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PPSA Online Magazine V9N1 - 1997


The State
vs. Cheryl Holloway

BY ALMA GARCIA
(Reprinted from The Santa Fe Reporter)


On the afternoon of April 10, Cheryl Holloway, a local firefighter, went to pick up two of her children at a local Montessori school. But a social worker and sheriff's deputies showed up 15 minutes before her. They took the children, aged 7 and 11, into the custody of the State of New Mexico.

The officers drove away without waiting for the mother to show up. According to school officials, they showed no court order before driving away with the kids.

From the school the children were taken to the house the family rents in Eldorado. The social worker and the deputies entered the house, and the social worker confiscated some notes and papers from inside.

They had no search warrant to enter the premises.

Arriving at the school and learning that her kids had been taken, Holloway raced home. An altercation ensued. A sheriff's deputy claims Holloway punched him; Holloway claims she only pushed him. She was placed under arrest, charged with assault on an officer and carted off to jail.

The two children, and two others picked up shortly afterward, aged 9 and 13, were placed in foster care. The foster care was a mobile home in which, according to the 11year-old girl, 10 people resided, of whom nine spoke only Spanish. The Holloway kids speak only English. The girl later said her brother had been struck in the face while in foster care.

Cheryl Holloway was accused by the state Child Protective Services of child neglect -- and they had their reasons. They'd been told that the three youngest children had been left alone overnight twice in a two week period, that they'd been left unsupervised at various other times, that they had missed 20 to 30 days of school since September because there was no adult available to take them to school -- usually because Holloway was working a 24-hour shift at the firehouse.

But no attempt was made by the state agency to help the family work things out -- as is its normal mandate -- in the days and weeks before the kids were taken from their mother. Kids are supposed to be taken into custody only in emergency situations.


Regardless of whether Holloway ever neglected her children, it is the opinion of one prominent civil rights attorney that her civil rights were violated by the way the public officials acted. Another attorney says the rights of the children were violated.

The visible ordeal of Cheryl Holloway and her children lasted six weeks. In early May she was given back physical custody of the two older kids. A week later she received physical custody of the younger kids as well. And on May 20, District Court Judge Michael Vigil dismissed the child-neglect charges and gave her full legal custody.

That was the visible ordeal. But the effects of the state's handling of the case are sure to linger in the mind of the mother -- and, perhaps more important, in the minds of the four kids.

Cheryl Holloway has never been a perfect mother. She is the first to admit this. With her firefighting job, time for her kids can be scarce, and money even scarcer. But those close to her agree on one thing: she loves her kids, intensely.

The view of the State of New Mexico is very different than the one that friends, acquaintances and her children's teachers paint of her. A former firefighting instructor remembers her as a perky personality and an outstanding, motivated student. Holloway has volunteered for the Rape Crisis Center for almost a year and a half. Her children's teachers describe her as a highly involved and loving parent who volunteered for school functions regularly. Two of her children's teachers in particular describe the children as "always well groomed, well-behaved, very happy children."

In 1995, Holloway sat in her dress uniform beside Hillary Rodham Clinton at a women's issues conference in Santa Fe in 1995. She made an impressive role model as she discussed difficulties with the availability of child care and health care for single mothers.

It was those very problems that had caused her to seek work as a firefighter. Holloway was divorced, working as a self-employed insurance agent in L.A. with no benefits, insurance, sick leave, retirement or child support. She wanted to be an inspiration to her kids and to get off state assistance. She had taken college courses in fire science before the need to work forced her to drop out. Then she heard a radio ad recruiting female firefighters. It was 1992. "I knew I could do this," she says. "I was finally getting my life together. "

She tested for nearly 50 fire departments throughout the western United States, she says -- many of them turning her down because she had children -- before finding a department that would accept her. The one that did was in Santa Fe, in 1994. She started work at $5 an hour, working three 24hour shifts a week, sometimes with overtime, with days off alternating in between.

She pursued further education, so that she could become an officer. She worked as a nanny on the side for extra money.

 


But before she could realize her goal, sacrifices had to be made. She come to Santa Fe alone, leaving her children -- Maya, now 16; Jarrett, 13; Taylor, 11; Andre, 9, and Sterling, 7 -- in the care of a family friend because she couldn't support them. Gradually, over the next three years, during which her pay was raised to $9.78 an hour, she brought them out, one by one.

She thought her four-days -off schedule would allow her more time with her kids. Then she discovered that, in Santa Fe, day care is available only from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Matters were further complicated when Holloway allowed Maya, who frequently cared for the younger children, to return to L.A. And Jarrett erupted into a difficult adolescence.

Holloway arranged for Taylor and Sterling (and, originally, Jarrett) to receive full scholarships, first at the Waldorf School and then at Mariposa Montessori School.

(Andre, the most recent arrival, attends Eldorado Elementary.)

Holloway then set out to find a nanny. She was so desperate to find one -- and so low-end was the salary she was able to offer -- that she took the first person who wanted the job. It was the beginning of a series of nanny nightmares.

She went through six mostly live-in caretakers in six months. One nanny smoked dope in the house. Another would sometimes take Holloway's car without permission. Holloway came home to discover one male nanny in bed with a woman while the kids were at home and awake. Still others barely managed to keep the children fed, sometimes sending them to school without lunches or lunch money. Some nannies refused to spend the night and

would leave before Holloway arrived home. Other nannies arrived late, and she would leave for work in the morning, praying they would arrive. Sometimes they didn't, and the kids wouldn't have a ride to school. Holloway had friends try to pick up the slack, but their schedules couldn't always accommodate it. "I could've made it easy on myself and put the kids in a public school, " Holloway says. "If I'd sent them to public schools, nobody would've even known they were home alone, " noting that the kids have required private transportation to the private schools. " But nothing is more important to me than their education, so that they don't end up like I did."

Holloway concedes that she left her kids alone at times. "Let's just say I don't think it's wise," she says about the propriety of leaving them alone. "I don't think it's right, but sometimes you can't avoid it."

When it comes to leaving children unsupervised, legal guidelines are fuzzy. According to Richard Rosenstock, a local attorney who deals with federal civil i rights issues, child- neglect charges are more serious the younger the child is, but there is no actual cut-off age that determines i when a child safely can be left alone. Other factors taken into consideration in child-neglect investigations include whether a child has been provided with food, medical care and education.

"Personally, I don't think it's a wise thing to do, to leave kids alone for long periods of time, particularly for a 7-year-old and a 9 year-old," he says. "I wouldn't leave my kids alone overnight. But [Holloway's] kids aren't 2-year-olds, either. " (Rosenstock is not Holloway's attorney; she has retained none.)

 


Holloway finally did receive child care help in the form of John Johnson, who was matched with Jarrett Holloway through the Big Brothers / Big Sisters program last year. Johnson's involvement turned Jarrett's life around, Holloway says, and eventually, to ease tensions, she gave him power of attorney over Jarrett in an agreement all three of them signed. Jarrett voluntarily went to live with Johnson.

It was a situation that caused Big Brothers/Big Sisters to "break the match" for legal reasons; the organization does not permit live-in Brothers. But Johnson felt that was how he could best help Jarrett. It is an arrangement Johnson describes as "co-parenting."

As such, Johnson says, Jarrett had not been living without supervision at the time the state took him into custody.

Holloway pauses when asked if she ever worried about something happening to the kids when they were home alone. "No," she answers finally, speaking of how bright and capable her children are. Nor does she necessarily see the situation as something out of the ordinary. She started caring for her two younger brothers alone at the age of 7 or 8, when her single

mother had to start working two full-time jobs.

Taylor Holloway's Big Sister, who was matched with Taylor in January, reported Cheryl Holloway to Child Protective Services in April. The Big Sister (who asked to remain anonymous) noticed several times after bringing Taylor home from outings that there was no adult home, "or that the babysitter had gone home at 8 or 9 p.m. and no adult would be home until [Holloway] returned from work in the morning. "

"I thought it was weird, " she says, "but Taylor and the other kids talked about it like it was the normal thing."

Other occurrences began to concern the Big Sister as well. The first week of April, Taylor told her Holloway had left town, leaving the kids alone for a day and a half; they'd missed two days of school. The following week, Taylor's Big Sister learned of more missed school days- -- including a day when 7-year-old Sterling was left home alone -- while Holloway was "on vacation" at her boyfriend's house in Albuquerque. She says Taylor described being left a check for food and having to ride her bike a couple of miles with Andre to the store, where they were turned away by the store clerk. She says Taylor told her "it wasn't right" to be left home alone and that "something bad could happen."


Holloway describes what happened the first two weeks of April as a series of communication breakdowns, caused by no show babysitters, a disconnected phone, early-morning paramedics exams and conferences out-of-town (her boyfriend's house was just a convenient stopover, she says). She admits leaving a check for food intended to supplement the kids' lunches, saying she'd done it in the past for Maya, who'd never had a problem getting the check cashed.

She also admits that she could've returned to Santa Fe earlier on the day Taylor's Big Sister called CPS, after she'd learned another babysitter had stood her up. "I was just so tired," she says, describing how she normally gets only about two hours of sleep between shifts. "I was under so much stress. Taylor wanted to know why I wasn't home, and I told her 'because I'm at my boyfriend's.' AII I did was sleep, actually. It was the only time I've ever left them alone for personal reasons. I was so tired, I don't think I was thinking straight. I think [Taylor's talk with her Big Sister] was her way of crying out for attention," she says. "I just needed an opportunity to be alone. I wanted someone to care for me. That's where I made a mistake."

According to a document recently filed by the original social worker on the case, it wasn't the first time Holloway had encountered - CPS. In April of last year, an unknown witness reported seeing her "pounding on Jarrett Holloway" as she tried to get him out of the car in front of his school. She was referred to Family Preservation Services "to relieve stressors such as day care issues and respite care for Jarrett ". Both Holloway and Johnson say she's never hit the children.

Taylor's Big Sister didn't intend for things to turn out quite the way they did. " I was very distressed by the way the kids were picked up, " she says. " I felt terrible. I wished I'd never reported it. It took the situation from bad to worse."

Others who witnessed the children being taken into custody agree. According to letters written by Mariposa Montessori School Director Katrina Holder (who is also Taylor's teacher) as well as several of the school's teachers and administrators, CPS social worker Genny Iglehart called and later arrived at the school on April 10.

"She came in here in a very aggressive manner, " Holder says of Iglehart. "She took .

the upper hand right away in how she wanted to handle the situation, forgetting that she was on private property, forgetting the respect due to other officials. All the staff members wanted to work with her, but we were not given the opportunity."

Iglehart also was chewing a toothpick.

Administrator Brenda Korting answered several of Iglehart's questions and informed her that nothing unusual had been noticed about the children.

Iglehart, she says, then refused to have a teacher present for an interview with Taylor. (School policy directs staff to support social service inquiries, but also instructs them never to leave a child alone with a stranger.) Iglehart then informed the teachers that the sheriff's department was on its way. and that they were obstructing justice.


Detectives Martin Rivera and John Gonzales of the sheriff's department arrived I and provided what Korting describes as a I "hastily copied portion " of the Obstruction of Justice Law: no information regarding any law preventing a staff member from observing an interview was provided.

Since they were barred from entering the room, Holder then asked assistant teacher Linda Storm to observe the interview in the school music room through a window. The interview lasted less than five minutes. By the time it was over, Iglehart said she had heard enough to take the children into custody. Sterling Holloway was never interviewed.

Iglehart did not present a court order to take the children into custody. Even with a court order, law enforcement officers must be present to actually instigate the children's removal. Officers can take children into custody without a court order, however, with or without a social worker present.

"It seemed like she wasn't planning to take them, originally," Holder says of Iglehart's actions."But she called the police to the scene before the interview even took place."

When the detectives arrived, she stood talking with them in the doorway, and I could tell just by the way they were standing and gesturing that they were planning to take the kids. I don't think she had any intention of following proper protocol and procedure. It seemed very much like retaliation."

As they gathered up the children, Holder informed the detectives that Holloway would be at the school within 15 minutes to pick the children up. Iglehart refused to I wait. Neither child was offered any - I nation of where they were going or why, Korter- says. I Holder attempted to explain I what was happening to the kids, but Iglehart insisted that they "didn't have time for this" and left.

Holder and Korter reported the incident immediately. They requested clarification of the law from Iglehart's supervisor, Lynda Smith. What they say they reamed from her is that no specific law bars school staff members from being present during an interview. Smith also apologized for Iglehart's behavior, they say, but said that Iglehart had taken action under the impression that the children were in an "emergency situation."

In response to the entire incident, Korting and Holder sent copies of a letter of complaint on April 24 to Child Protective Services officials. Aside from their allegations, the letter takes Genny lglehart to task for "rudeness, disrespectful tone of voice, eye rolling, interrupting, door slamming" and, of course. "toothpick chewing." At this writing their letter has gone unanswered.

 


Rosenstock; (the civil rights attorney, is in agreement with those who say the case has been handled poorly The department's first misstep, he says, was in never having approached or interviewed Holloway before even considering taking the children out of the home. Such an interview, or the notification beforehand of the parents, can be bypassed if it is determined that the children are in immediate danger -- and likewise, law enforcement can remove children if they have been clearly abandoned or are in immediate danger from their surroundings.

But Rosenstock says he doesn't think CPS or the detectives had a basis for taking the kids in this situation, under New Mexico statutes. "l don't see how this could have been an emergency situation," he says. "They weren't in danger at school. Taking the kids is supposed to be a last resort. And they had all day to go to a judge for a court order."

As for Iglehart's insistence on leaving the scene 15 minutes before Holloway was to arrive, Rosenstock assesses flatly, "That was not the social worker's decision to make. The police can make that decision, but I think it was unreasonable on the part of the cops involved. They should've waited so they could interview the mom, to assess her demeanor and the situation."

Accounts of what came to pass when Cheryl Holloway arrived home, where Iglehart, sheriff's detectives and the children went after leaving the school, vary or even contradict each other. Much of it comes down to hearsay.

According to public information officer Capt. Ron Madrid of the sheriff's department, Holloway grabbed her daughter by the arm at the scene and started shaking her. When a detective intervened to calm her down, Holloway punched him in the face. Iglehart's initial custody report says that Holloway called Taylor a "*&A_ liar" who had ruined the family, hit Detective Rivera when he attempted to pry her arm loose from around the children, then "continued to throw punches and kick at Detective Rivera."

Holloway says it didn't happen that way. She says she never swore at Taylor and that she never hit the detective. "I pushed him back, but I never hit him," she says. "I'm not that stupid, to hit a police officer. But I did have hold of the kids so they couldn't take them from me, and I happen to be very strong. I think it just pissed him off."

Taylor agrees that her mother never used any curse words. She did shake her a little, Taylor says, "but not very hard. It wasn't painful." And her mother did at first accuse her of lying when she denied alerting CPS. Taylor shrugs when she says this. But she says she doesn't know if her mother hit anyone; she says she couldn't see what was going on behind her.

Holloway was charged with a felony battery of a police officer and was taken to jail, where she spent the night. She contends that the five plainclothes officers in marked cars on the scene never showed I.D. or identified themselves as police officers. In the absence of a search warrant, Holloway never was asked to sign a consent form allowing them to enter and examine the premises (which is required by law, according to Rosenstock, unless they have probable cause or "exigent circumstances," which include being in hot pursuit of a suspect or concern that evidence is about to be destroyed).


Taylor says that it was Iglehart who first entered the house, after she demanded Taylor's keys, saying they needed to enter the house to get a change of clothes for the children. She says the detectives followed them inside and then walked into all the rooms of the house, although she couldn't see what they were doing in them. Furthermore, Taylor says that Iglehart returned to the house with her and her brothers after the detectives had gone because Iglehart said she had forgotten her notebook in the garage. Taylor says that Iglehart was never in the garage.

While they were there, Taylor says, Iglehart removed several pieces of paper from the house -- notes about Andre's school lunch program, notes Taylor had written to her mother the night her Big Sister had picked them up, and other messages. Iglehart's notebook was on the kitchen table. John Johnson called the house at this time, having heard what was going on. He says Iglehart answered the phone and told him, "I have to go; I'm not even supposed to be in the house."

Rosenstock agrees with her, saying that Iglehart's entry into the house both times was illegal. He further emphasizes that a only a police officer -- not a social worker -- can remove items from somebody's property, and only then if the specific item is listed on a search warrant.

About the charge of "battery upon a peace officer," Rosenstock has this opinion: "If [the detectives] were in the house without authority, I don't think she should be charged with anything."

Concerns have also been raised about the foster care arrangements that were made for the children.

According to Taylor, all four children first were placed in foster care together in a trailer already occupied by nine people, all but one of whom spoke only Spanish (none of the Holloway children do). She says she couldn't communicate to them that she needed a pillow; she says (and her teachers confirm) that she went for three days without taking a shower because she was hesitant to enter the bathroom, which was located inside a bedroom.

Since the children were told to gather clothes for only one day, Taylor says, they had to wear the same clothes for three days in a row, until their foster mother took them shopping for more. She also says that one of the adults in the house -- actually a brother of one of the adults living in the house, who was visiting for the day -- slapped Andre in the face after he got in a scuffle with one of the children who lived there.

Albuquerque attorney Peter Cubra, an expert on child welfare cases, says with regard to the Holloway children's foster placement that, if the description of the situation is accurate, it "would be a shocking violation of the children's constitutional rights as well as some of (Child Protective Services') own regulations. "

He says that there are no standards regulating the number of people who can live in a foster home except that there can be no more than six children living there, including the foster parents' own children. Eddie Binder, public information officer for the Children, Youth and Family Department (CYFD), says the number can exceed six if a sibling group is placed there in an emergency situation.


Still, Cubra's informal legal opinion is that the number of people living in the trailer at the time the children were placed there ammounted to housing that was "not minimally adequate." No regulation exists regarding predominant language in a foster-care placement, but Cubra says that under the 14th Amendment, children have the right to be heard with respect to their concerns, and a language barrier would interfere with that. And he emphasizes that no form of corporal punishment -- which includes slapping -- is permitted in foster care.

On April 22, Cheryl Holloway was informed that Genny Iglehart and Lynda Smith had been "relieved of the case." Social worker Patricia Gallegos Urioste and supervisor Mark Rudke were assigned to it.

Taylor and Jarrett were sent to live in the city's only non-emergency youth shelter. Andre and Sterling were placed in another foster home. But soon concerns were being raised again -- this time about the care Taylor was getting at the shelter.

Taylor was quartered with older teenage girls; she says one of them sat on her chest one night and punched her in the face. Holloway says that Taylor became very sick and that she was promised by youth shelter staff that Taylor would be taken to a doctor. Days later, when it hadn't happened, Holloway says she then was told Taylor's medical care was her responsibility.

Holder says that Taylor, when she was staying at the shelter, started coming to school with insufficient lunches -- a package of dry Ramen noodles one day, a candy bar and a Rice Krispies treat another day. Taylor says there was no other food to eat. Concerned, the school staff began to bring in extra food for her. And the older girls at the shelter, who broke curfew sometimes, kept her awake, Holder says; Taylor was so tired one day that she fell asleep on the way to a class field trip.

Nevertheless, accounts of how Taylor dealt with shelter life vary. Taylor's Big Sister says Taylor seemed disassociated from and confused by the situation, but said she loved it there and indicated the older girls had "taken her under their wings. " Genny Iglehart's documentation says that Taylor was "happy" at the youth shelter and seemed "relieved that she didn't have to continue to parent her younger siblings." Taylor's teachers, however, who describe her as normally "confident, creative and vivacious," say she has been withdrawn, unhappy, prone to sudden, uncharacteristic fits of tears and sits deep in thought much of the day since she was separated from her mother. When asked directly where she wanted to live, "Home" was Taylor's unhesitating and emphatic answer.


Representatives of the state are limited in the response they can give to the informal allegations that have been made against them, due to confidentiality laws. Neither Genny Iglehart nor Lynda Smith can comment on their involvement in the case, nor can any details of CPS' investigation of or perspective on the case be released. CPS' official written comment as to to why the two were "relieved" from the case was this: "Why would a social worker be taken off of a case? An investigative social worker's duties end at the completion of the investigation, between 10 and 30 days, and another social worker is then assigned to the child."

Confidentiality regulations precluded releasing information on whether Iglehart was relieved for this reason, or whether the department considered Iglehart's actions appropriate in this case, or whether she was or has ever been disciplined for inappropriate actions or behavior. She remains on active duty.

With regard to the manner in which Iglehart conducted the interview, CYFD public information officer Bender said that conducting interviews with children separate from adults is standard CPS procedure. CPS' own written regulations indicate, however, that standard interviewing procedure involves all of the children in a family under investigation, stating that "too much information is preferred to obtaining too little. " The department's Procedure 302.5, "stipulates that the children) who is the subject of the report should be interviewed." All of the Holloway children were referred to in Taylor's Big Sister's report; only one was interviewed.

CYFD Deputy Director Brian Meyer said he couldn't comment on whether there was a court order in this case. But he did say that a social worker who had a court order would be required to display it at the scene of a removal. In contradiction to Rosenstock's statement, however, Meyer said that if police turned over custody of the children to the social worker, then she would have the power to decide to leave the scene.

Meyer also said he couldn't comment on any letter he might have received (i.e. Holder and Korting's letter) but stresses that the department does respond to letters of complaint; sometimes, though, it can't respond to the letter writer -- even if they were interviewed with regard to the case -- until the case is closed, because of confidentiality, he said.

Meyer also said he is not sure how CPS procedure addresses the issue of corporal punishment administered by a visiting relative in a foster home. Were the department to receive such a report, he said, it would be looked into and assessed in terms of whether it reached the level of abuse, and whether it has impacted the placement's normal scenario. As far as whether the department or the perpetrator -- or both -- would be liable for such an act, "we'd have to let the lawyers argue about culpability," Meyer said.


Regarding the experiences Taylor and her mother describe at the youth shelter, Cynthia Gonzales, executive director of Youth Shelters and Family Services (which oversees the shelter's operation), also cited strict confidentiality laws that prevented her from responding specifically to the informal allegations. She did say that the shelter, which serves children aged 10 to 17, will prepare food for children who need it. She said it is the responsibility of the parent or legal guardian to take children to doctor's appointments, except in certain emergency situations. And in terms of a situation involving the assault of a resident child, "if we're aware of it, we'll address it, according to what the situation was", she said.

As for the sheriff department's side of the story, the public information officer, Capt. Madrid, says the detectives did identify themselves at Holloway's home, because it is required by law that they do so. And he says Detective Rivera told him they did. He confirms that the detectives had no search warrant. Madrid says, however, that none was needed, since there was no intent to search the premises for any kind of evidence -- only to wait there for Andre to arrive from school. He says the officers entered the house legally because "one of the children entered first." When asked to describe the scenario in more detail, Madrid said he couldn't reveal any more specifics on the case until the investigation was completed. He did, however, recount the narrative of the alleged assault incident, including Holloway's one swing at Detective Rivera.

Few if any of those involved are happy with what occurred to Cheryl Holloway and her children.

"Taking the kids out of the home was not the way to deal with this situation," John Johnson says. "There are times when kids are being physically or sexually abused that the state should be there, should investigate. Sometimes, they don't even remove kids from dangerous situations. Other times, they're so gung-ho that sometimes they cause damage, even when it's in the name of child rights. These kids weren't being neglected; Jarrett was definitely not being neglected."

Johnson has two whole photo albums full of photos of his time spent with Jarrett. "The situation [CPS] created caused for there to be more neglect than there ever might have been in the first place." He says that he had been tutoring Jarrett extensively in his schoolwork. Jarrett was making excellent strides, he says; now, he's failing some of his classes.

Taylor's Big Sister says, "The only redeeming thing about this situation is that maybe it will serve as a reality check. I know Cheryl loves these kids, but she's obviously overwhelmed. I think maybe she does need this wake-up call and some support around it. The whole family got lulled into thinking that this was a normal way of life. I just hope this is resolved in a way that is positive for the whole family."

Prospects seem positive. . . mostly. On April 22, Holloway attended a hearing at Children's Court that was supposed to determine whether she would be awarded physical custody. Holloway was surrounded at the hearing by relatives, her children's teachers, family friends and supporters, at least eight of whom submitted letters attesting to Holloway's parenting ability and her children's accomplishments.


The outcome of the hearing was to schedule another meeting to determine physical custody. The judge told Holloway that if she complied immediately with certain stipulations, that her chances of being awarded custody would be good: namely, that she quit all volunteer work and her fire department tours at the schools (an extra source of income), that she cease all additional training and educational pursuits, and that she get a full-time, live-in caretaker.

Holloway, assisted by Johnson, scrambled to comply. One of their proudest accomplishments was a nanny's schedule that includes one day of personal time every other week for Holloway. Specific friends and family members have been assigned to check in with the nanny on individual days as a back-up system.

On May 2, Holloway had the second meeting with her new social worker and supervisor. At the meeting, Holloway discussed some of the problems her children recently had encountered, including Taylor's troubles at the youth shelter and Andre's brush with corporal punishment in foster care. Holloway says neither Gallegos Urioste nor Rudke offered any response or addressed the problems in anyway. "All they said was, 'mm-hm, mm-hm'," she says. "And that I could probably press charges against the man who slapped Andre." Which she says she's going to do. Possible departmental liability for the incident was not mentioned to her.

By the end of the meeting, Holloway was given physical custody of the two older children, Jarrett and Taylor. Andre and Sterling would remain in foster care until she had permanent child care in place. After a follow-up meeting on May 7, the same day she found an acceptable nanny, she was awarded physical custody of the two younger boys.

And on May 20, District Court Judge Michael Vigil returned to Cheryl Holloway full legal custody of her kids.

 

The Santa Fe Fire Department placed Holloway on paid administrative leave from May 1 to 4 after she was written up twice for being late. Holloway says the incidents had to do with her recent emotional state; she hadn't been able to sleep, much less get up ,while the kids were gone. Her superiors told her that another writeup in the next six months would be grounds for termination. She's upset, but she understands. You can't be late when you're answering 911.

But because city employees are not allowed to have felonies on their records, Holloway could lose her job anyway if the battery charge against her is pursued and results in a conviction. The case was dismissed in Magistrate Court because that court does not have jurisdiction in felony cases. It is now up to the district attorney's office to decide whether to file felony charges in district court. Assistant DA Shari Weinstein said Monday she had made no decision. She said the matter was still in her "intake division" pending investigation. At the moment, no charges are pending against Holloway.

Cheryl Holloway still loves her job. But with the difficulties it has caused her, she thinks "all the time" about finding a different one. "But how would I do it?" she wonders. "How, would I support my children, without going on welfare? I don't even know how to use a computer... what could I possibly do?"

All she knows now is that she's grateful she's got her kids back.

Still, it's hard not to wonder, like Holloway, about what she could do, what she will do next. It's hard not to wonder how her children have been affected by the choices she's made in her life, as well as how they will be affected by the way they were taken from their mother -- next week, next year, for the rest of their lives.




© 1994-2003 The Santa Fe Reporter, reprinted by PPSA Online Magazine