Family helped by San Francisco cops loses custody of kids

Joel Silva is grateful to the officers for renting a room for his family, but he's confused and dejected at what's happened since.
February 13, 2014 12:07:07 AM PST
On Monday, ABC7 News reported on the story of four San Francisco police officers who reached into their own wallets to help a homeless family of seven find shelter on a cold, rainy night. Joel Silva says he's still grateful to the officers for renting a room for his family when they had no place to stay Friday night. But he says he's confused and dejected at what's happened since.

"Right now, we're heartbroken, you know," Silva said. "They got the kids. We bawled our eyes out last night."

Tuesday, Child Protective Services took custody of Silva's five kids.

Silva, his wife and their children were recently the recipients of a special act of kindness. Last Friday, it was pouring rain and the family of seven had no place to go. All the shelters were full or closed. Four officers found them at UN Plaza, homeless and penniless. So the officers reached into their own pockets and rented them a hotel room.

"We had to do something," Ofc. Brendan Caraway said. "Between the four of us a hotel for a night is not the most expensive thing in the world."

This weekend, police officials contacted city social service agencies to get the Silvas more help. But after police and social workers made additional wellbeing checks on the family, Child Protective Services removed the children.

Silva says he apparently didn't sign up for city services fast enough.

"It seems unfair to take custody away because we can't make it to everything, you know," he said. "There's so much we got to do and so much information being bombarded at us, you know?"

San Francisco Human Services Director Trent Rohr can't comment on specific case, but he told ABC7 News, "In general, kids are placed into care by CPS when they are victims of, or at significant risk of, abuse or neglect. Simply being homeless and/or not accessing public benefits is not a reason to place a child under CPS care."

Silva and his wife admit they have had drug problems. He wonders if that may have been a reason.

"We definitely want to work on it, you know," Silva said. "I definitely want to get into a treatment program. I want to get it fixed.

Silva says he's done just that. He says he enrolled in a drug rehab program on Wednesday. He and his wife will go to court Friday for a child custody hearing.


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