After many previous attempts to recover the custody of their children due to “false accusations'' against them, a group of eleven mothers joined forces to fight against injustice they suffered. The women, who all come from the same Brazilian city, Blumenau, in Santa Catarina state, are now planning to take their plea to the UN. The group - which includes a Venezuelan migrant woman - has been protesting in front of the Blumenau court since June 29, 2022, and was granted a public hearing on August 31st.
According to CPI Voz Materna, a collective who is campaigning in support of the 11 mothers, the removal of these children was justified by the State of Santa Catarina based on “discriminatory court decisions” against vulnerable women. Some of the mothers have previously reported domestic violence and even had restraining orders against their abusers. Other women were deemed to be unfit to look after their children by social workers due to mental or physical health issues, while others worked in poor conditions or were unemployed due to the lack of affordable childcare. Many of the women have also been accused of drug use, being in prostitution or of child neglect.
Together, the eleven mothers have lost guardianship of 15 children in total - some women had more than one child taken into state custody or shelters. One of the children has been away from her mother since at least 2019, while other children have been taken away in 2022. Most children were separated from their mothers when they were either newborns or younger than two years old. One child was taken from her mother right after birth. Another woman from the group, who is pregnant, has been threatened to lose guardianship of her unborn child.
One of the judicial referrals from the public hearing at FURB suggested the creation of a working group in order to evaluate the possibility of taking their case to higher judicial systems, such as the UN and the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights. The case has also reached the Brazilian Lawyers Association (OAB) and the Internal Affairs of Santa Catarina state.
In a letter written by the mothers, read aloud at the public hearing, the women revealed how the state has justified the removal of their children.
Carla Melo, one of the women affected by an irregular court decision, told 4W that she lost her two younger children, a boy and a girl, after being accused of neglecting them for moving houses too many times.
“I moved houses several times,” Carla told 4W, “because when social workers knew my address, my ex-husband would find it out, come to my place to beat me, and then I would be removed from my address by the owners.” She decided to keep her address a secret from social workers to avoid her ex-partner, but Carla says that the social workers accused her of “avoiding social workers contact” and subsequently of child neglect.
Carla also told 4W that she was accused of having syphilis and being a drug user - which she says that her lawyer has all the evidence against. Carla explained that all former attempts to rescue her children have failed - Santa Catarina State has even denied guardianship of her children to her grandmother and other relatives. “My attorney has already uncovered several failures from the network support system, “ said Carla.
“Two children have already been adopted”, said a spokesperson from CPI Materna to 4W. “The case concerns institutional gender violence promoted by the State of Santa Catarina against vulnerable women/mothers.” CPI says that children are irregularly removed from their mothers, especially if they are single women, and that the women from 11 Mothers, 15 Children were all single at the time of the court decisions, apart from the Venezuelan mother. They are “regularly taken” to shelters and placed for adoption in the state of Santa Catarina, Brazil, in “record time.” The affected women emphasize that the period between the state’s complaints against them and the adoption of their children was short, while evidence against the state’s claims of neglect was disregarded.
“All support networks offered by the Brazilian states had failed in providing protection and assistance to such families,” said CPI, who highlighted that “almost all the withdrawal of children and loss of parental rights were determined by the same judge and the same prosecutor.”
State accused of taking children for adoption
CPI Materna told 4W that there seems to be an “ethnic predominance of white children” taken away from vulnerable women, placed in shelters and rushed through the adoption process. CPI says that they contacted 11 Mothers 15 Children with a form to gather information about their background, and nine women responded. “The city’s population has a huge German descent, so the fact that all children are white is something that comes to attention, but we lack data.”
In June 2022, 4W spoke to “Tony,” a former social worker from another city in the Santa Catarina state. At the time, he told 4W that a district attorney who was involved in the removal of an eleven years old girl from her mother had been previously reported to be involved in several other cases of irregular removal of children in Santa Catarina. The case that Tony spoke about was of the eleven years old girl, who was sexually abused and became pregnant. Due to the work of a judge and the district attorney mentioned by Tony, the girl was taken from her mother and placed in a shelter for 40 days to prevent her from having an abortion.
Santa Catarina state is one of the three states in the South of Brazil, together with Paraná and Rio Grande do Sul that boast an above average white population count - the region accepted a large number of immigrants from Germany and Italy in the past. As previously reported at 4W, during the 1980s, the region was considered a hub of infant trafficking, with several members of the judicial system and support networks accused of being involved in irregular adoptions. “There was a whole army of nurses, doctors, midwives, civil servants from the court system and immigration, drivers and children’s buyers on their payroll,” according to an article from JusBrasil, a specialized Brazilian Lawyers Journal.
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