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Well....I am Jason's mom. Jason passed away on 8/25/05 at the age of 19 from cancer and my heart is broken--long thread on another board. Christmas was hard this first year without our sweet boy. We went to East TN as usual and the story I heard from relatives about my first cousin's granddaughter has me very concerned for this little girl's safety. This will be long, but I would appreciate any advice you can give me on this situation. I am very concerned, but I don't know what else I can do.

My cousin's son, age 21, also named Jason, has had trouble for years with the law. He has had trouble with drugs abuse, speeding, car wrecks, etc. His dad, whom my cousin divorced, has given Jason and his little brother Matthew (age 18) marijuana. The little brother for various reasons through the years has spent a lot of time in Juevenile Detention. Anyway, while Jason was in a hospital for drug rehab he met a pretty young woman named Vanessa, a couple of years older than he is, who was also there for drug rehab. They became involved and a pregnancy resulted. They married shortly before their baby was born. Relatives say Vanessa abused drugs even during the pregnancy, but they had a beautiful, healthy baby girl that they named Alicia. Alicia cried constantly for 10 days and many relatives thought that she showed withdrawal signs as a newborn. Jason has two other daughters by two different women--that he didn't marry-I don't know the ages of these children, but he has little to do with them and really he hasn't had much to do with this baby either. Jason has a foul mouth and can hardly speak without uttering curse words.

Almost since birth Alicia has been cared for by her grandmother (age 54)--my first cousin and sometimes by her great-grandmother(age 80), my aunt and up until the first week of January the grandmother had temporary custody of her and she is now two years old. I am not sure why the grandmother had temporary custody, but was told of Vanessa's continued drug abuse. In the last two years she has been in jail and drugs were found on her even there. Recently, within the last six months, she had her driver's license taken away for DUI. At one point her husband attempted to remove her from a drug dealer's home where she was living at the time. Later, she lived with someone who badly beat her, but she didn't press charges against him. Right now the family says that she is living with a woman who sleeps with either men or women. My cousin says that DHS knows about the mother's drug problem. No one in our family even knows where exactly Vanessa lives now. She always arranged to meet them somewhere when she came to get the baby to keep her for a week or weekend. At times in the last two years, she seldom even came to see Alicia, but would say things like, "I'll be back next week to get you" and then she wouldn't show up for a month. [nice babysitting arrangement, don't you think?] I don't know what the custody arrangements were other than that the grandmother had temporary custody and she allowed Vanessa to keep Alicia at times. When Alicia was small, her mother didn't often come to visit. Now that Alicia is older, cuter, less trouble, almost out of diapers, the mother became more interested.

Vanessa has stolen money from my relatives when she visits them and if she isn't stealing money from them, she is crying and begging for money. I have been told that her dad and step-mother live nearby, but don't have much to do with her because she steals from them, too. Vanessa's mother lives in Florida and although she came up for the baby's birth 2 years ago, she had to go back home before the birth and has never seen Alicia.

My concern when I heard the story was that Alicia was being neglected and abused by her mother when she is allowed to keep her. I was even more concerned after hearing of Alicia's reaction after the Christmas visit, when the mother came to pick her up on December 31.

The mother must have kept her some when she was small, but she didn't take her for any of her vaccinations. The grandmother took her to the health department and got her vaccinations caught up, finally. The mother doesn't take the child to the doctor. The little girl is often sick and on antibiotics which need to be finished. When the mother picks her up and these medicines are sent with her--the medicine never comes back when the child is returned to her grandmother, even though there should be doses left. When the grandmother asks her about the rest of the medicine Vanessa always says that it is too far to go back to get it. My cousin sends her with her mother wearing shoes and when Alicia is returned she has no shoes. The mother has not bought food, clothing or diapers for her while Alicia lived with her grandmother.

She came back from a recent visit to her mother's and on diaper changes she began saying "tickle-tickle" and making motions on her uncovered diaper area with her little hands. (Another cousin who adopted two little girls who were sexually abused said that those words in this context are a classic sign of sexual abuse--it is what people who abuse small children often say to them as they abuse them). Alicia has been having problems with vaginal yeast infections and has had a bladder infection recently also. It is unusual for little girls to start getting these kinds of infections at the age of 2 or even 9. Normally happy, smiling, open-armed and loving she returned from her Christmas visit with her mother afraid of people she knew and had always gone to. She appeared to have lost weight during that one week visit and when the mother was questioned about the weight loss, she said, "I don't want her getting fat!!!" When her mother picked her up on Dec. 31, she didn't want to go with her. She had to be taken away screaming and crying, which was very unusual and made her grandmother cry.

Also, after a recent visit with her mother, Alicia came back home to her grandmother, calling both her grandmother and her great grandmother "Daddy" as thought they had tried to get her to call women that.

My cousin, as I said, was given temporary custody, probably when Vanessa was in jail. Vanessa wanted the baby back, now, and was angry that my cousin didn't just give her back to her. Vanessa hired a lawyer. The family has no idea where she came up with the money for a lawyer--she never has money. My mom says this lawyer is a "real good crooked lawyer" and that the judge and court system isn't really run properly in the small town where the trial took place. My cousin didn't have money for a lawyer--they are expensive. So at the custody hearing on Jan. 6 my cousin was there with no lawyer and Vanessa was there with hers and the judge gave Vanessa custody of Alicia. The lawyer and Vanessa even tried to set up a plan for my cousin, to have visitation rights--for $25.00 per visit. Whoever heard of such a thing? No one I've talked to has. Vanessa picked up Alicia that week and that is the last that anyone in my family has seen or heard from her. It has been over 20 days and this little girl was with my cousin almost every day for two years.

Another cousin told me to advise the grandmother to call Child Protections Services and to ask for a lawyer for people with low income. No one would do this. They all acted as though their hands are tied. And I guess they really are because when I saw they were not going to call anyone--I called. I called on Dec. 31 after hearing how Alicia acted when her mom picked her up. They asked and I chose to remain anonymous that day. I didn't want them getting mad at me and I didn't even have my cousin's phone number with me at the time. Later when I heard that Vanessa got custody of the little girl and had picked her up, with all my concerns, I called again on 1/7/06 and this time I gave them my name and address, my cousin's phone number and address. I told them everything I told you here.


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