Monday, June 02, 2008

More against CPS: 'Taking baby leaves two'

Pt. 2 in my Charles Meador & Erin Dieudonne series. Pt. 3 and 4 to be published on Wed. and Sat.

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Taking baby leaves two
By Sam Bhagwat
of The Valley Mirror

Willows — What happens to baby when CPS comes knocking?

Before Andrew Dieudonne was taken, “he fed himself, he would wave,” mother Erin remembers. “When they put him in foster care, he stopped doing all of that.”

Andrew was almost 11 months old in January when social workers removed him and put him in foster care. Three months later, workers placed Andrew temporarily with Ms. Dieudonne’s mother, who lives in Chico.

“Now that he’s with my mom he’s started getting better,” Ms. Dieudonne says.

It hasn’t been easy either for her or boyfriend Charles Meador, the man Andrew calls “Dad.”

Immediately afterwards, they were “more stressed out and more depressed,” sleeping 12 hours a day and smoking twice as much. It wasn’t a picnic financially either – losing Andrew, the unemployed Ms. Dieudonne lost her welfare and food stamps.

So while CPS wanted her to rely less on Mr. Meador, she was forced to rely more on him.

“They expected her to have a job in a week,” Mr. Meador commented sarcastically. “In this town?”

It’s a bit better now for them, too, now that Andrew is with his grandmother. Three days a week, Ms. Dieudonne boards GlennRide for the three-and-a-half hour roundtrip to visit her son.

The couple recalls when Charles met Andrew.

“He stuck out his tongue,” Erin says.

Ms. Dieudonne would stick out her tongue when waking Andrew up, so he learned that meant “hi.”

Not too unusual – except that, at the time “there were two men he wasn’t screaming bloody murder at,” the couple says.

That behaviour was because of her ex-husband’s treatment of Andrew, she says.

El Dorado County CPS documents record incidents of Mr. Dieudonne yelling and screaming at Andrew, telling him to “shut up” and shaking him while crying, and in one occasion, spitting on Andrew.

Ms. Dieudonne thinks Glenn County is prejudging Mr. Meador because of her ex-husband’s behaviour.

“They believe because I was in an abusive relationship before, I would be again.”

“They said, ‘if you ever feel endangered (by Mr. Meador), don’t hesitate to call,” Ms. Dieudonne says.

When she says she’s fine, they reply, “‘not from what we heard.’”

Mr. Meador does have a bit of a history. He recalls his reputation around these parts as a “thug, hardened criminal, addict, knife fighter.” He went to state prison for three years on the charge of possessing stolen property.

In his old life, Mr. Meador got involved with crystal meth and other drugs, but said he’s been clean more than five years.

His claims to changing his life are backed by Willows Police Sgt. Carl Walter.

“He was a troublemaker,” Sgt. Walter recalls. “He had a temper, carried a knife; we had to go out on him several times on confrontations downtown.”

“I just remember running into him with an attitude.”

But in the past year, his contacts have been normal.

“He flagged me down at Starbucks, said, ‘Hi, whatcha been doing,’” says Sgt. Walter. He didn’t want to be called Chuck anymore; he wanted to be called Charles.”

“He’s not the same as years ago. As far as I can tell, he’s a changed man.”

And Ms. Dieudonne is full of praise for her partner.

“He’s never raised his hand at me or at Dallas. I’ve seen him angry twice.”

Erin’s CPS worker, Zinnia Petersen, did not return calls seeking comment.

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