KISSIMEE, Fla. – What Filipino American Freddie Versoza and his wife Tracey want most is to be a family again.
Tracey said, “I love them very much with all my heart, I’m crying every night, I want my kids back.”
Last year, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) took custody of Selena, Freddie Jr., Johnny, Jackson, Prince, Austin and their then newborn Taylor Lynn – whom Freddie calls his seven angels.
“My wife was looking out by the front door and seen all these kids being hauled away. As they were hauling her, my daughter was begging for her life.
She said, ‘Mommy, please don’t let them take me away’,” Freddie said as he still vividly remembers the day their seven kids were taken away.
“They come barging in my house saying that, ‘Do you have any weapons, do you have any drugs? We need to look into your garage make sure there are no dead bodies,’ They’re doing it for the interest of the kids,” he said.
Freddie was jobless at that time and a psychological exam showed that Tracey has a learning disability.
According to DCF officials, the kids were removed from their parents to make sure that they are provided their basic needs, medical care and housing stability.
“I went to court and they basically said that my wife, the babies won’t be safe with my wife because of a medical, she has a full learning disability,” he said. “She has raised these children since they were born.”
Between 2008 and 2014, 477 children died after DCF elected to leave the kids with “violent, neglectful, mentally ill or drug addicted parents,” according to a 2014 Miami Herald report.
The National Council on Disability reports that parents with psychiatric disabilities face 70 percent to 80 percent removal rates. While those with intellectual handicaps face 40 percent to 80 percent.
But Freddie says they have provided their unconditional love more than anything.
“What we have in this house is priceless because you’ll never find the kind of love that we’ve given these children. But when DCF took that way from us, we’re basically nothing,” he said.
It has been a year after his family’s ordeal and Freddie says he is ready. Freddie is back to work and made some home improvements.
While the DCF has not ruled out the possibility of returning the kids to their parents, the Versozas say they can’t wait any longer to be a family again.
You can contact Don Tagala at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.