Feltonville: Bereaved Mother Faces Endless Turmoil

Mural memorializes the deaths of Brown's family.


Janice Brown still remembers what it felt like to hear the phone call that would change her life.

Mural memorializes the deaths of Brown's family.

She was told her daughter Latoya and granddaughter Rimanee were in a car accident. She fell to her knees and screamed, feeling the hot panic course through her veins. She found out later her other granddaughter Aailayah was also killed. The rest of the night passed in a haze of crushed metal, hospital rooms and broken bodies. Almost a year has gone by since that terrible night in June.

“It just seems like it was yesterday. It is something a parent could never forget,” Brown said.

She received support from the Feltonville community who banded together to support the bereaved. A memorial was erected on Third Street near Annsbury Street, the site of the accident. A local artist painted a mural with the girls’ names on the wall of the accident.

“The community has been more supportive than anybody,” Brown said.

Brown felt the pain with her every day, but knew that she had to be strong for the children in her care.

If this pain was not enough, Brown’s tragedy continued. On Dec. 9, 2009, Brown’s grandchildren were taken out of her custody. She had raised Zyeem Hill, Envy Smith and Kyshone Smith for the past three and one-half years, but they were taken away with just an hour’s notice.

The Department of Human Services’ reasoning for this seizure was some reports from 17 years ago when Brown was raising her children. The reports sited a leaking roof, a cracked window, no hot water for a short time and children begging for food, which was actually just the kids taking the free lunches and snacks offered to the community. Brown felt betrayed by the city that had shown her so much support during her crisis.

“Just to have the city support you in one thing and then rip your grandchildren out of your life and arms,” Brown said. “It hurts and you don’t know who to trust no more.”

While the three children were in her care, Brown had received good report after good report. The only negative reports were for truancy, which Brown provided verified reasons to excuse the absences. There was no court order explaining why the children were taken.

“We still don’t know what led them to take my grandchildren away,” Brown said.

Brown goes through endless paperwork about her grandchildren.

Since her grandchildren were taken Brown has faced a whirlwind of judges, caseworkers, lawyers and paperwork.

“There are so many judges on the cases and caseworkers. It’s so confusing,” Brown said.

Different judges keep popping up to review the case and they do not know the full story. Brown contacted countless child advocate lawyers, but all claim it is a conflict of interest. She went to a private lawyer who charged her $600 for two hours. She used up all her savings and is now back to doing it on her own.

With little help and information, Brown stays up all night researching DHS policies to determine what was done right and what was wrong. She goes through pages of information looking for a reason or explanation. She sometimes calls her fiancé Maurice West at 3 a.m. to let him know what she found out.

“All that’s going on, she needs someone to talk to,” West said. “I’m that listening ear.”

Brown keeps trying all avenues to get her children back. She spoke to Philadelphia Daily News and Fox29 to make pleas to Mayor Nutter to help her. At her daughter and two grandchildren’s funeral, he had promised to help her if she ever needed anything.

“I made a plea to the mayor. The time I really needed him I got no response,” Brown said. “I needed him to help me get my grandchildren back.”

After the article in The Daily News appeared, Brown did receive some hope. After seeing the article, DHS moved to have reunification between Brown and her grandson Kyshone. Brown can now have visitations with 4-year-old Kyshone and will be reunited with him at the latest in July.

Despite this good news, Brown is faced with the troubling news that Envy and Zyeem have been put on the fast track for adoption.

“How can I get back one and not the other two?” Brown asked.

Envy and Zyeem were put in separate cases from Kyshone. Brown managed to stop the process of adoption for Kyshone, but Envy and Zyeem were put up earlier. Brown sent a letter last week asking if the cases would be put together to avoid all this confusion.

“If they are from the same house, they should be the same case,” West said.

What worries Brown the most is how Envy and Zyeem are doing away from her. She has not seen them since they were taken from her in December. She wonders if the foster parents kiss them good night or tell kids that they love them. She dreams of the day that she can hold them in her arms again.

“They don’t realize what they’re doing to these children. They need their family” Brown said. “They need to be loved. They need to be brought back home where they belong.”

Brown makes rings and bracelets to keep her mind busy.

Brown fights the pain she feels by making sure she always keeps busy. Recently she started making brightly colored, pipe cleaner bracelets and rings for a fundraiser. She hopes to make enough money from selling the bracelets to buy a tombstone for her daughter and two grandchildren. She also wants another mural to be painted at the scene at the accident. When she twists the pipe cleaners into rings, the tension eases a little from her face.

“This is my therapy or I open up my bible,” Brown said while making her crafts.

Brown also relies on her faith to get her through this tragic period. Every day she reads her Bible or listens to recorded scripture.

“God gives her strength and she doesn’t fall to weakness,” West said. “I just see her getting stronger.”

Brown plans to keep fighting to regain her grandchildren. Even afterwards she wants to protest the laws that put her in this situation. She wants the families out there going through the same situation to know they are not alone.

“Let’s get together and fight. If you know you did nothing wrong you got to fight,” Brown said.

[soundslide url=”https://smcsites.com/soundslides/uploads/sp1022feltonvillesoundslidesjanicebrown/” height=550 width=600]

Wellness Center Provides Peace in Troubled Neighborhood


The Wellness Center stands alone as the only therapy center in Feltonville.

Patient files grow and waiting rooms fill as Feltonville residents discover the Multicultural Wellness Center on Wyoming Avenue.

The center provides therapy for adults, children, parents, couples and families. It is the only psychological center in the area where residents can seek help.

“The center is a place where people can relax and know that whatever their problem is, we can help them make it through,” said Pamela Wells, a cognitive therapist at the center.

The staff at the center helps with a variety of problems such as anger management, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, hyper-activity in children and eating disorders. Many patients have experienced physical, mental and sexual abuse. Others have witnessed multiple deaths and financial problems.

According to the World Health Organization, although mental disorders occur in all economic classes, they are most common in communities with low socio-economic status. Feltonville falls easily into this group since 36 percent of its residents fall below the poverty line with the reported average income in 2008 listed as $27,452.

Referrals from Community Behavioral Health, the local schools and walk-ins build up the client list of the center. Since their opening last year, they have received a steady flow of clients.

“When I first started here we had 200 clients and now we have about 600,” Wells said.

Although the center provides a number of services, most of the clinicians specialize in family therapy.

Dr. Jose Bautista advises people on the best methods of care.

“When you don’t have a good support in the house you grow many problems,” said Jose Bautista, the clinical supervisor.

Bautista stated that many of the problems in the Feltonville community arise from dysfunctional families.

“When you deal with the family situation, you get to the core of a lot of problems,” Wells said.

The family members typically attend the same therapy sessions to work out problems, but individual therapy with the parents and children is also common.

Children are often referred from the schools for hyper-activity, aggressive behavior and anger. The children participate in the center’s dance, music and art therapies. Bautista said that the music therapy helps to work out the excess energy while also increasing concentration and focus.

“We are open to helping everyone, especially the kids,” Bautista said.

Civil Air Patrol commander advises kids on benefits of program.

The center also participates with the Civil Air Patrol cadet program that tries to keep kids off the street and off drugs. Recruiters come and give talks to prospective adolescents who might be interested in joining the program. The program participants are taught how to fly and participate in rescue missions.

Like the kids, many of the adult patients suffer from anger issues and must attend group anger management meetings. The clinicians teach relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, positive thinking skills, problem-solving and stress management.

During the warm months the groups are filled with people who are told to attend the sessions.

Scott Schieman, a professor of sociology, reported that people in low income communities have a much high propensity toward anger and aggression. This anger can be linked the high amount of crime in the Feltonville community.

Bautista stated that about 80 percent of the clients suffer from anger issues and attend anger management therapy sessions.

“When a person has anger, they are more likely to suffer a heart attack or panic attack,” Bautista said. “We try to lengthen the life.”

Wells typically sees improvement in her patients after a month of therapy. Many people become more open with talking about their problems, maintaining eye contact and practicing the various stress reduction techniques.

“Hopefully, they will find that the things we do will benefit them in long run and not just now,” Wells said.


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  2. DEAR MAYOR MICHAEL A. NUTTER, ‎Saturday, ‎April ‎02, ‎2011

    Upon your request: At the breakfast I attend, held by Pastor Goins, for running City Officials. You asked me to submit to you all documents and proof of what DHS did to me and my family illegally.

    When children or youth cannot safely remain at home, they are most often placed temporarily in the homes of relatives- kin – or licensed foster parents. Me, the “resource families,” as I have come to be called, have some of the most challenging and emotionally draining roles in the entire child welfare system. (No one took that into consideration when they came and illegally removed my 3 grandbabies without a court order on Dec 9, 2009, as I was providing the love and care from day one for my loving grandbabies). The Judge, (Kevin M. Dougherty) DHS, (Anne Marie Ambrose) City Solicitor, (Lyris Young) Child Advocate, (Fred Faber) Adoption Unit (Yamine Trotty).
    When accepting a child into your home any time, manage a wide array of behaviors she or he presents, and cope with agency regulations, policies and paperwork. You are also expected to provide mentoring, support and aid to families. I serve as parent, counselor, healer, mentor, role-model and disciplinarian. I was expected to attend meetings and classes at the agency, school and medical appointments, case reviews and court hearings. (When my grandbabies was illegally removed, for the eight months up until the day they was illegally adopted off with, no visitation, no contact, no due process and etc. I was denied courtroom entrance after the emergency hearing thereafter, they still; to this day, cannot give us a reasonable reason as to “WHY” they removed them from my home.
    Foster families need to acknowledge and truly believe that they are critical members of the child welfare system (I truly believed my role was important and I did my Job as a grandmother/kinship provider for my babies, DHS had me to believe along with Friendship house that we was a teamwork. Serving in the best interest of the children.)
    You should expect to be treated as peers and professionals, stated in their policy and procedures. (How can one express to you to follow their rules and regulations, when they themselves violates their own policies.) I was called upon to be role models, mentors and coaches; helping families acquire the skills needed for their children to be safely returned to them. (Then why wasn’t I given the same opportunity with my other two grandbabies that was illegally removed and illegally adopted off to strangers, Envy Smith & Zyeem Hill, although there were no safety reasons or cause for their removal.) One grandchild was returned after being away for 8 months( Kyshone Smith,) all 3 was removed on Dec, 9th 2009 Kyshone returned after a short court battle on April 30, 2010 and on Oct 13, 2010 the other two was adopted off. I was not given family service planning, I was denied court room entrance, no visitation, no phone contact, no due process, no attorney support, there was no eminent danger reported, Civil rights violated, I was treated as though I was a criminal. In the past it was acceptable for children to remain in foster care for a long period of time—even into adulthood. This is no longer acceptable, when children cannot be reunited with their families in a timely way, foster parents will be the first approached about being a permanent resource for the child.
    Kinship Care: Relatives faces Special Challenges
    When a child’s situation requires DHS to place her/him outside of the home. It is DHS policy to first consider relatives or other individuals that have an existing significant relationship with the child and/or parents, provided they are able to meet foster home requirements. It is also called” “kinship Care.” (Zyeem and Envy was not given that opportunity, there was family members who was at the hearing on Dec 17, 2009 which was the first appearance in front of a judge, (Kevin M. Dougherty) family who was willing to take them in until I was able to get them back, but that did not happen and they was not allowed in the courtroom, no reason was given as to why my family was denied entrance. Although, I may not have been seeking this role at that time in my life. However, I have embraced the opportunity and challenge to be there in a time of need for the family and my grandbabies. I was meeting the needs of the children I love while responding to the requirements of the agencies and courts, which was no easy task. My grandbabies was in my home for 3 1/2 years when they decided to remove them for back accusations dated back 15 years ago, due to poverty to home. Those issues did not challenge them to remove my 7 children, but 15 years later they come and remove my grandbabies that weren’t yet born. They were aware of the accusations when they put them in my custody a day later. They resided with me in July 2006, the next day, the children was removed after 1 day of being in my care, 72 hours later we went before a Judge who ordered that they be returned back to me. 3 1/2 years later I was tried again for the same issue, My question is, how can you tried or sentence a person twice for the same thing they was acquitted of, when you cannot tried a criminal for the same crime twice. My grandbabies were placed in my home in 2006 of a kinship caregiver on an emergency basis, after a satisfactory initial assessment is completed of me and my home. Also it was ordered by the Judge, ( Lisa Ricochet ) this includes State Police and Child Line clearances and on – site – home evaluation. My home was and has been in full compliance with all foster care requirements or the children must be moved to a home that does meet these standards. {Why my grandbabies were removed 3 1/2 years later if I met all requirements, and why was one returned and not the other two.} A DHS worker and a worker from a private kinship agency were assigned to work closely with me and the children, along with the parents in meeting the child/rens needs. (MS Clorissa Moore, Dhs and MS Patricia Jackson, from Friendship house worked on the case for Zyeem, Envy, and Kyshone.) (MS Ella Presler and Mr. Major Vanpelt were on Kyshone case from Dhs). Fred Faber Esq. was Zyeem and Envy’s advocate and Patricia Korey was Kyshone’s
    Advocate, while Judge Wolfe was Kyshone’s Judge. Let me also stress that there was 4 Judges on this case back and forth, who all was in agreement to treat me this criminally without viewing any of my evidence or documents. Except one “Judge Wolf” who saw differently. Lyris Young tried to have the cases consolidated, Judge Wolf expressed that Kyshon’s case will remain with her. Judge Wolf, ask DHS and City Solicitor, etc., to show reason for emergency removal as to why they was removed. ( Their answer was,” Oh” you will have to talk to MS Yamine Trotty, she has the reasons. 4 months later, next court hearing for Kyshone, the same question was raised and their answer then was, “we lost it.” Another 4 months later, when asked again, counselors ask to proach the bench, Judge called a short recess, all stepped into her chamber, returning about 15 mins later. DHS and City Solicitor stated, we don’t see reasons why Ms Brown grandson shouldn’t be returned to her. I began weeping in tears, thinking; WHY? All THIS PAIN AND SUFFERING ENDURED ON ME AND MY GRANDBABIES FOR WHAT!!!!
    As a foster parent, I had three major sets of responsibilities:
    1. Meet the everyday needs of the children in my home
    2. Participate as a full partner in the child’s team to plan for the achieve safety and timely permanency.
    3. Preparing and supporting child/ren as they transition from your home to another home, whether that is the home of their family, another relative, another foster home, a residential treatment facility, and adoptive home or a permanent legal custodian. (I was not given the opportunity to fully do my duties, they was stripped away from me for no danger, safety, abuse, neglect or other reason appropriate.) It was as if I was fired, for doing my Job, my pass had no negative effect on my present, nor my future. If anything, I gained positive effect from my pass.
    Six months prior to them removing my grandbabies, I lost my daughter and 2 other grandbabies that are known to the public as” THE FELTONVILLE FOUR, but know to the family as “THE 3RD ST ANGELS.” THANK YOU MAYOR MICHAELNUTTER, for attending their funeral. Although I was going through this tragic time in my life, I was still able, “Through the grace of Almighty God” to maintain my family with my Son and grandbabies. Giving them all the support they needed, this is what I was trained to do. While on the other hand seeking support and strength from God, fiancée, church members and family. I received a supported complement from one of the workers in her document, stating, Ms Brown is coping well with children after the death of her daughter and grandbabies. To have these people come in and cause more tragedy to me and my family was heart and gut wrenching. I continue the fight for my other two grandbabies, but each appeal I petition was squashed by Judge Kevin Dougherty. Finally, after my story was aired on Fox 29 news and in the Daily Newspaper, a lawyer, Mr. Will Braveman offered his assistance. On Sept 24, 2010 he did motion to Intervene, appealed the Judge decision and etc., for Zyeem and Envy’s next upcoming court hearing; which was on Dec 1, 2010. Thirteen days later on Oct 26, 2010 we found out that the court date was changed to Oct 13, 2010 without any notification to me or my Attorney, that’s when they was Illegally adopted off to strangers, also the children lawyer was not present during the adoption proceedings. (Fred Faber Esq.) I have all the documents to prove my case and witnesses (News reporter, Attorney, Agency workers, one DHS worker, City Counsels, etc.) who can support my claim, as to how me and my grandbabies Civil Rights, Rights to know, Constitutional Rights, No due process and etc. was violated for no reason………..It is also documented that Judge Kevin M. Dougherty put on documented paper at the one hearing, ( I am not doing this to have you lose your other 3 grandbabies, but I am doing this because of the number of family member’s you lost; I think you should seek grief counseling. (We’ll, even though I did not need grief counseling) out of consideration to his request, I did seek the counseling for one year, thinking it would be counted as another positive reaction towards my babies return. (I now believe that was a lie, he planned all along with the DHS worker and City Solicitor to not return them from the beginning.)
    P.S. May I also stressed, THAT THIS IS ONLY A PIECE OF OUR STORY!!! The threats and retaliation is another story…..Please, In the name of Jesus, I just want my grandbabies back home safe. My mission is to rescue innocent children falsely removed from their loved ones for no reason, who may wind up in the hands of real abusers, rapist, sex offenders, torturers and etc.

    Thank You
    Ms Janice Brown and Grandbabies.
    (267) 596-2223 or (215) 900-5741

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