Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Please Help Reunite This Family

My rational mind cannot make sense of this. This morning, a couple spoke at Community Bible Study and told a story I just cannot wrap my head around.

For 593 days, Major John Jackson and his wife Carolyn have been in a fight with DYFS for their five children. To see and hear the couple, it is unfathomable that they don't have their children. They appear to be a God-fearing and God-honoring family. The husband is in the military and the wife is well-spoken, poised and sincere.

I know that I have only heard their side of the story, and I know that I can be naive, always believing the best in people. But even if only a kernel of their story is true, this is still an outrageous travesty and miscarriage of justice. I will try to make sense of it.

The back story: In 2006, the Jacksons, who already had three biological children, adopted a little boy named Joshua. He was born addicted to drugs and six-months premature. In his short life, he endured multiple hospital visits (during one of which he developed MRSA) and multiple surgeries. In 2008, he died from a congenital seizure disorder.

According to the Jacksons, the death was investigated by both State and Federal agencies (because they lived on a military base), as per protocol, and they were cleared of any culpabilities in his death.

A month after Joshua's death, the couple became foster parents to two little girls (their cousins) under an interstate agreement between Indiana and NJ DYFS. They had to pass home studies and DYFS scrutiny and in July 2009, the Jacksons formally adopted the two girls. The next month, John was deployed to Iraq.

For Thanksgiving and Christmas, with John still in Iraq, Carolyn took their five children to visit family in Indiana. When they returned home in January, the entire family came down with the flu. The baby, Chaya, was taken to the hospital and treated for extreme dehydration. In follow-up visits with the family doctor, the child was diagnosed with failure to thrive, and underwent monthly doctor visits and blood draws.

The injustice: In April 2010, Chaya became sick again, and was taken to St. Clare's hospital in Dover, N.J., then transferred to Morristown Memorial Hospital. There, a social worker who remembered the couple from Joshua's trips to the hospital, became suspicious ad contacted DYFS. According the Jacksons, the social worker failed to check records and told DYFS that Joshua died at home (instead of in the hospital where he actually died) and was cremated before an autopsy (which he actually had).

Instead of verifying the facts, DYFS did the unthinkable. They removed all the children from their care, citing imminent danger. They did not get a court order or followed the routine channels. Instead they took all five children from their home and split them into three homes. The children were denied comfort items from home. As a mom, the thought of Dan being denied his puppy and blanket — because they are reminders of home — is completely unfathomable. The kids were also denied family prayer books and even their Bibles.

The unbelievable: The DYFS that took these children from their home is the same Social Service organization that failed to act on allegations of abuse of children who ultimately died in both Newark and Irvington. Is the agency overcompensating now? If so, I think they are sorely off the mark.

John and Carolyn Jackson appear to be upstanding, Godly people. They are well spoken. They are hurting. They are standing firm on God's promises with a faith I hope I am never forced to display.

I feel very powerless that there isn't more I can do to bring justice for this family. I can send a letter to Gov. Christie. I can pray. I can send money for their legal fund. But that, and this little blog to try to bring awareness, really doesn't feel like much.

I heard they have a Facebook page, but I couldn't find it. I did find links to other articles about the Jackson Seven:

Please pray that this family can be reunited soon. (And please, hug your kids extra tight!)

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