A Texas couple say their infant daughter was wrongfully taken from their home by child protective services and are demanding her immediate return.
At a press conference on Thursday, Rodney and Temecia Jackson said police and county officials showed up at their Dallas County home on March 28 and took their 1-week-old daughter Mila from them, then handed them paperwork that bore the name of a different set of parents whom they’d never heard of. They said they believe Child Protective Services used the troubled history of the wrong mother to justify taking their child.
“I felt like they had stolen my baby as I had had a home birth, and they were trying to say my baby belonged to this other woman,” said Temecia Jackson. She said she was home alone with her 7-day-old daughter when police and CPS officials arrived to take the baby. Her husband had just returned from walking the family dog and was arrested in the front yard after refusing to unlock the door for police, the couple said. He was later released.
A representative from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services told Reckon the department can’t release information publicly because CPS cases are confidential.
Temecia Jackson said she gave birth to Mila at their home on March 21, attended by Cheryl Edinbyrd, a certified professional midwife licensed by the state of Texas. The birth went well, she said, and Mila was born a healthy 6 lbs. 9 oz.
Three days later, the Jacksons said, they took Mila to their pediatrician, Dr. Anand Bhatt, for a checkup. Temecia said Mila was seen by the nurse practitioner, who said Mila looked fine except that she had jaundice, a condition common in newborns in which a baby’s liver isn’t mature enough to remove bilirubin – a substance made during the body’s normal process of breaking down old red blood cells – from the bloodstream. Jaundice typically resolves without medical intervention but can in some cases be more serious.
“We left the visit thinking everything was fine,” said Temecia. “A couple of hours later, the pediatrician called my phone and wanted us to direct-admit Mila to the hospital.”
In a letter to CPS, Bhatt said Mila had a bilirubin level of 21.7, and that “at a bilirubin over 20, a baby risks brain damage, because the bilirubin can cross the blood brain barrier,” according to a report from WFAA. Bhatt wanted Mila to undergo phototherapy at the hospital, which is a standard treatment for jaundice.
What followed was back-and-forth texts and calls between herself and the pediatrician, she said. She told him she and Mila were receiving follow-up care from their midwife and that they would be able to safely treat Mila at home. She said she told him they would follow the care options he’d outlined for them, including making sure Mila got enough breastmilk, providing Mila phototherapy treatment and giving him the contact information for her midwife.
Temecia said Bhatt’s texts became aggressive, and he said if she didn’t take Mila to the hospital he would call CPS.
In his letter to CPS, Bhatt said he filed a report with CPS after multiple attempts to “appeal to the family.”
“Parents are very loving and they care dearly about their baby,” Bhatt wrote in his letter, obtained by WFAA. He was concerned they would not have the right kind of light source for the phototherapy. “Their distrust for medical care and guidance has led them to make a decision for the baby to refuse a simple treatment that can prevent brain damage.”
Police and CPS officials came to the Jackson home twice the following day, the couple said, but the Jacksons refused to let them in the house. In the meantime, Edinbyrd told Reckon, she was monitoring Mila’s case of jaundice. She said Mila was eating well and having regular bowel movements and it appeared the jaundice was clearing up.
On Tuesday, March 28, they said DeSoto police officers and CPS officials came again with EMS and other emergency personnel, while Temecia was home with Mila and Rodney was walking the dog in the neighborhood. Temecia said she refused to let the police in the house and called Rodney. When Rodney arrived at the home, he said officers arrested him when he refused to unlock the door. He said they took his keys to be able to enter the house.
Temecia said officials then took Mila from her arms and handed her an affidavit that had been signed the previous day by the pediatrician. But the affidavit didn’t have Temecia’s or Rodney’s names anywhere on it, she said. Instead, it listed the name and personal history of a woman and man she’d never heard of, she said.
“We don’t know where the mistake was made,” she said, “either by the doctor reporting it or by (child protective services) who took the call. We don’t know who these people (listed in the document as Mila’s parents) are.”
Edinbyrd told Reckon the affidavit includes a history of the woman’s multiple prior interactions with CPS. Temecia said the family has never had prior involvement with child services.
When Reckon called Bhatt’s office for comment, an office employee redirected the call to the patient relations department of Baylor Scott & White Health, the Dallas-based health system that employs Bhatt.
A representative of Baylor Scott & White declined to comment on the case specifically, citing patient privacy, but said, “We do abide by reporting requirements set forth in the Texas Family Code and any other applicable laws.”
The Jacksons say they have contacted their state representative and other officials but have not been able to regain custody of Mila, who turned 2 weeks old on Tuesday and is currently in foster care. Edinbyrd said she got nowhere when she called CPS to tell them they had the wrong mother listed on the paperwork.
“We’re trying to make as much noise as possible to get our daughter back,” said Rodney. “We have been ignored by CPS. We’ve been treated like criminals.
“This is a nightmare I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”
The couple said they’ve only been allowed to see their daughter twice since she was removed from their home. They said that when they visited her on Wednesday, they noticed she had what looked like diaper rash and possible vaginal yeast infection. When they brought that to the attention of CPS workers, they said, CPS brought in a police officer and took Mila away, promising she would be taken to a doctor.
Edinbyrd said Mila is currently with a foster parent the Jacksons do not know, and they are concerned she’s not receiving adequate care. Requests to have Mila transferred to the care of a relative have been delayed, she said.
“This baby is bonding with a perfect stranger,” she said. “If CPS needs to investigate, why not do that while the child is with the mother, or allow the mother to visit the child every day under supervision?”
Research has shown separating a child from her parents can have detrimental, long-term emotional and psychological consequences for the child and the parents. Children of color are disproportionately affected; studies have noted that medical providers and child welfare workers are more likely to report child abuse when the child is Black or Latino.
A virtual court hearing was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Thursday, but Edinbyrd – who was on the hearing’s video call – said that a few minutes before the hearing was supposed to start, the judge in the case rescheduled the hearing for April 20.
It’s unclear what kind of investigation, if any, has been opened into the Jacksons’ case. Edinbyrd said nobody from CPS or any other department has contacted her, even though she is Temecia’s healthcare provider and was caring for Mila after the birth and has their medical records.
“Is nobody seeing what we’re seeing?” she said. “Is nobody looking at this and seeing something has gone wrong?”
Mila is Temecia’s third child – the couple have two older sons – and this was her first experience with home birth. Edinbyrd said the situation with the doctor and CPS is indicative of a medical system that does not respect midwifery care, Black midwifery care and the right of Black mothers to make the choices they feel are best for their families.
The Afiya Center, a Texas-based reproductive justice nonprofit focused on Black women and girls, hosted the Jacksons’ press conference with the Next Generation Action Network, a Dallas-based social justice organization.
“This is a direct violent attack on Black women, Black bodies, Black families,” said Qiana Arnold, a doula who works on Afiya Center’s birth justice team. “The reason why we are here is because of systems and systemic racism. A non-Black physician decided this capable family could not parent their child. This is a violation of their human rights to parent their children.”
The Jacksons still don’t know where their daughter is living, and don’t know when she will be returned to them.
“Mila needs to come home today,” said Edinbyrd. “Her parents need to hold her today. We don’t want to hear ‘wait.’ There’s an injustice being done. Send Mila home today.”
*Updated 4/10/2023 with a response from Baylor Scott & White Health.