SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Brandy Garcia was forced to turn over her infant son in January.
She never imagined it would be the last time she saw Heyden Garcia Hannish alive.
The infant had suffered permanent brain damage, and his mother was resisting state orders to relinquish custody.
It all began when Heyden was about 10 months old.
“He got out of my arms while he was still sleeping and got stuck between the wall and the bed,” recalled Garcia.
Baby Heyden couldn’t breath in that position. Garcia said she woke up and realized what was happening. She eventually called the Duchesne County 911.
“He didn’t have a heartbeat for an hour and came back,” she said.
It was considered an accident, but Heyden would never be the same. Doctors called his condition spastice quadriplegic cerebral palsy.
From that point on, Garcia would be in a battle with doctors and the state’s Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) over custody.
“I got told I had a mental condition because I believe in him,” said Garcia. “It’s not a mental condition, it’s because I believe in him. I am his mother. I have faith in him, and he was showing improving signs every single day.”
But social workers intervened and claimed she was unfit due to past drug problems and the lack of medical knowledge required to care for Heyden.
In a DCFS letter filed with the Duchesne County court, a worker claimed she “tested positive for methamphetamine and opioids.” The worker also claimed “removing Heyden from her mother is in the child’s best interest.”
Garcia called the drug allegations a lie.
“We did a hair test and they said it came back dirty and I got copies of it and they’re not dirty,” she said. “So, in my opinion, it was medical inept.”
She also said the test was from years past involving a separate case with the courts.
Last fall, DCFS took Garcia to court to gain custody of Heyden. The state relied on doctors from Primary Children’s Hospital which claimed in court documents that Garcia “has
poor understanding of his condition and remains confident that he will recover to a typically developing boy.”
Garcia said she understands Heyden will never be the same, but wanted to help him learn new ways of functioning.
In January, when Garcia agreed to let the hospital in Davis County do an evaluation, she was slapped with a court order. The state took custody of Heyden and Garcia would never bring her son back home.
“They took him on the 13th (of January),” she said. “That’s when I got served papers and they took him for attempting to take him from state, the hospital.”
Heyden was eventually placed in a foster home in Cottonwood Heights.
Earlier this month, Heyden died at the foster home.
The Human Services Department (HSD), which oversees DCFS, issued a statement in part saying: “The removal of any child is recommended only after extensive gathering of information and evidence.”
Regarding the foster parents, HSD stated they “were licensed and in good standing.”
Heyden’s mother blamed her son’s death on the actions taken by DCFS.
“They didn’t want me to do nothing with him,” she said. “They painted me as a monster and ruined my life (sobs).”
Tuesday, Garcia was allowed to bring Heyden’s creamated remains home.
A spokesman for the Cottonwood Heights police department said they are investigating the baby’s death, but it will all depend on the autopsy to determine which direction the investigation goes.
The complete email statement provided by HSD is as follows:
“In response to your emailed question below, we take our standards of confidentiality very seriously and regret we cannot provide any specific details in the case. Please note, the loss of any child impacts and devastates us.
This is tragic for family members, the community, our staff and foster parent community.
The removal of any child from the home is recommended only after extensive gathering of information and evidence. Whenever safely possible, we want to keep a child with their family in their home, but we do have an obligation to intervene with families when there are safety issues related to child abuse and neglect.
Every decision is carefully weighed, and our caseworkers have the support of a team. We have constant oversight from numerous internal and external entities. Caseworkers never make decisions in isolation.
Every removal of a child includes judicial oversight. Children are assigned court appointed Guardian ad Litems to represent their interests. Parents are also ensured legal representation and due process.
I can confirm the foster parents were licensed and in good standing. It’s important to us that children in our care are safe and secure in their homes or foster homes, which is why any potential foster parent has to pass a number of requirements, including:
- An FBI nationwide fingerprint search with rap back (that means that if you’re charged or arrested, we’ll be notified as soon it is in the public safety system).
- Child abuse registry check
- 32 hours of pre-service training
- Home studies and letters of reference
- Medical clearance that includes both physical fitness and psychological fitness
- Foster parents also have annual training requirements. Home Studies are through the Office of Licensing and must be completed annually in order for a foster care provider license to be renewed.
- Accounts for overall physical safety of the home
Every death that is explained or unexplained is reviewed by multiple entities, including a team from DCFS, the Health Department, and law enforcement, if applicable. In addition, every fatality of an adult or child in the custody of the Department of Human Services within 12 months of their death is reviewed by an independent (sic) Fatality Review Committee and reported to the Child Welfare Legislative Oversight Panel each year in this report.
Thank you for respecting our confidentiality responsibility.”