COLUMBIA (WACH) - "Without any notification at all, DSS showed up and stole our granddaughter from her home." says Robert and Kelley Heidt.
That's what happened after DSS (the Department of Social Services) reported they received an anonymous call from the Heidt's granddaughter, Amelia's, school.The caller said they heard a group of 5 year olds talking and one of the children said something suggesting they had been abused.It later turned out it wasn't even Amelia who made the comment, but at the time, DSS took the call as enough proof that Amelia needed to be taken from her home.
A social worker showed up at the door of the Heidt's daughter and son in law's house to take Amelia away, despite desperate pleas from Amelia's parents."Our son in law offered to leave the home. She refused that. They begged the social worker to take our granchild to the hospital if they thought anything happened to her. They refused that." states Kelley Heidt.The social worker also refused to let Amelia stay with numerous friends and family who offered to keep her.The Heidts even said they would immediately drive down from Atlanta, but the social worker said she didn't want to wait around.
"To make everything worse, my daughter is very, very sick with multiple forms of cancer and we have very limited time together. This almost ended her life early because it was so traumatic." says Kelley.But the Heidts stayed strong and waited for their probable cause hearing, where a judge would determine if dss had a good enough reason to keep Amelia.And when the Heidts finally did get their day in court, they found out they weren't the only family affected by DSS."When we went to our probable cause hearing, another attorney approached our attorney and said 'Well, you're the 11th case in 4 days under the same circumstances' where they take children after hours. No court orders. No proper paperwork. No police orders." states Kelley.
Thankfully the Heidts had an attorney who fought long and hard and eventually got Amelia back home...over a month later.But the Heidts believe some simple digging on the part of DSS could have avoided the whole incident."They need to investigate. A couple of minutes of their time to look into that phone call would have proven there was nothing to it. But they kept her for 31 days in foster care away from her family." explains Kelley.State Senator Katrina Shealy, who sits on the DSS Oversight Subcommittee, says the agency should stop focusing on making their statistics look good and start focusing on the people behind the numbers."Data, data, data. That's a great thing but data's not the answer.You need people that can get emotionally involved to the point where they see families and children, not just numbers." says Shealy.
But until that day comes, there are families like the Heidts who will live with the scars this whole ordeal leaves behind."Our grandbaby asked us, 'Why don't you love me?' We do love you. We're sorry. You know, they just did a lot of things wrong." says Kelley as she tears up.
DSS is scheduled to have a representative present at the next subcommittee meeting to answer these allegations.That meeting will happen on January 22nd in the Gressette building behind the State House.