The Department of Human Services, through its provider agency Concilio, yesterday removed four foster children from the home of a woman who alleged that DHS had coerced one of the children into having a late-term abortion.
About 3:30 p.m., two Concilio employees came to the house, armed with notice of the children's removal.
"As of 5/3/10 your home has been closed as a foster facility due to the incompliance of Concilio's Foster Parent Agency Agreement," read the letter signed by foster-care coordinator Jheovannie Williams, one of the employees who came to the house.
This reporter was on the scene when DHS began removing the foster children. The Mayfair teen who had the abortion; her 1-year-old daughter; another minor, 17; and her son, 1, were packed inside a black van and driven away.
Williams warned the foster mother, whose identity the Daily News is withholding, that trouble was in her future, she said.
"He told me, 'Find yourself lots of money because you're not going to come out from this one very well,' " the foster mother said.
Williams also said that "they were going to sue me," she said. "He said I had to find a lawyer."
The foster mother previously told the Daily News that she had overheard DHS worker Cynthia Brown tell her 16-year-old foster charge, whose name is being withheld because she is a minor, that she would separate the toddler and the unborn child if she went to term.
DHS later obtained a judge's order to allow the teen to get an abortion. Brown drove the teen, who was 24 weeks pregnant, to have an abortion in New Jersey for the first day of the two-day procedure. Abortions in Pennsylvania are illegal once a pregnancy reaches 24 weeks.
DHS paid for the procedure and then requested that two Concilio employees, social worker Marisol Rivera, who has since been fired, and Williams accompany the teen on the second day, Rivera and the foster mother said. Williams drove the Concilio van to the Cherry Hill Women's Center, Rivera and the foster mother said.
Williams refused to comment yesterday when asked about the removal, deferring all calls to Concilio's executive director, Joanna Otero-Cruz.
Calls were not answered at Concilio yesterday afternoon.
Donald F. Schwarz, the city's deputy mayor for health and opportunity, explained in a statement why the four minors had been removed from the house.
"It's now become clear that the foster mother has violated Pennsylvania state law regarding confidentiality [by discussing the teen's case with the newspaper], therefore potentially compromising the safety and well-being of the children in her care," Schwarz's statement read.
DHS Commissioner Anne Marie Ambrose issued a statement late yesterday:
"It is unfortunate that the Daily News decided to print an inflammatory story riddled with inaccuracies. The DHS caseworker involved in this case did nothing wrong, in fact she followed departmental policy and procedure. DHS workers remain neutral in medical situations of this nature and would not coerce or force a child to do something that she does not want to do."
Robin Banister, the teen's child advocate, also issued a statement late yesterday:
"My client was not coerced by DHS or anyone else. . . . She is upset with the false representations reported about her case and she is upset that professionals have violated her right to privacy."
But the foster mother is sticking to her words.
"Me? I'm going to say the truth," she said. "I told [Williams] I'm going to tell the truth."
She and the teen's birth mother, who identified herself as Deborah M., maintained that the girl was excited about having her second child. She discussed a name and told her daughter that she was going to have a little brother, but her tone changed after she talked with Brown, the foster mother said.
The 17-year-old foster child, who had no connection to the case that was reported yesterday, was weeping when she learned she was to be removed from the home, the foster mother said.
The teen at the center of the case came home from school upset at her foster mother because the teen knew that she had talked with the Daily News.