PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — “Give us back our kids! Judge Younge must go!”
With their voices raised, family members raised the alarm Thursday afternoon in front of Philadelphia’s Family Court.
They believe this court isn’t where they find justice; it’s where they are denied it.
“These people are heroes,” said Jimmy Binns, a local attorney. “That judge is a disgrace and this entire system is a disgrace.”
Binns says his three grandchildren have been placed in foster care despite his claims that he is capable of caring for them.
Protesters allege that Judge Lyris Younge, among others in the court system, violate due process and rip apart families by silencing them in cases where children could end up in foster care.
“This court, the [Department of Human Services], they’re not about families,” said Candice Valentine of Germantown.
Valentine, 32, says she reached out to the Department of Human Services for help with affordable housing. Instead, she says, DHS placed her now four-year-old daughter in foster care.
“Not because I was a bad parent, not because I abused my child, not because my child my child didn’t go to school, but because I was homeless,” Valentine said.
She says she now has a three-story home, in which she lives with her sons. But she hasn’t seen her daughter since October.
“I’m coming to get my baby If it’s the last thing I do. I’m getting my daughter back,” she said, in tears.
Lisa Mothee of Olney says Younge’s rulings separated her from her five children, who are in the care of a family member.
She gets only four hours per week of supervised visitation.
“[Younge’s] reasons for doing this: truancy, but my son was being bullied in school. The teacher came out three times to speak and she wouldn’t allow the testimony. And medical neglect, because I don’t vaccinate my children,” Mothee said.
The Pennsylvania Superior Court has reversed several of Younge’s decisions.
In one case on March 16, 2016, court documents show the judge refused to allow a mother, who claimed she had felt ill and left the courtroom, to return inside to present her testimony. It also denied her attorney’s request for a five-minute recess.
“Make your case because now she walked out. She didn’t ask permission of the Court. That’s disrespectful considering that this is a critical hearing,” Younge told the attorney, according to court records of the hearing.
The documents show the mother was to complete drug and mental health treatment, receive medical training to better care for her child’s medical conditions, attend domestic violence counseling, and to be consistent with visitation or provide documentation if she could not make the visits.
The case worker noted the mother had not completed any of the objectives.
The trial court ruled the mother would no longer have parental rights to her child, the documents show, and it changed the permanency goal from reunification to adoption.
“Although the trial court might well have believed that DHS presented overwhelming evidence against Mother, the trial court violated Mother’s constitutional guarantee to due process when it precluded her from the opportunity to be heard,” wrote Judge Jacqueline Shogan in a court opinion, reversing Younge’s ruling.
But these mothers say they’re still fighting to be reunited with their children.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. I wake up in silence. I go to sleep in silence,” Mothee said. “I just want her to held her to be held accountable. No one’s above the law. No one.”
Eyewitness News reached out to Samuel Stretton, who is reportedly representing Younge, for comment. He has not returned our calls.