Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee Mom Waits for Answers while the State Profits from her Pain

Greta Nunez

For many, January 1st marks new beginnings and renewed optimism, a time for reflection and appreciation. Many people around the world ushered in the New Year surrounded by family and loved ones with hope and optimism for what lies ahead. But for thousands of Milwaukee parents, it just marked one more year without their children as they wait for answers from Child Protective Services.

With no end in sight to when these answers might be provided, these families are struggling to stay positive and many are struggling not to lose hope.

For over a year, one Milwaukee woman, who we'll call J* has been desperately waiting for her child to be returned to her. After admitting to a counselor that she was struggling with postpartum depression, CPS came and took "temporary" custody of the baby, claiming that J was an unfit mother.

Despite her tireless efforts in trying to meet all the court's requests and fulfill the necessary programs and paperwork, she finds herself in exactly the same situation she was when her baby first left the hospital: separated.
Time PassingPhoto byLanguage Made Visual

Several months have gone by since J completed her court-ordered parenting classes and the State has only accomplished one thing- issuing J an order to pay child support.

As time keeps passing and her child grows older and bigger, and the courts continue to set more and more court dates. And why wouldn't they?

Every month that the State keeps a parent and child apart is another month that they can turn pain into profit.
Pain over ProfitPhoto byLanguage Made Visual

Unfortunately, this problem is not new, nor is it limited to Milwaukee.

A woman in Orange County, California had her child taken away due to a domestic abuse situation. Though she was just as much a victim of this abuse, she was charged $150 a month in child support, which eventually grew to $8,000 due to interest. She was only able to pay a small amount at a time, resulting in it taking her over 30 years to pay off the debt.
Strong man, Surreal ConceptPhoto byfrancescoch | Getty Images

In Minnesota, one woman is still working to pay off a bill of almost twenty thousand dollars.

Daisy Hohman followed the county caseworkers' outlined plan in 2018, carrying out all necessary steps to have her children returned. She attended family therapy sessions and went through random drug tests, however, the court's slow proceedings resulted in a bill of almost $20,000. Rhia Bornmann Spears, the Minneapolis family law attorney who represented Hohman, said the children wanted to come home and after a twenty-month-long wait, the kids were given back to their mother.
Climbing ProfitPhoto byCanva

"It's unjust," said Bornmann Spears. "Leaving them in the foster system meant the bill kept increasing month-to-month, resulting in that immense total of $19,530."

While time marches on, bringing with it new stages of life for her child—rolling over, crawling, walking— J has has lost hope in a system meant to "protect" families- a system that "protects" its financial interests alone.

* Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.

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Greta Nunez is a writer who is passionate about taking complex legal topics and making them accessible to everyone - regardless of background or education level.

New Berlin, WI

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