By ICNA Relief staff
JAMAICA, New York (January 11, 2012) – A grave error in the system occurred when a widow’s four children as well as a grandchild were removed from her care and placed into foster care due to accusations of neglect by New York City’s Administration of Child Services (ACS).
Samina K., a Pakistani immigrant mother of five, had four of her children as well as her 18-year-old daughter’s child taken away last week. The children ranged from seven to two years old. Already bereaved by her husband’s death only a year ago, she and her eldest child, who is 18, have been devastated by the separation of their family. Rather than providing supportive services and allowing the family to recover after the death of their sole provider, the children were removed from their mother’s care by ACS based on flimsy allegations of neglect that have yet to be supported. The courts have already ruled that no abuse took place yet the children remain in foster care.
After the death of Samina’s husband, the family traveled to Pakistan, returning to the United States only several months ago. Unable to find employment and exhausting their savings, this now single mother and her children found themselves homeless. Placed in a family shelter in the Bronx, NY the widowed mother scrambled to rebuild a life for her children. With her green card set to expire, she was forced to seek public assistance.
Sill mourning the loss of her husband, she was attempting to navigate through the public welfare system of the City of New York with a very limited understanding of the English language. On one occasion she was late picking up her children from school due to a lengthy line at the food stamp office; this would later be used against her in the department’s claim of neglect. ACS’s claims are minor yet this family remains separated during a crucial time in their lives, after losing a husband and a loving father.
The allegations of neglect that have been made against Samina are minor and do not constitute the removal of her children. ACS failed to evaluate the situation properly and did not take the time to provide any type of services for this family—services that may have alleviated many of the concerns the department had about the children. For example, the children were behind in their immunizations. Upon returning to the United States, Samina had applied for medical insurance and had a scheduled appointment with a pediatrician—an appointment that was made before ACS became involved. Another allegation is that the ACS worker, upon visiting the family, observed the stove turned on being used for heat. The mother had attempted to complain to the building superintendent to no avail. The ACS worker stated that she should have called the 311 heat hotline, a difficult task for someone with limited English language skills who was unaware that such a hotline existed.
If ACS had taken the time to provide culturally sensitive services and support for this family, they would have been able to deal with the loss of their devoted husband and father while attempting to achieve some level of self-sufficiency. Mourning the death of a spouse is difficult as it is; doing it alone in a foreign country compounds those difficulties.
ICNA Relief USA is working with the widow to ensure she receives the services she needs to regain custody of her children and begin a new life here in the United States. We are providing referrals to grief counseling, financial support, interpretation assistance and advocacy on this poor widow’s behalf. No one should be forced to go through the death of a husband alone and then have their children taken away. Please support ICNA Relief USA so that we may be able to continue to assist clients such as Samina.