FIJ Quarterly - Fall 2022 Edition

What would you want the child welfare system to know? I would want them to understand that families are not perfect, but we stand together and believe in each other. The system needs to know that many people of color and black communities face poverty and crime and would be rejected for licensure. It’s not fair to judge families this way. I am a single mom doing my best for my children. I would also like the court to know that adoptions don’t

considered her a danger, they took Josiah. They didn’t give us a chance!

always work because Josiah wanted to be with us even though his foster parent cared for him. I would like the courts to trust black families more and believe in us. _________________________ Jey Rajaraman is an attorney and Management Consultant for Family Integrity & Justice Work at Public Knowledge ® . Prior to that, she worked tirelessly for families in the child welfare system as chief counsel of the Family Representation Project at Legal Services of New Jersey.

his family. I was willing to be licensed, and I took every class they mandated, but DCPP still gave me a hard time. How did you feel about the court process? I wasn’t allowed to come to court. I couldn’t be heard by the judge or court because I was the grandparent. I had to get an attorney so that the court could hear how DCPP wouldn’t consider me because of financial reasons. Through my attorney, we filed to get the case so that I could be heard regarding custody and visitation. I went to court with my son—it was so hard to see Josiah in the hallways of the courthouse. He would run to us and grab us. He even did this once in front of the judge—they had to pull him off of my neck! What was it like to not have your grandson? I was broken! I couldn’t believe that I couldn’t take care of him or help my son. I am a nurse and have no criminal history. I am active in my community and go to church. I was denied because of not making enough money and some past history where there was no litigation. What was it like to watch your son and his wife go through this? I felt horrible watching my son and his wife deal with DCPP. My son was deemed to be low- functioning, with a low IQ, and my daughter- in-law struggled with drug use and has a history with the Division. No one worked with them. I felt like they judged her because of her history and my son because he loved her. I felt judged because I defended them. I felt like I had to choose between my grandson and my son. Like, if I really loved my grandson, I couldn’t defend his parents. I didn’t understand why it felt like I was being asked to choose. Can you tell us about your grandson? Josiah is the best grandson ever. He loves to color, read, and sing. We take him to swim classes, and we travel to see family in Jamaica. He is so happy and kind. He loves his parents too!

How did you feel when he was separated from your family?

I saw Josiah one time. I was devastated when they took him away after a two-hour visit. I had no idea how the system worked at the time. I watched my son and his wife go to several meetings, doctor’s appointments, and other visits with no sign of getting Josiah back. One day I was contacted by a man from DCPP who asked me for a few relatives or friends that would possibly adopt Josiah. I gave him the names and numbers of several people, but they never hear from anyone......still no Josiah! How did you gain custody of him? DCPP took Josiah from his family because his father has a low IQ and his mother struggled with drug use. I wanted him with me right away! DCPP denied placing him with me and placed him with a stranger, because DCPP said I couldn’t be licensed for adoption. After three years, I got my own lawyer from New Jersey legal services. My life changed after I got an attorney. Not only did she get me longer visits with my grandson, but she also got me overnights with him while she fought for me to have custody of Josiah. With her help, support, and advocacy, I was finally granted legal guardianship of Josiah. DCPP gave me a hard time, but I endured. I am grateful for my attorney and the team at legal services. Why couldn’t you be licensed? I was told I didn’t make enough money and some past history where there was no litigation. I also defended my son and didn’t want his rights to be terminated. I thought we could live and work together. I was made to feel like I was wrong for loving my son. I told them I would take care of Josiah without foster care payments or adoption subsidies. I told DCPP that I did not need the financial support in order to take care of my grandson. However, I was open to whatever background checks and licensing requirements necessary. I just wanted my grandson to be with me and


78 | FIJ Quarterly | Fall 2022

FIJ Quarterly | Fall 2022 | 79

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