Struggles of women take center stage

The case of Carolyn Hill, center, whose young nieces were removed from her home by the Department of Human Services (DHS) and placed in state care until eventually placed in the custody of relatives, was the topic of a forum held at the annual International Women’s Day at Tabernacle United Church in West Philadelphia. –SUBMITTED PHOTO

Tabernacle United Church celebrates International Women’s Day

 

The plight of women around the world was the topic of a forum held at the Tabernacle United Church in West Philadelphia on Friday March 8, in honor of International Women’s’ Day.

Attendants listened to speakers representing various groups and organizations as they discussed the continuing fight for equality.

Documentaries, which detailed various struggles around the world, including Europe, Africa and South America were also presented.

While repression and other inequalities were addressed, the case of Carolyn Hill, whose young nieces were removed from her home by the Department of Human Services (DHS) and placed in state care until eventually placed in the custody of relatives, was the topic of a forum held at the event.

According to Hill, the children, aged 5 ½-months and 1-year-old, were placed in her custody by relatives who decided she should care for the children in the absence of their parents. Hill, who raised five children of her own and has also cared for other relatives in her home in the past, agreed to do so.

According to Hill, initially there was no problem until the agency was changed and another childcare agency assumed review of the case. That was when her troubles began, she said.

While it is against the policy of DHS to discuss ongoing cases or to even acknowledge the existence of particular cases, Alicia Taylor, a DHS employee, suggested the agency doesn’t decide whether or not children are removed from a home. This, according to Taylor, is in the hands of judges.

“Whatever we do is court ordered,” she said. “What happens after that depends on the situation.”

In fact, Taylor noted even when there are allegations of abuse or neglect and such cases have been substantiated, DHS still would not have authority to remove a child.

“We would have to contact the law department, they go to court and they issue the order for us to remove a child,” she said.

Even in such cases when a child is removed from a home, foster care is a last resort, according to Taylor.

“Our first goal, always, is to keep a child with family,” she said. “For instance, if a child is removed from parents, we are going to look for other family resources: uncles, aunts a grandmother, before we place a child in foster care.”

Taylor would not discuss details about the Hill incident.

During the forum, advocate and organizer Celyne Camen, of the group “Every Woman Is A Working Mother Network” spoke about the circumstances of Hill’s case as an example of the need to continue fighting for the equality of mothers.

Camen described her group as an organization, which fights for the right of mothers and against welfare reform laws and has taken up Hill’s case after she contacted the group last year.

“They had taken the children without giving her any notice and, from what we can see, no reason,” she said. “To this day DHS has not given us a real reason why.”

According to Camen, one reason given for the removal of the children from Hill’s home was she did not have a general equivalency diploma (GED).

“We found that to be biased. If you are going to do that than you are going to be taking a lot of children out of families,” she said.

Camen added she has worked with Hill for quite some time and described Hill as very articulate and a compassionate person.

“I would leave my child in her care; she seems to be a regular person,” she said. “There seems to be something else going on here.”

Hill said that she was given no reason why her nieces were removed from her home but a subsequent hearing on the matter was held at family court.

She was not allowed to speak during the proceedings.

According to Hill, she could only sit and listen as allegations were made against her.

During that time, Hill said she has never faced eviction from her home and there were never any allegations of abuse in her case. Hill noted she was in the process of adopting her two nieces when they were removed from her home April of last year. She continues to fight for their return.

“They started lying about everything, saying I was being evicted from my home,” she said. “I was in my home for 14 years.”

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