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When My Son With Down Syndrome Wandered and Police and CPS Got Involved

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One early morning in March 2016, I woke up to get our 3-year-old son ready for school as I do every day, around 6:30 a.m. On this particular morning, when I went into his room to wake him, he was not there. Slightly panicked at this point and thinking something was not right, I quickly checked the other rooms in our house looking for him. Maybe he decided to sleep in sister’s room, or snuggle up on the couch in the middle of the night. I even checked the bathtubs, making sure he wasn’t hiding somewhere. He was nowhere to be found! As I came up to our front door, I saw the child lock on the doorknob had been broken off and the deadbolt was turned to the unlocked position. In full panic, I ran outside screaming his name, checking the neighbors’ front porches while dialing 911. Within a minute of calling them, I found out our son was safe in Child Protective Services (CPS) custody and they would be sending officers to question us. I was so relieved he was safe and all right; this was all that truly mattered!

A Clovis police officer arrived at my door within minutes of my call to 911. While questioning me, my husband had arrived home. He is a firefighter and was at work when I called him with the news that our son had wandered from our house that night. During my conversation with the officer, I informed him I had last checked on our son at 12:30 a.m., as I do most nights if I awaken in the middle of the night. I also showed him the child lock on the door that had been broken apart and was lying on the floor next to the door. He asked us a few more questions, looked around our house and deemed that we have a safe house and this was truly an unfortunate accident. The officer informed us our son got out around 3:30 in the morning and was picked up by a good samaritan who was on night shift guarding a business near our neighborhood and saw him crossing into a busy street. Also, he had closed the front door behind him so when the police were looking for an open door early in the morning to see where he might belong, they couldn’t find the house. Due to the fact he couldn’t tell them his name, or where he lived, they had to place him in CPS custody.  The officer then made a call to CPS letting them know he had cleared us. However, this was not the end, CPS informed him they would be doing their own investigation. I was told to wait and they’d contact us later that morning. My mommy heart and arms ached for our son to be returned.

When CPS finally arrived later that morning, they did their own investigation. They questioned my husband and I, searched our entire house, looked in the closets to make sure our children had clean clothes, checked the pantry and fridge for food, and went to our daughter’s school, pulled her out of class and preceded to question our 5-year-old. Some of the questions, though asked in a very child-friendly way, we’re asking if she had ever been sexually assaulted. My husband and I had to sit back quietly and hold back our tears that our little girl was being questioned like this because the CPS social worker had started the meeting with stating that if my husband and I wanted to be present we were not allowed to say anything. Our daughter was scared for her little brother and didn’t understand why this woman was asking her these questions.

After a very long day, we did get our son safely back in our arms. CPS deemed that we were a safe house and had not put our child in danger; it was a true accident. We also informed them that we already had placed a call to an alarm company that was coming out that same evening to install a whole house alarm to ensure this would hopefully never happen again. The social worker came out the very next day to sign off that we did, in fact, have an alarm installed. Before leaving, the social worker said, “Just so you know, if this happens again…” “What if this happens again? You think we wanted any of this to happen?! We are his parents, we were terrified,” I stated back to her. She then went on to inform us that if he were to get out again it could be much worse, mentioned removing him longer, attending classes and having to go to court. I looked at her and calmly stated, “Our son has special needs. He doesn’t understand the seriousness of what happened today. While I will do everything in my power to keep him safely with me at all times I cannot predict what he will do and when he will do it. He is his own person. I really hope your agency does trainings on this so you better understand those living with special needs in this community.” CPS is an agency I never want to have visit us again.

Today our son is a thriving happy and healthy 5-year-old. I did not share our story to scare anyone, but rather in hopes to help others in our community become better prepared and help agencies whose job it is to help us protect our children have a better understanding.

This is why the Kevin and Avonte’s Law is so important.

Written for the NDSS by Chandel Perkins, mother to Wyatt and two other beautiful children Clovis, CA

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Originally published: February 2, 2018
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