A Quick Look at Our Lives

My Name is Kimberly Watso, I’m a 24 year old mother of 2 handsome boys, ages 6 years and 3 years. I gave birth in July 2011 and July 2014,  and I had somewhat happy little family until September 2014. During that month my youngest son’s father assaulted me and was not allowed home until state court processes came to a close. During that time I unofficially (without court or legal documents) temporarily signed custody of my oldest son to my mother via personal written agreement between her and I. The environment was not safe for my oldest son, as he and my youngest child have different fathers. Unfortunately, I had been abused by my oldest son’s father, and I knew nothing good would come from trying to keep a family together with abuse within the walls of a home.

My youngest son’s father was able to return late in November 2014 to his home which my youngest child and I had occupied in his absence. Come January 2015, a tribal case opened against myself and my youngest child’s father as claims of alcohol and drug abuse were present around the children. While it was proved that there was use of marijuana and alcohol, we proved the children were not present, but safely with my mother in a different household, when those times of use occurred.  Despite this, the case remained open and we were regularly drug tested and told we needed to remain completely sober, not using in the presence of the children, without any state regulated sobriety requirements. We remained sober as we were instructed to do, followed recommendations, took classes– we did what we were told to do. Despite cooperation, we were steadily torn down, degraded and lied about and to in tribal court by tribal CPS. No matter how hard we tried, we were never viewed as “good enough” in the eyes of the tribal court.

Come February 9th, 2015, I had taken my youngest son to the tribal clinic and he was referred to a specialist due to the circumference of his head. In February 24th, 2015 my youngest son saw a specialist and it was discovered his head was .3 of a centimeter larger on the left side than it should’ve been so an immediate cranial scan was ordered. The results showed that blood was found in my son’s head. I was not made aware of this by any doctor until we were immediately told to go to a specific hospital, directed to the child abuse investigation unit. Here I broke down and demanded to know what was going on, my son is taken for x-rays and my son’s father and I are both questioned as to how blood could’ve gotten in his brain. My infant was hemmoraging in his head and they kept the information from me and then began to accuse myself and sons dad of potential abuse. We had no idea, but were treated as if we had personally caused the blood in his brain deliberately, regarded not as parents but criminals. From there we were told to go down to ER, as the blood needed to be removed from his head as soon as possible. Arriving in the ER room, we a police officer and a state employed child welfare officer were waiting. My mother called me crying about the same time we got to the room saying a tribal employee and state police officer were removing my oldest son from daycare in a very aggressive traumatic way which had my mother, children, and even the teachers in tears. My oldest son was actually afraid of police for 1 1/2 years following this experience. I could do nothing, I was having my oldest child ripped away from my mother, being treated like a criminal child abuser, and was informed my children were placed on a 72 hour hold by the state until the hemorrhage in my son’s head was investigated. This all happened within the period of an hour from finding out my baby boy, my 7 month old child, had bleeding of his brain. The x-rays showed no fractures, no bones broken past and present, no bleeding behind his eyes. He showed no signs of abuse, but he had an unexplainable injury to his brain and we were the main suspects.

My son’s injury is misdiagnosed as abuse 50% of the time, as described in the doctor’s report who diagnosed him initially. This resulted in the questioning of my son’s father and I, without a lawyer’s, presence by the police officer and CPS officer. On February 25th I spent the day not letting my youngest son out of my arms, refusing to put him down no matter where he had to go. I carried him to his scans, down the hall to a check up. I carried slept in a chair at his side, and quietly cried myself to sleep after I was sure he was dreaming. I tore myself down, blaming myself for not knowing how this happened or that it had even happened. I felt I had failed as his mother because this had happened to my baby, but he had no signs of brain trauma, no extreme vomiting, he talked and cooed as usual, he hadn’t changed in behavior in any way.

On February 26th my son had a surgery to remove the brain hemorrhage. I went to surgery preparation with my son and my mother and had to have her take him into the procedure because I was sobbing so much and so hard. From there, she and I went to the waiting room alone, as my son’s father regularly left the hospital to go to his house and play video games since he “doesn’t like being in hospitals”. In the waiting room, we were greeted by guardian at litem, and tribal CWO. They made a pleasant introduction, asking for updates- seemingly pleasant and sympathetic at this time. My mother and I returned to my son’s room to wait for him to be brought out of surgery. When he was returned to his room his head was wrapped in bandages, and a drain attached to where his incision was to remove any blood that wasn’t removed or any new blood from accumulating. When he returned my mother and I quietly sobbed in each other’s arms. I sobbed until I fell asleep in her arms, she whispered in my ear “he’s going to be okay baby girl, this isn’t your fault, he’s going to feel so much better after he wakes up, don’t worry, he’s alive baby girl, he’s going to be ok, we will all make sure.” When I awoke my son’s father had returned to the hospital and had asked me to accompany him to the cafeteria. Shortly after returning from the cafeteria, Tribal CWO entered the room with hospital security and demanded myself, my son’s dad, and my mother to leave the room and meet with her. We refused and asked what was going on, the Tribal CWO told us the case has been transferred to tribal court. Her decision was to have us removed from the hospital room for my son’s safety, despite him being hooked to multiple monitors that go off anytime there’s an issue, despite nurses and doctors in an out of his room every 30 minutes or less, despite cameras in each hall, ones that even sat right outside his door and could see in his room. We were told we posed a threat to my child’s safety and we were being removed from his presence. I told her I was not leaving my son’s side, the woman laughed and told me she’d have me arrested if I didn’t. Afterwards, she stated “this injury to this child is being criminally investigated and that’s what you are, a criminal.” My mother then ran to my side, telling me to remain calm and leave before we disturbed my son’s rest.

My whole world shattered in a matter of days, I returned to an empty home, childless, with a man who wouldn’t stay at the hospital with his injured child. I called a criminal and treated as if I had done this deliberately. Our son left the hospital a few days later and joined my oldest son in a foster home. We were under the thumb of tribal court from this point on, and were only allowed one hour visits once a week.

On March 6th, something inside me snapped. I began to drink until the point of blacking out, I assaulted my child’s father, believing in my heart he had done this. So many times I had to tell him not to handle our son so roughly, so many times telling him his little body can’t handle vigorous bouncing on his hip because he wanted him to stop crying, blaming him for always leaving the hospital when our son needed him the most, blaming him for the specialist’s report stating all he did was stare at the floor when she informed us our son needed to go to a hospital immediately. My inner mother bear snapped and went for the attack against the man who had previously attacked me, he was the one whom my heart had believed hurt our child, his father.

My youngest son had received an injury at his paternal grandmother’s house while in his father’s care. However, the investigating officer from Scott County MN, PD refused to look into the paternal grandmother, despite her being a 30 year drug addict who had lost all 4 children she gave birth too, as they were all born with FAS and addicted to crack-cocaine. She had a very long record of assaults and violent charges, and I had my son in her care for only 20 minutes, as I had no choice because his father refused to watch him.  My son’s father, was also not as deeply investigated despite his record with assaults. My mother and I, however, were borderline harassed by a Scott County detective; but when the police department is hired by the same tribe that had an open case against my son’s dad and I, it’s not impossible to believe they’d been told to make their members look as innocent and uninvolved as possible.

I’ve been fighting for custody of my sons ever since, jumping through hoops and being told it’s not good enough, that I’m not good enough, and constantly hearing from Head Tribal CWO stating “I feel bad for your kids” because I am their mother. Every right I have as a citizen of America, rights as a mother, and even my basic human rights have been stripped from me within the SMSC tribal court. My children have been split apart and, despite recommendations from their therapist to spend more time together, Tribal CWO refuses to let that happen. My youngest son is being removed from my family’s life more and more each month, and now my youngest son sees my oldest son and his maternal grandmother barely two hours every month. We’re treated as if we are second rate citizens, and our baby doesn’t need to know who we are.

Today I remain fighting, I have taken the case federal and am told the only way we could really be beaten is if the tribe uses their political influence to swing the federal case in their favor. SMSC is  trying to involve my oldest son’s tribe now and transfer custody of him to Red Lake following the federal filing, even though I had asked for his transfer 7 months before I went federal and was denied. It’s not unusual to believe this community has grown desperate to wash their hands of the mess they’ve created. My sons were illegally transferred to SMSC’s hands from Scott County due to them bypassing ICWA laws, thinking this case would never reach the lengths it had. I haven’t seen my children for a year in due to a ban filed against me in response to my filing of a restraining order against my son’s dad who had vandalised my husband’s and his parent’s property. The ban clearly claims I’m allowed to go to the reservation with an appointment, but I’m constantly harassed and have had the cops called on me by my son’s paternal family. I’m subject to the mercy of 100% tribal employees overseeing my visits. They are producing untrue reports to the court in an attempt to make me seem as “unfit” as possible.

I will continue to fight until my children are returned to me. No matter what is said, what is done, I will never stop fighting for my sons. I’ve already missed my youngest son’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd birthdays and my oldest son’s 4th, 5th and 6th birthdays as a result of the hostility and harassment of the involved parties on this case. At every chance they get they put me at fault- but I know this, I will never let them do this to another family, I’ll never miss another birthday. I will spend the rest of my life holding my children close and never letting them be taken again, used as pawns for a tribal court’s own personal gain.

Author: Kimberly Watso

I'm a Mother fighting for her children that were wrongfully taken, I'm a member of American's for Tribal Equality, ATCENOW.org Fighting discrimination withing Tribal Courts with the goal to create Equality for Native & Non-Natives within the Tribal Court Systems.

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