Dealing with RI DCYF “Hell” Says Grandmother of Rescuing Grandchildren from Drug-Addicted Son

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


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Sharon Cabral with her grandchildren -- now adopted children.

A grandmother in Rhode Island is calling out the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) after saying she “went through hell” to get her grandchildren from her drug-addicted son and partner — and wants to help other grandparents throughout New England who are going through similar situations.

“I lost everything in Colorado. My whole life was there,” said Coventry resident Sharon Cabral, who returned home to Rhode Island in 2015 to rescue two of her grandchildren from what she said was her son and partner’s “drug squalor” — and said she became so worn out by the DCYF process that she all but gave up trying to adopt a third grandchild. 

“I came here with a suitcase and couldn’t go back," said Cabral. "I had no money in the bank. I’m doing everything just to get by.”

Cabral’s comments come on the heels of a 60 Minutes expose focusing on the opioid epidemic leaving grandparents to raise their grandchildren — but Cabral says she that the CBS special did not report the whole truth.

“That 60 Minutes segment did not go into the real difficulties,” said Cabral. ‘There’s a whole other story.”

From Great Relationship to Rescuing Grandchildren

“My relationship with my son was great, until he got addicted to opiates when he was injured,” said Cabral, who said her son was the mistaken target in a street fight when he was 19. “He needed stitches. He got Vicodin, and that’s when it started."

Cabral said his problem spiraled when he got introduced to Oxycontin. 

“His friend introduced him to Oxycontin. They all got together and started snorting it,” said Cabral.  “During the time he was addicted, he stole thousands of dollars from us, and I’m not including the merchandise. He stole my ex-husband’s tires. Sneakers that were classics, that we bought on Ebay, he sold them for $50 when they were worth $500.”

Cabral said that she spent thousands trying to get her son to go through rehab, but nothing worked. 

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Cabral's grandchildren

After moving out to Colorado for work, Cabral said she was called in 2015 to return to Rhode Island. 

“It was brought to my attention that there was a problem with my son, that I needed to assess some issues with his children. At the time my son was in the ACI on a misdemeanor,” said Cabral. “When I went to the house was in shambles, it was uninhabitable. I asked to take the boys, and the mother obliged.”

Cabral said she returned the boys after a brief visit, but petitioned DCYF for custody. 

“The boys were 1 and 3. There was a challenge obtaining entry — two police officers took each child in their arms. Their mother was presented with documentation that they were being taken due to neglect and trauma,” said Cabral. “The kids did not cry -- they seemed elated. They were actually smiling."

“They were given to me that evening temporarily,” said Cabral. “The next morning the investigator returned back to my aunt’s house and told me I could not return to Colorado, where I was anticipating going with the boys."

“She said you have another option. She said I could actually give the boys to DCYF and have them separated and put them into foster care,” said Cabral. “I said no, they are not being separated and going into foster care.  I said no, I will do whatever it takes for the temporary order.”

“Meanwhile, I had nothing with me. A suitcase from Colorado. The boys had nothing. We temporarily stayed at my sister’s for a week. I got a voucher for $100 each for the children for clothing, which was fine, I was just happy to have them,” said Cabral. “At that time I discovered they’d never been to the doctor, dentist, immunized, gotten social skills — they had never been to daycare — nothing. They were in the house like hermits, just like their mother and father.”

Dealing With Custody Battles

Cabral said she was determined to make things work back in Rhode Island. 

“I got a residence with Salvation Army furniture, I got daycare, I got them rapid immunization, and within six weeks they started to talk,” said Cabral.  “February comes along — I said to my sister I need to get my three dogs and my vehicle. I went back to Colorado and put what I could into a truck in the sense of some clothing along with the dogs and drove back — but everything else was in Colorado.”

“Let me tell you, it was hell to deal with DCYF.  I am at the forefront of the hell they put me through,” said Cabral. “Then their mother got pregnant again.”

“I saw her. She was taking heroin and methadone, but not going to doctor,” said Cabral. “The DCYF case manager advised me since I was adopting the [two older] children in January 2017 to not worry about it.  It was supposed to be that after the birth, that in February 2017, I was all set to get him. We went with the kids to see the baby. They both gave their parents hugs.”

“Then interviewer said that the mother told them that she was living with me the whole time she was pregnant, which was a lie — she just didn’t want to lose the baby. She didn’t want me to have the kid,” said Cabral. “And just because the kids hug their parents doesn’t mean there’s a bond.  Now I can’t get him.  He was placed six weeks after the departure to a complete stranger.”

“So I kept emailing DCYF,” said Cabral. “Then they said they made a mistake, the baby needs to go with you right away. I was ecstatic to see him. I started taking him one day a week.  But then they began pushing me to get a crib, and to get the situation resolved by the end of the month.  After the overnight visit, I said I had to go away for work, and was moving from Johnston to Coventry — I said I needed time and they didn’t like that.  So I was upset about the situation. I said I’m going to withdraw my ability to be his foster parent at this point.  I said you’ve destroyed me, from taking on my two children, now you’re trying to rush this after that investigator made a huge mistake listening to a heroin addict."

“So I sent an email dismissing myself until which time he was up for adoption.  I said I don’t have the time or strength for another year of this,” said Cabral. “I went to DCYF in person. I wanted to know when they were going to court, and that I wanted to have my time to explain what has transpired. I was told I wouldn’t waste your time.  I asked what were my choices, and the case manager said you don’t have any choices.  She said call the attorney, who I know had a workload from hell and he doesn’t give a damn.  She said I’m sorry there’s nothing more I can do.  He was up for adoption February of this year. I'm assuming he’s adopted — I think the parents are Canadian. I don’t even know if here's here. I don't know where my other grandson is."

DCYF did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday night. 

Cabral now works full-time driving Uber in Rhode Island to support her grandchildren — her adopted children. 

“I want to start a non-profit called ‘Grand United New England',” said Cabral. “I want a place where [grandparents] can come for resources and clothes and bottles.  A lot of them are older — anywhere from 40 to 90 — and they don’t have the money to take on this.”


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