Temecia and Rodney Jackson have been fighting to get their newborn daughter back for a week after a Dallas doctor called Child Protective Services on the married couple due to concerns over their treatment of a common condition found in infants.
According to reports, the Jacksons took their newborn, Mila, in for a routine checkup two weeks ago and discovered that she had jaundice. Mila was born last month on March 21.
Jaundice occurs because a baby’s liver isn’t mature enough to get rid of bilirubin in the bloodstream. It is a common condition in newborns that results in the yellowing of their skin and the whites of the eyes. Jaundice in newborns can clear up without treatment in one to two weeks, but more severe cases require phototherapy treatment.
The Jacksons opted to have a licensed midwife, Cheryl Edinbyrd, do an at-home treatment for their newborn because of concerns with the treatment of Black people in the American health care system. Dr. Anand Bhatt, the family’s pediatrician, said the case was severe enough for the newborn to be taken to the hospital for phototherapy, according to a letter he wrote to CPS that was published by WFAA News.
“This child was being nurtured. This child was being supported. And this child was being loved. And this child was kidnapped,” Edinbyrd said.
Bhatt was concerned that the family had the wrong lights for the treatment. The couple attempted to connect Bhatt with their midwife, but he explained that he had trouble contacting the Jacksons directly.
“Several hours later into the night, [Dr. Bhatt] texts my phone very aggressive — take her to the hospital, or he’s calling CPS,” Temecia Jackson said of messages she received from the doctor.
Bhatt then decided to report them to CPS “after trying 10 attempts to appeal to the family through phone calls, text messages and leaving voicemails as they did not pick up the phone.”
“Parents are very loving, and they care dearly about their baby,” he wrote of the Jacksons. “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.”
Dallas CPS wrote in a statement, “Due to the parents being unwilling to discuss the danger and potential consequences of this condition, it is necessary for the Department to intervene.” They also mentioned their concerns that the child could have a stroke, brain damage, or other immediate dangers, according to WFAA News.
The Jacksons said that within days of Bhatt filing the report, Dallas police officers and CPS agents showed up at their home at 5 a.m. to inform the family that their pediatrician reported them and demanded that they hand the newborn over. The Jacksons refused, and the officers eventually left but returned hours later to tell the family that their newborn was now legally in the custody of Dallas CPS.
The family again refused to turn their baby over and reached out to their midwife for help.
“Our midwife then reached out to the pediatrician, just letting him know that he had traumatized us, that we were woken up by police banging our door at 4 a.m., 5 a.m. Then after she gave him all the credentials he’d requested from her, he pretty much said he was going to leave our care and our midwife teams,” Temecia said at a Thursday press conference organized by the Afiya Center.
The family said everything seemed fine until March 28. Rodney explained that police returned to their home as he was walking the family dog, and they placed him under arrest after he refused to surrender the baby. They took his keys and used them to enter the family’s home. Temecia was in their home alone with Mila and authorities proceeded to take her with an affidavit.
Temecia claimed the affidavit that Desoto Police Department and CPS agents had with them didn’t list her name on it but listed another mother’s name instead who has had a history of child neglect with CPS. The Jacksons also stated that they don’t have a birth certificate for Mila yet because she wasn’t born in a hospital.
“Instantly, I felt like they had stolen my baby, as I’d had a home birth. I didn’t know where to turn,” Temecia said.
According to WFAA News, a spokesperson for CPS was not able to explain why the wrong name was listed on the affidavit.
The Jacksons have been allowed a few supervised visits with Mila in the last week. She is in the care of a foster family, but the visits have taken place at the Dallas CPS offices with police officers present. Rodney told reporters that “they have been treated like criminals.”
Rodney also mentioned that every attempt to deliver breast milk or care for Mila has been shut down. The married couple told reporters that they notice Mila developed an irritation in and around her genitals during their last visit on Wednesday. They raised the concerns to CPS and were told that the foster family would handle it.
“With the foster parents is where this build-up and irritation [in Mila’s genitals] occurred, and yet you’re sending her back to the same foster family. We just feel helpless in this situation as we wait,” Temecia said to Jezebel.
Baylor Scott & White, where Bhatt is employed, sent WFAA a statement that says: “In respect of patient privacy, it is inappropriate to provide comment on this matter. We do abide by reporting requirements set forth in the Texas Family Code and any other applicable laws.”
Dallas CPS and Desoto Police Department did not respond to requests for comments over the Jacksons’ allegations. The couple was scheduled for a hearing on Thursday morning, but it was postponed to April 20.