….this family fought back and continues to fight. Change is coming, agonizingly slow but sure.
Robert Fields has some questions he wants to ask of Child Protective Services in his home town in Florida. Those questions are, “How much did you make for trying to destroy my family?”
Robert Fields is a good man who knows his own mind and stands up for what he believes is right. A professional in aerospace, he is proud of his black heritage. He and his wife, Belinda, have raised up their children through the woes caused by the meltdown of values in America today and are justifiably proud of their kids, now mostly grown. No family is perfect, but their kids were raised to be respectful of their elders, study hard, and do their chores around the house.
Robert and the rest of the Fields family could not help but be aware that it is harder today to do that than it was when Robert and Belinda were growing up themselves. The problems are many, including the break down in community values but also, for vulnerable families, the hovering presence of Child Protective Services. What began supposedly as a service to those in need has changed character over the years. Once populated mostly with women who were well intended, if today its employees are following out a very different agenda. CPS has earned a reputation for deceit, violence, and greed that is hard to either believe or equal. St. Petersberg, where the Field's family lives, is a hot bed of good fishing for CPS. Likely targets are young women with kids who would sell well.
It started for the Fields last October 15th. Robert and Belinda received a call from the school stating that their kids were late for school. The girls told their Dad that their brother was not getting up, making them all late. Their son had been working late on his part time job and sometimes had trouble getting up. He had been told that he could only work if his grades stayed up, so after that Robert told him he would have to cut back on his hours at work for a while. Robert's son, Robert Junior, did not like that and reacted badly. Then Dad noticed that his pants were hanging down and, against the family rules, the Field's son was looking like a thug, not a young man with self respect and a future.
Robert took his son to task; an argument ensued that lead to Robert calling the police. Angry words had been exchanged but nothing physical happened.
The next day Robert Junior told someone at school that, “His father was going to put some hollow points in his ass.” Venting and exaggerating are things kids do. But in this case those listening had an agenda. Control and profit. They encouraged an angry son to lie, which he now freely admits having done.
The next day the police came out to the Field's home with Laurie Gray, a CPS worker. Belinda Fields was threatened with the loss of her three children. On the 19th of 20th Gray came out again, asking Mr. Fields if he drank, smoked pot, or owned a gun. The questions were intrusive, intimate, and followed an agenda.
A few days earlier Mr. Fields had cleaned his gun and placed it, locked and unloaded, under his mattress. Mrs. Fields showed Gray the gun, which was entirely legal. This showed up in the report as a loaded unsafe gun. The case workers began encouraging the kids to criticize their parents, especially their father. They reported that he drinks, hollers and yells occasionally.
The family was then threatened, told they would lose their kids if they did not agree to do a case plan.
Over and over again Belinda and Robert were threatened with the loss of their children if they refused to sign a case plan. There is a reason this was the focus. Without agreeing to become a 'client' the CPS could do nothing and the lives of the Fields would remain their own.
Belinda's own attorney, Edward Panvica, appointed by the state, also threatened Belinda, again telling her the children would be removed from the home if she did not agree. Courageously both parents continued to refuse.
When you study the people who are paid to harass families like the Fields, more questions occur. CPS officer is Laurie Gray was married to a black man and has a biracial son. Fields saw him with his mother one day. The boy, who looked like he was between 12 and 14, Fields said, was wearing pants three sizes too large, sagging, shoes were flip-flopping, his hair a mess, looking like it has not been combed in a week.
Fields believes that Gray resents him and his family because she lives in a marginal neighborhood while they live in a nice area and have an intact family. A contact in CPS told Fields that those in the office think Gray is being completely irrational. But the harassment continues .
Gray's associates continue to show up unannounced. Once a month she or one of her co-workers come by to 'see the kids.' They pop up, disrupting the family's time together and work schedules. This has cost the family around $7,000 – $8,000 that is money, the Field's say, to afford. Both Fields have been forced to take time time off work. They have been forced to take drug tests, forced to pay for attorneys who did nothing but help the court harass them.
Christmas is now a minimal holiday, there is little extra money for presents. Quality time spent with the kids has been cut down because both parents have to work harder just so the family can survive. Robert now works a second job. Belinda works over 100 hours a week to make more because of the CPS. There are no more trips to the St. Pete Beach. There was a time when Robert, Senior loved nothing more than taking the kids there, reading and listening to the radio while he watched them play in the surf and sand. Now, many things have changed. Before, they had savings. Now, they are longer sure the kids will go to college because the money is gone.
Robert, Senior has now filed motions to recuse the judge. He has read the police reports and knows they are packed with lies. Lies are standard operating procedure, he now understands. Judge Irene Sullivan recused herself. More litigation will follow.
The church they attend stands behind them. Their pastor says they are strong people. The people who know the facts support them. They see the problems with the Fields and in other families who live in fear of the CPS. The Fields have always been upstanding and always done things together as a family. When they used to go out to eat people would stop and compliment them on how well their kids behaved. Their kids were trained to act respectfully and honorably towards others.
Asked what matters most to him Robert Fields responded, that he wanted to see his kids grow up to be responsible citizens, hard working, decent, have loving families and strive for the best. His advice to them, he says is this, “If you have less today figure out how you can have a better life tomorrow.”
Church matters to both Fields parents. They want their kids to have a relationship with God. But they understand that this is a choice each must make for themselves. They won't force them to go to church but they were raised there and he wants them to participate and have God in their lives. They need that, Field's says, all of us need that relationship and prayer. The family would like to go every Sunday but they work too many Sundays for that to be possible now. But no matter what they participate in the awards ceremonies and baptisms at Fort de Soto Park. Those events, says Robert, are a big occasion for them. They have always tried to keep the kids active, go to Bible study, and life the word.
If they are both off on Sunday they go to church together.