We took them from you before: one family's nightmare with mistaken identity and abuse of Child Protective Services.

POOR correspondent - Posted on 18 June 2010

Marlon Crump/PNN
Tuesday, April 22, 2008;

"Why do you have all of your kids? We took them all from you before?" a San Leandro Police Officer spoke roughly to Elsa Maldonado.

Confused and shocked, Elsa watched as the police officers put handcuffs on her husband and wrongly accused him of a crime he didn't commit.

"No one has ever taken away my family before. Get those handcuffs off of my husband he didn't do anything wrong!" she screamed while her husband tried again and again to explain that he didn't know who "Monica" was or why the police were arresting him.

I listened intently as Elsa began sharing her family's struggle with Child Protective Services, a struggle that began over four years ago. It is just one of the many painful C.P.S. stories I've been asked to write for POOR Magazine's Courtwatch column, a media advocacy project dedicated to helping families struggling with C.P.S.

Child Protective Services (C.P.S) continues to systematically sink its claws into the lives of unsuspecting poor families and families of color. In the case of the Maldonado's, the story consists of an uncaring police department, a temporary judge, an ineffective lawyer for a grieving family, a public defender, and a seemingly "sympathetic" city governmental official.

The family's nightmare began when the San Leandro Police Department came to the Maldonado's house wrongly searching for a heroin-addicted mom allegedly named "Monica." The woman they were searching for had no relation to the Maldonado Family did NOT reside at the family's house, yet C.P.S somehow managed to rob the family of their parental, civil and custodial rights.

Literally kidnapped by C.P.S, their children are still held captive to this day. The efforts by Maldonado Family to rescue their children continue to be thwarted by C.P.S and the San Leandro Police Department, with lies and fabricated allegations.

Rene and Elsa Maldonado joined POOR Magazine's Community Newsroom on the evening of April 1st to summarize what has been happening to their family since October 13th, 2004 with the unethical behavior of the C.P.S. and the San Leandro Police Department.

Every time I write someone's story regarding police brutality, my mind almost immediately travels back to October 7th, 2005, to my near-tragic experience with police brutality at the hands of a dozen members of the San Francisco Police Department. Like the Maldonado's experience, mine was also a case of "mistaken identity" and total innocence.

Later in the week, I met with the Maldonados at the San Francisco Main Public Library. During the interview, Elsa fought to drown out her tears. She showed me a picture that was sketched by one of her children in crayon art.

The picture, drawn in a child's innocent hand, depicted penises sticking straight up. This heartbreaking picture revealed every parent's worse nightmare and showed the reality of the Maldonado children's grave situation. I watched the parent's faces crumble with pain as they held the drawing with shaking hands.

Rene Maldonado is originally from Xalapa, Mexico has lived in the Bay Area since 1989, with U.S legal status citizenship. He served five years in the Mexican Army as an officer, and three years a Drug Enforcement Agent (D.E.A). " I didn't like how they were treating people, so I quit the force." Rene explained.

He first met Elsa at the San Francisco Independent Newspaper in July of 1993, where they both worked at the time. He was a driver, while she worked as a receptionist.

A native San Franciscan, Elsa Maldonado once enlisted in the United States Armed Forces, but was given a medical discharge. She felt that the military mislead and lied to her about the "benefits" it offered, but was never informed by the recruiter of the painful tasks and trainings that followed.

Both parents have lead very squeaky clean, lives with hardly any brushes with the law. They married shortly after meeting each other, and raised four children together. They have two boys and two girls, ages 11, 10, 9, and 5.

Rene and Elsa currently live in a mobile home in Manteca, California. Rene currently works as a heavy equipment operator at Waste Management Company, in Livermore, California, while Elsa stayed at home to raise their four kids before C.P.S took them.

According to Rene, he would for some unexplained reason, get frequent traffic stops, and harassments from a San Leandro Police Officer coming from work. One day Elsa witnessed her husband pulled over, just a few away from their home. Two officers flanked Rene, guns drawn.

Fearing the worst, Elsa made a very frantic call to 911, and was very hysterical. "There are two police officers that have their guns on him. They keep telling him that his Honda Civic is stolen, but its not! I demand that you send a police supervisor out there, immediately."

"Every time we even call you people regarding theft incidents at our home, you never show up, or are slow in coming." Their neighborhood was plagued with criminal activities, primarily thefts at their home by neighbors.

She yelled, "If anything, ANYTHING happens to my husband, I will sue you all!" Elsa heart was hammering inside her chest, as the 911 Operator put her on hold, while she eyed her husband's safety at gunpoint by the officers.

A short time later after inquiries were made, the operator apologized to Elsa for the mistake, stating that the California Highway Patrol didn't update the information to the San Leandro Police Department that Rene had purchased his car at a police impound. Rene was released from their custody.

On October 13th, 2004, Rene was outside washing his car, when he was approached by a San Leandro Police Officer. He asked Rene if he got his snake back, and Rene responded that they found them. (Rene owned three pet pythons and reported one stolen two months prior.)

The officer, although he addressed Rene as "Mr. Maldonado" earlier on, he demanded to see his identification. As Rene began to show it to him, another officer jumped him from behind, unprovoked. Both officers brutally whacked him in the back of his head with their batons, while Elsa and the kids pleaded with them to stop. Rene completely blacked out, as a result of the beating.

When he regained consciousness, one of the officers told him that his identification was a fraud. "When was the last time you saw the water from the border?" asked the officer, in a racist and offensive tone while he shoved Rene into the back of his squad car, without any regard to his head injury.

Two unidentified female social workers from the Hayward Department of Human Services confronted Elsa following the incident. They kept mispronouncing Elsa's real name, failed to disclose any identification badges, and falsely documented Elsa as a "heroin addict" even though she has never done drugs in her life.

A woman named Caroline called them and spoke to them, separately. She tried to convince Elsa to admit that Rene was physically abusing her, and promised to have C.P.S return her kids. Elsa refused to give false statements about her husband. Caroline even asked Elsa if she had life insurance policies on them.

The workers then lied about the "unsafe environment" the children were in and the kids were taken from them. Since then the children have been taken re-located to many other foster care homes.

A short time later, their public defender, David Poulioutt gave them a very strange deal: They had to either socialize with members of their community, or their kids would not be returned to them. The Maldonado Family soundly refused the "offer" and ended up moving from the area. They hired a lawyer named Donald Bloom, who took their money, and ineffectively represented them by not arguing in their defense.

Bloom promised to "have their kids back home with them in three weeks" but failed due to his lack of representation, the hearing was postponed for six months. Rene and Elsa fired him on the spot. From what they saw, he purposely did nothing for them.

A judge pro tem (temporary judge) commissioner at the Hayward Superior Court in the Juvenile Dependency Division unexplainably changed his name from "Paul D. Seeman to Robert Seeman, after the hearing was concluded.

Rene and Elsa showed me a picture of their mobile home that was destroyed by the San Leandro Police Department, after it was allegedly reported that they were "trespassing" on the owner's property because of their vacant vehicle.

Without prior notification of the department's intent to demolish, or an eviction notice from the owner, their mobile home was destroyed, in July of 2005, along with the theft of their valuables.

Rene and Elsa met with Oakland Board of Supervisor, Gail Steele in February of 2005 prior to the departmental demolition of their home and explained to her what their situation was, and how no one would help them. Gail seemed to try to entice them to admit family domestic problems that they didn't have.

After speaking with them for some time, Gail suddenly said to them that she would make certain that they both receive "re-unification" with their children. "Why should we have to re-unify with our kids when they stole our kids!" Rene and Elsa said to Gail.

Gail replied, "Don't you see that this is all a game, so play the game and you will get your kids back!"

The Maldonados don't want to play this game. They only want their children back where they are safe and loved.

The Maldonados are seeking legal aid. To help please call 415-863-6306


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