Breastfed Babies Kidnapped by CPS Because Parents were “Homeless” Living out of RV

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The Mehta family turned homelessness into a great adventure, before CPS. Source: Mehta family.

The Mehta fam­i­ly turned home­less­ness into a great adven­ture, before CPS. Source: Mehta family.

Amber is one of those free-spir­it­ed peo­ple who takes even incred­i­ble hard­ships and turns them into adven­tures, inspir­ing oth­ers in the process. When her young fam­i­ly wound up home­less, through no fault of their own, she and her hus­band Krish­na Mehta made the best of it. Their chil­dren didn’t even know that they were home­less; they thought that they were hav­ing great adven­tures and mak­ing lots of friends.

This lat­est chap­ter in their saga, how­ev­er, is a night­mare, and the rain­bow is real­ly hard to find in the storm that Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices has alleged­ly brought into their lives. Their chil­dren, ages 6, almost 2, and 9 months, have been seized by CPS and placed into 3 dif­fer­ent fos­ter homes. The two babies were still being breast­fed. Social ser­vices has gone so far as to accuse Amber of hav­ing a men­tal dis­or­der because she is “home­less.”

Their home­less­ness was not by choice. Last spring the fam­i­ly was liv­ing in a small town in Mis­souri. Krish­na was work­ing, and Amber was a stay-at-home mom and child­birth doula. They were expect­ing baby Mira to make her appear­ance soon by mid-summer.

Emergency Trip to Oregon for Dying Mother

Then, they got a call that changed every­thing. Krishna’s mother’s can­cer had come back with a vengeance. The doc­tors gave her just weeks to live. Krish­na, a dual Irish-Amer­i­can cit­i­zen, and Amber scram­bled to pull resources togeth­er to get to Ore­gon, hop­ing to see her before she died, and let her see the chil­dren. They drove cross-coun­try, but arrived too late. She was gone.

The plan had been to stay at her house, have an unas­sist­ed home­birth, or “free­birth” in Ore­gon, and go back to the mid­west when they got back on their feet. But life didn’t work out that way. Mira was born peace­ful­ly at the end of July, at home with her fam­i­ly. But short­ly after that, they found them­selves with no place to live.

Newborn baby Mira. Source: Mehta family.

New­born baby Mira. Source: Mehta family.

Making the Best of a Tough Situation

They sank what mon­ey they had left into an RV and made the best of their sit­u­a­tion. Amber says:

We faced home­less­ness with all the courage and hope we could, believ­ing that we were strong enough to make it.”

Win­ter was com­ing on fast, and it was expect­ed to be a cold one. An RV in Ore­gon was no place to live. They head­ed south, stop­ping in var­i­ous places, “help­ing oth­ers where we could,” says Amber, “which is more often than one might think, con­sid­er­ing all it often takes to HELP some­one is to CARE.”

Slab City

About the same time that the med­ical kid­nap­ping sto­ry of Eri­ca May and Cleave Rengo’s home­birthed, breast­fed babies went viral (orig­i­nal sto­ry here), at Thanks­giv­ing 2014, the Mehta’s began hav­ing trou­bles of their own in LA – mechan­i­cal trou­bles. They had heard of “Slab City,” billed both as one of the largest “home­less encamp­ments” in the coun­try, and a “free RV oasis” in the Cal­i­for­nia desert. Though they were hes­i­tant to take their fam­i­ly, they were at a point where they didn’t real­ly know what else to do. When they received a warm invi­ta­tion from a friend who was a full-time “Slab­ber,” they accept­ed. They were pleas­ant­ly sur­prised to be wel­comed into a com­mu­ni­ty of sup­port, which includ­ed oth­er fam­i­lies with children.

Welcome to Slab City. Source: Wikipedia.

Wel­come to Slab City. Source: Wikipedia.

Accord­ing to an arti­cle about Slab City in the LA Times, ” this unlike­ly com­mu­ni­ty appears to be grow­ing, per­haps because of the trou­bled economy.”

While the Mehtas lived in their RV, they shared resources and meals with oth­ers in the com­mu­ni­ty, and fell into a rou­tine as they decid­ed to basi­cal­ly stay put for the win­ter. They some­times ven­tured into larg­er cities near­by in the effort to make money.

Amber reports that she was just begin­ning to feel that they would get ahead, and had even post­ed such on her Face­book page, when the storm clouds came rolling in again, and CPS entered their lives.

Storm Clouds Roll In

They had enjoyed lunch togeth­er at Doc’s mis­sion­ary camp, a place where “Doc” fed any­one who was hun­gry. It was Jan­u­ary 31, 2015. The babies were get­ting cranky in the after­noon, so Krish­na offered to take Tara (20 months old) for a ride in the RV to help her go to sleep, some­thing the par­ents have found effec­tive in the past. Mean­while, Amber nursed the baby to sleep as she hung out by the hot springs, while watch­ing Sage play with friends.

As the after­noon wore on, Krish­na didn’t come back, and Amber became con­cerned. By dusk, when he still wasn’t back, she got a friend to take her into town to see if, per­haps, Krish­na had a flat tire or some­thing. By the time she got back with no word on their where­abouts, Slab res­i­dents told her that the police had come by look­ing for her. They said that her hus­band had been arrest­ed and that Impe­r­i­al Coun­ty CPS had Tara.

Her mind reeled, try­ing to fig­ure out what pos­si­bly could have hap­pened. She called CPS, who told her they were send­ing police offi­cers to check on her and the kids, and that they need­ed to find “suit­able” shel­ter for the night, i.e. a hotel, and they would meet with her in the morning.

Offi­cers came, and were sat­is­fied that the chil­dren were safe. The RV had been impound­ed, with the keys to the mini­van inside, along with Amber’s purse. Slab­bers got togeth­er mon­ey for a hotel room for Amber for the night.

The RV that became their home. Source: Mehta family.

The RV that became their home. Source: Mehta family.

Tara did, indeed, fall asleep in her car seat ear­li­er that after­noon. Krish­na decid­ed to park the RV at a Cir­cle K, and use the time to ask passers­by for help with mon­ey. Police arrived, and they searched the RV.

Police told her the next day that he had been charged with dri­ving drunk, hav­ing an open con­tain­er, mar­i­jua­na pos­ses­sion, and child endan­ger­ment. Amber was ques­tioned repeat­ed­ly. She says that they told her they would get the RV out of impound and give her Tara back if she would sub­mit to a drug test. She reports that she had no prob­lem sub­mit­ting to such, as she doesn’t use drugs.

It wasn’t until his release that we real­ized they had lied to me in an effort to get me to admit incrim­i­nat­ing details, because they didn’t actu­al­ly have enough evi­dence to hold our daugh­ter at all.”

Dur­ing the course of the 2 day inter­ro­ga­tion, CPS called the police to pick up the oth­er two chil­dren, with­out a war­rant and with­out cause. Krish­na was released after being held for 72 hours, with no charges being filed.

Krish­na is dia­bet­ic. He was tak­en to a hos­pi­tal for blood work after his arrest, and the tests report­ed­ly showed no blood alco­hol con­tent, but very high blood sug­ar. Both hypo and hyper­glycemia of dia­betes can mim­ic drunk­en­ness. The “open con­tain­er” was found in the recy­cling bags, which Krish­na says were torn open as offi­cers searched the RV.

Police accused Krish­na of child endan­ger­ment for not hav­ing Tara in a car seat. How­ev­er, there are report­ed­ly pho­tos of her buck­led in the car seat dur­ing the search. When Amber lat­er retrieved the RV from impound, the car seat was still snug­ly buck­led into the ran­sacked vehicle.

Due to a seri­ous back injury some time ago, Krish­na was issued a med­ical mar­i­jua­na card in Ore­gon for “severe pain relat­ed to steel rods improp­er­ly placed in his fused spine,” so though he did use the drug occa­sion­al­ly, he was not actu­al­ly charged.

Judge Orders Children Returned

Three days after CPS took Tara, there was a deten­tion hear­ing. CPS report­ed­ly told the judge that they had been unable to ascer­tain the safe­ty of their camp, even though Amber says that she invit­ed them to check it out. The judge found no grounds for the chil­dren being held, alleged­ly say­ing that Tara should have been returned the moment that her moth­er was found safe­ly with the oth­er chil­dren. CPS was ordered to pro­vide ser­vices for the fam­i­ly, and Krish­na was ordered to drug test and enter treatment.

Krishna having fun with Tara, before CPS. Source: Mehta family.

Krish­na hav­ing fun with Tara, before CPS. Source: Mehta family.

Nightmare Was Only Just Beginning

The social work­er Noe­mi Sil­va took Sage in a police car with Offi­cer Vela back to Slab City, because the fam­i­ly van was one car seat short (it was still in the impound­ed RV). How­ev­er, they made a stop by the local sheriff’s office first and picked up a cou­ple more offi­cers. Offi­cer Vela report­ed­ly told the Mehtas to head on to Slab City, saying,

No place for a child, and I’ll see to it.”

As they arrived at the site, Amber called Sage to her, and head­ed over to Doc’s mis­sion­ary camp for din­ner. The police told her that they had to inspect the site, and she asked if she was being detained. She kept walk­ing toward the camp­fire, and a woman there told her,

They are going to take your kids. Amber … RUN!”

The ter­ri­fied moth­er real­ized that she was right and hand­ed a baby to each of two friends, and grabbed Sage’s hand. They fled into the night desert, search­ing for a place to hide. More police arrived, and they ran deep­er into the desert, as her mind flashed to a scene in a book where a holo­caust sur­vivor was run­ning for her life to hide from the Nazis.

I couldn’t believe this was hap­pen­ing to me, to my chil­dren, to my fam­i­ly, to AMERICANS!”

They even­tu­al­ly found refuge in an old mil­i­tary bunker where a kind cou­ple took them in for the night. And they won­dered what hap­pened to Krish­na, whom Amber had last seen argu­ing with the police. She lat­er learned that he had been arrested.

The video on the cell­phone showed that [their friend] Prax had been attacked, sat upon, choked and tased, sim­ply for voic­ing his opin­ion that it was wrong what they were doing to my family.”

She lat­er received a phone call to come pick up Krish­na from the hos­pi­tal. She found him walk­ing back toward Slab City. The ter­ri­fied and dev­as­tat­ed fam­i­ly decid­ed right then to load their fam­i­ly up and head to Ari­zona, “the clos­est state away from HERE!” They drove all night and through the next day.

The next day, they con­tact­ed their pub­lic defend­er, because they didn’t want CPS to do some­thing “crazy,” like putting an Amber alert out on them for “kid­nap­ping” their own chil­dren. He told them that there was going to be a hear­ing in a lit­tle bit, with­out them if they weren’t there. They told him how fright­ened they were, but they didn’t have time to get to court for the hear­ing. Over the next week they tried every day to get back in touch with the lawyer, but it was a month before they heard from him.

Tara delighted in the Oregon adventure, before CPS took the light from her eyes. Source: Mehta family.

Tara delight­ed in the Ore­gon adven­ture, before CPS took the light from her eyes. Source: Mehta family.

They decid­ed that Col­orado was the best place for them to go next, because they had a friend who had offered them a guest house behind her home. Arrange­ments were made, and the RV and the rest of their belong­ings were recov­ered. They called the local CPS and Impe­r­i­al Coun­ty CPS, try­ing to set­tle things and let­ting them know that they had found shel­ter that the agency should approve of.

And for a while, it looked like things were going to be all right. Krish­na got his Col­orado dri­vers license, and the fam­i­ly began to set­tle in.

It all came crash­ing down on the morn­ing that we had an appoint­ment to get food stamps and med­ical for our fam­i­ly. A social work­er came knock­ing along with a police offi­cer, and had war­rants to ARREST our children.”

CPS flew the chil­dren back to Impe­r­i­al Coun­ty, Cal­i­for­nia, on an air­plane, and Amber fol­lowed on the ground. Krish­na stayed behind to work to get a home and things set up for his fam­i­ly. Amber was very con­cerned for his health, and she had to go fight for their children.

Less than 24 hours after Amber left, she received an urgent call that Krish­na had been found at the bot­tom of the stairs, “not mak­ing any sense.” His blood sug­ar had plum­met­ed and he had fall­en down the stairs, break­ing a ver­te­brae in his neck. Blood was pool­ing in his brain.

He has some­what recov­ered now, but their fam­i­ly is still in great turmoil.

Amber with baby Mira at a visit. Source: Mehta family.

Amber with baby Mira at a vis­it. Source: Mehta family.

Children in Foster Care, Separated from Each Other

The chil­dren have been placed into 3 dif­fer­ent homes. Amber is allowed to vis­it them 3 times a week for an hour each vis­it, but she has been forced to stop breast­feed­ing, because she has been accused of hav­ing a pos­i­tive drug test. She reports that the hair fol­li­cle test shows 18 picograms (0.018 nanograms) for mar­i­jua­na. This tiny amount, she says, is from the sec­ond-hand smoke from her husband’s med­ical mar­i­jua­na use. (Note: most drug tests only report pos­i­tive if it is at least 50 nanograms for marijuana).

Amber has been ordered to under­go a psy­cho­log­i­cal eval­u­a­tion, and was told that “nor­mal peo­ple aren’t home­less.” How­ev­er, her only diag­no­sis was “adjust­ment dis­or­der,” due to her very real dif­fi­cul­ty being a mom try­ing to adjust to the fact that her chil­dren have been tak­en away from her.

She was com­pelled to agree to vac­ci­nat­ing the girls or face charges of med­ical neglect. Though the girls were pre­vi­ous­ly healthy before being tak­en into state cus­tody, they have had numer­ous pre­scrip­tions for antibi­otics and cough syrup, and were abrupt­ly weaned from breast­feed­ing. Tara is report­ed­ly tak­ing this very hard and doesn’t under­stand why her par­ents have “aban­doned” her.

Amber with Sage at a visit after CPS. Source: Mehta family.

Amber with Sage at a vis­it after CPS. Source: Mehta family.

Sage under­stands that his par­ents have no choice in this. He has a his­to­ry of febrile seizures, but his moth­er learned long ago that she need­ed to imme­di­ate­ly treat any fever in Sage. If it were allowed to rise, he could go into a seizure. That is exact­ly what has hap­pened to him in state cus­tody. Dur­ing one vis­it, she felt that he was very hot. She told the care­tak­ers that they need­ed to check his tem­per­a­ture and give him Tylenol or ibupro­fen to bring down the fever. His temp was 101.5, but they refused to treat him, say­ing they had to have a doctor’s order in order to give him any­thing. She the­o­ret­i­cal­ly still retained med­ical rights over her children.

They accused her of over­re­act­ing. How­ev­er, as is often the case, her mother’s intu­ition and knowl­edge of her own child proved cor­rect. Final­ly, some­one took her seri­ous­ly, and took him to the ER. He start­ed seiz­ing in the wait­ing room. He wound up spend­ing 3 days in the hos­pi­tal. Sage begged his mom­my to stay with him in the hos­pi­tal and the social work­ers told them that she could stay. How­ev­er, just as they were get­ting ready to go to sleep, they reneged, and she was forced to leave him there with strangers, in a place he wouldn’t even be if they had just giv­en him Tylenol.


Since the chil­dren have been seized, the family’s RV has been approved as accept­able, but the chil­dren are still in custody.

What Happens Next and How You Can Help

Their next hear­ing is on May 18 in Impe­r­i­al Coun­ty. They have been able to raise some funds to hire a pri­vate CPS attor­ney, Eve­lyn Cox, to rep­re­sent Krish­na. Amber says Cox is “the high­est rec­om­mend­ed lawyer in the state of Cal­i­for­nia for cas­es like this.”

Amber and Krish­na are hope­ful, but scared. Even though they were home­less, they have always been a very close-knit, attach­ment-par­ent­ing fam­i­ly. Their chil­dren were always with them. The emo­tion­al toll of the last few months has been dev­as­tat­ing. Through all the dif­fi­cul­ties that Amber has faced in the past, she has remained strong. She is the one in her cir­cles who helps peo­ple to find the hope and the rain­bows in all the storms. Now, she is the one need­ing sup­port and encour­age­ment for her and her family.

Amber and her babies at a visit. Source: Mehta family.

Amber and her babies at a vis­it. Source: Mehta family.

Gov­er­nor Jer­ry Brown is the gov­er­nor of the state of Cal­i­for­nia. He may be reached at (916) 445‑2841, and con­tact­ed here.

The Sen­a­tor for the dis­trict that Slab City is locat­ed in is Sen­a­tor Ben Hue­so. He may be reached at (916) 651‑4040, and con­tact­ed here.

Assem­bly mem­ber Eduar­do Gar­cia rep­re­sents the dis­trict. He may be reached at (916) 319‑2056, or con­tact­ed here.