The morning of September 18, 2009 started out as any other day would for 3 year-old Brodi McVeigh. After kissing her sleeping mom, April, good-bye for the day she cheerfully went with her father to be dropped off at her daycare provider. Brodi had no idea that these taken-for-granted moments would be the last memories she’d ever have of being with her family. Just a few hours later, she’d be picked up by CPS and returned to non-relative foster care never to see her mom, brother, father or maternal grandma again.
Up until that morning, things had been a little unusual in Brodi’s life due to CPS intervention that was initiated on her brother Brayden’s behalf a year earlier, but all the disruption of being put in non-relative foster care with acquaintances of her parents, being returned to her father (who had never been forced to take care of both her AND her brother all by himself before), being separated from her mom (who had been sent to a drug rehab on an outer island for two months) seemed to be fading away.
Everything was finally getting back to “normal” – or what was their “new” normal: although they were all together in the same house, April wasn’t allowed to be left alone with the children lest they’d be taken back into foster care so April and her husband strictly adhered to this living arrangement. Brodi had her own room upstairs – as did April – while Brayden and his father slept downstairs.
Another part of the “new normal” was that her mom was rarely around anymore; since being discharged from inpatient rehab the once full-time stay-at-home mom was everyplace but home, thanks to full days comprised of outpatient treatment and mandatory services.
Before all of this had started, there was no reason or necessity for a daycare provider – Brodi was content at home being taken care of by her mom with her baby brother. Now things were different – but nothing to ruin or disrupt the happy little world of this 3 year-old little girl. September 18th brought that all to an abrupt end.
In the months that would follow that fateful day, her brother’s death would be ruled a homicide, her father would voluntarily relinquish his parental rights over her while her mom would be in the fight of her life trying to get her little girl – her only remaining child – back home to her. In March 2010 her mom lost that fight when her parental rights over Brodi were involuntarily terminated.
At the Article 32 Hearing in May 2011 (see my 05/20/11 article entitled “When The Truth Has Nothing To Do With Reality”) the defense attempted to use April’s termination of parental rights as evidence to cast reasonable doubt as to who could have “actually” killed Brayden that September morning. While on the stand and under oath, the defense hammered April about losing her parental rights for failure to comply with the terms of her CPS Service Plan, specifically, failing to comply with her outpatient rehab services. April vehemently denied being non-compliant saying she has the certificates of completion to prove it but the defense kept saying “Your parental rights were terminated for failure to comply – I have the papers right here that say so!” April got so upset that a recess had to be called.
Having seen the papers myself, I told April that her parental rights were indeed terminated for “failure to comply” with the CPS Service Plan. April didn’t understand and recited everything she had faithfully done and completed BUT she overlooked one small detail: on the day Brayden was rushed to the hospital unresponsive, she had been summoned for a random urinalysis to screen for drugs. If you don’t show/fail to appear when you are summoned, it’s counted as a violation and is subsequently recorded as non-compliance.
April’s eyes widened. “But I called the CPS Worker – but I told him where I was and what was happening! I told him I couldn’t make it! He said ok, he said don’t worry about it!” I asked April if she had that documented somewhere and she said no – she was at the hospital all day that day and was devastated about all that was happening – grabbing a notepad and pen to record the date, time, who she spoke with, etc. just didn’t occur to her. I told her I understood but what was documented that day was a No Show at the drug test site = violation = non-compliance with the CPS Service Plan = termination of parental rights. April’s attorney was so outraged by this that he filed an expedited appeal to get the decision for April’s parental rights termination overturned. (Decision still pending.)
In the meantime, little Brodi’s life went from bad to worse when the foster mother who she had been placed with that September was arrested in February 2010 for abusing Brodi. Among the injuries: a bloody lip, swollen fingertips, bruising of her palm, a swollen left hand, a thumb-size bruise on her cheek, a bump on her forehead and a jaw-line bruise. Despite the following facts:
- Brodi needed and wanted her mom back,
- April desperately wanted her daughter back,
- Brodi had always thrived under her mom’s care and never been abused or neglected by her,
- April had taken and passed a polygraph test about Brayden’s death and
- April had been ruled OUT as a suspect in Brayden’s death
- April was never charged with anything having to do with Brayden’s death
Brodi was not returned to the comfort of her mothers’ arms or family but placed into yet another non-relative foster care home regardless of her maternal grandmother’s pleas and petitions since 2008 to care for her. As maternal grandmother, Terri Polm, commented “If they (CPS) had just given me my grandbabies when all of this started, none of this would’ve happened and my grandson would still be alive”.
Incredibly, the stresses and strains placed upon April’s ex that purportedly led to Brayden’s demise (work, financial problems, April’s “drug use”) began with CPS’s involvement. Prior to their intervention, April was taking good care of both kids at home while her husband went to work like any other serviceman.
For years April unceremoniously maintained all the chores and childcare her husband would later be credited for and gain sympathy over (which proves the existence and maintenance of gender bias; it’s expected that a woman take care of the house and children while balancing the responsibility of full-time employment but if a man is responsible for chores or childcare beyond his official workday, we are now looking at someone who deserves a medal of valor. A mom changing a diaper is an expectation but a dad changing a diaper is “a Kodak moment” – if a mom fails to change a diaper, she’s neglectful and an unfit parent but if a dad fails to change a diaper, we automatically wonder where the mom is).
Like any other family in America, the McVeighs were just making ends meet but when they were told in no uncertain terms that they would not get their children back without drug rehab services for April, THAT’S when their financial problems began as they had to shell out thousands that they didn’t have to be in compliance, and the only people with a problem over April’s established methadone regime was CPS. None of April’s doctors had a problem with it, nor did her husband, children or family because the pain medication allowed her to function to the best of her abilities with two herniated disks in her lower back that she’s had since she was 17 years-old.
The guilty verdict and sentencing this week did nothing to alleviate the grieving and suffering of April McVeigh, who continues to mourn the loss over both of her children. To this day, Brodi has been prohibited from any contact with her mom. Can you imagine what that must be like for her? One day you have a mom, dad and brother then suddenly all of them disappear and you’re too young to understand why – all you have to hold onto are memories and loss.
As for April, all she has to hold onto now is the hope that Brodi will be returned to her. The military court martial provided one form of justice for Brayden and we hope that the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals will provide April and Brodi with the same.