A Range of Harsh Lessons

Schoolyard slurs, an incest charge and county social services shatter a black family's Kiowa dream.

The boys stayed with Carmen for about a month.

"My mom was going to see if I could get them schoolwork," says Carmen. "Quinn [16] wanted to go to school. He was supposed to go take a test [for admission]."

The boys' stay in Arkansas was cut short by 18th Judicial District Court Judge Jack Smith: Smith, who regularly hears cases in Elbert County (which is part of the 18th District, along with Arapahoe, Lincoln and Douglas counties) wanted the boys placed in foster homes.

At a January 21 hearing, Diane put her foot down. She had no intention of cooperating. She refused to tell Smith where the boys were. So Smith found her in contempt of court and had her arrested.

Deputies escorted Diane from the courtroom to jail. It was to be an extremely short stay, however. If she were locked up, there would be no one at home to care for her bedridden husband. Minutes after arriving at the jail, Diane told officers where they could find her sons.

Court officers took no chances that Diane would warn her family. They called authorities in Arkansas and asked them to take custody of the boys there. Then they followed Diane home and took custody of Stephen, age seventeen, and the handicapped Brandon.

In Arkansas, meanwhile, Carmen was met at the door by "a whole bunch" of police officers. The boys -- ages nine to sixteen -- were placed in a juvenile detention center for three days while awaiting transfer back to Colorado.

When they returned to Colorado, Riddle says, all of the boys, even nine-year-old Eddie, were in shackles. Two of the boys were charged with sexual assault. The remainder were placed in foster care.

Finding foster care for minority children in a white-bread county such as Elbert is a tricky proposition. Although every attempt is made to find "culturally appropriate" placements for children, there simply aren't enough foster homes of any kind to go around, says Charles Hawker, director of Elbert County Social Services. "The majority are placed out of county," he says.

The boys were split up and placed in separate homes.

Because of his disability, Brandon was placed in a special-care facility in Sterling. In a petition to validate taking Brandon from the home, the Elbert County Department of Social Services contended that the 23-year-old "needs a guardian as a means of providing continuing care and supervision" because he is unable to care for himself. In the petition and a four-page document accompanying it, there is no mention that Brandon had been cared for at home all his life.

The court papers make it clear that Brandon did not understand the nature of the emergency guardianship proposed by social workers.

The petition was granted. And in a letter addressed to Diane Veasey days later, the Elbert County Department of Social Services mentioned that the cost of his care -- estimated at $140.83 per day -- should be paid out of income from Brandon's annuity.

Throughout this ordeal, Earl Veasey was unable to see his children, says Riddle. He was unable to travel, and the children were forbidden to visit the home.

"The authorities said if Earl ever went back to the hospital, they could visit him there," Riddle says, "but they could not visit him at home.

"The Veaseys moved to Colorado because they were trying to achieve the American dream, and the kids couldn't even see him on what was to be his deathbed."

By February, the Veaseys had been forbidden even to speak with their three youngest daughters.

According to an emergency request filed with the court by Joann Musell on February 8, the girls were becoming too upset when speaking with their parents by phone.

"These girls have experienced severe trauma and have internalized a considerable amount of fear, anger, and guilt that must be dealt with therapeutically," the volunteer wrote. "Every time there is contact with their parents, the girls relive this trauma. Their behavior is marked by bedwetting and acting out in their foster home."

The court approved a no-contact order and a request for an emergency evaluation of all three girls.

Earl and Diane were angry and upset by the ruling.

Earl's health had never been good since the accident. He had suffered infections and contracted diabetes. But when death came for him, it was sudden. On March 4, he had a fatal heart attack.

Diane places responsibility for Earl's death on Elbert County and on Ronald.

"Stress had a lot to do with it," she says. "My husband died of a broken heart."

The funeral was to be held in Little Rock a week later. Diane asked the court to allow her children to attend.

"Social services said they could go to the funeral," says Krystal, "but the judge said no. They hadn't seen their father for six or seven months, and they didn't get to say goodbye, and that tore them up inside."

Only Stephen, who was allowed out on a "pass" from a foster home, was permitted to attend the services.

The atmosphere at the funeral was divisive.

The day before the church ceremony, Carmen called Ronald and asked him not to attend.

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