother’s house. She reports that her mother was charged with, and convicted of, child abuse, several times, for which she served jail time.
Brenda tells the story often repeated by other children who have been part of the foster care system – she encountered even worse abuse in foster care than she had at home. Yet, she says that when she reported the abuse she suffered in CPS care, she was ignored.
Despite Her Wounds, She Has Overcome
She was out on her own by age 16, living on the streets, sleeping in junk cars, under bridges, or wherever she could find. She found a job and applied for public housing assistance. She was able to get her first apartment on the day she turned 18, and bought her first used car at age 21.
With such a rough start in life, Brenda was determined to overcome, and make something better of her life. She has worked hard to do so, through all of the struggles and battles. She is a strong person who chose never to turn to drugs or alcohol, instead focusing on helping others. Brenda is well-respected among people who know her, and her faith is strong.
She has a heart of gold, reaching out and encouraging people. She cares deeply for people, advocating for other families regularly. A skilled researcher, Brenda is a wealth of information about how the CPS system works, helping devastated parents understand what is happening. Because of her advocacy and research, other families have been able to get their children back. However, she is very discouraged that she hasn’t been able to get her own children home. She says that she had done everything that CPS has asked of her, but it never seems to be enough.
It wasn’t enough for her abusive mother, either. After Brenda’s first child was born, she allowed her mother back into her life. She decided that she wanted to have her grandson for herself, so she made complaints to CPS. CPS seemed only too happy to oblige. Incredibly, CPS took Aaron, though there were no signs of abuse, and placed him instead in the custody of a known child abuser. After fighting for many years, Brenda was finally able to win back custody of her son from her mother.
“My Son Is Being Drugged to Death”
Since CPS again became involved, Tanaieah has remained in the same foster home that she was taken to as an infant. Brenda loves her and “want[s] her back with everything within [her].” She was not happy to learn that her baby had ear surgery 8 months ago without anyone telling her until after the fact. However, Brenda says that at least Tanaieah is stable and seems happy when her mother visits her.
Not so her son. The children have now been in foster care for more than 2 years. During this time, Aaron has been moved to 7 different foster homes, and changed schools 5 times. Despite the assertion when the kids were taken that CPS was not going to separate them, Aaron was removed from the first foster home within just a few weeks. He is very unhappy being away from home. Just this week, he told his mother in a phone conversation:
“I want to come home where we can be a family; we were a happy family.”
Aaron is special needs, having been diagnosed with ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, PTSD, anxiety and depression. He is now 14 years old and almost 6 feet tall, but Brenda reports that he is so thin that he looks anorexic. He is allegedly being given a cocktail of medications, including psychotropic drugs. “They keep upping the drugs.” On a recent visit, Brenda reports that he was pale, has dark circles under his eyes, and told her that he was peeing blood. Brenda is very frustrated because she feels like she is watching her son die,
“and I can’t do a damn thing about it. It’s killing me.”
She tries so hard to be strong for Aaron and keep a straight face, but watching her son deteriorate right in front of her eyes is devastating to her. He begs to come home, and he begs to be reunited with his little sister, but CPS is talking about putting them up for adoption, separately. The social worker recently told Brenda that the behavior of her special needs son is “unruly,” and Brenda has learned that the foster mom actually called the police on him. Yet Brenda says that he responds to her, and that she can calm him when he is upset, as only a loving mother can. The longer Aaron is away from home, the more unhappy he has become. Aaron has made it clear to his mother that he refuses to be adopted.
“The happy boy who left my home is no more. When you see him now, it’s like he has no light or joy in him anymore. It’s like he has a flat affect. You can see the misery all over him.”
Aaron Begs to Come Home
As this article was being written, Aaron called his mother saying,
“Mom, you’ve got to help me. Please, just try to get me home.”
Brenda said that she could hear the pain in his voice, as he is desperately reaching out for help. He reported that the foster mother yanked him by his arm and left marks on him, and that she has been telling him that he is a bad child. He also said that the caseworker told him that they are not a family any more, even though the termination of parental rights hearing is almost a month away. If Brenda loses that hearing, her children could be adopted soon.
CPS is Kentucky’s single largest supplier of children for adoption. (Source.)
How You Can Help
A Facebook page has been set up for the family, for supporters to follow their story and offer support – Fight to Bring My Babies Home -Maney Family.
Supporters are encouraged to call the governor of Kentucky and legislators to advocate for the return of Brenda Maney’s children. Governor Steve Beshear may be reached at 502-564-2611, or contacted here.
The Senator for Brenda’s district is Senator Jared Carpenter, who may be reached at 502-564-8100 Ext. 730, or contacted here.
Representative Rita Smart represents her district. She may be reached at 502-564-8100 Ext. 607, or contacted here.
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