Watertown couple blames St. Lawrence County DSS retaliation for loss of foster kids

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 5:37 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) - You can add a Jefferson County couple to the list of people complaining about the St. Lawrence County Department of Social Services. Erica and Jamison Porter say they were outspoken and their foster children were taken in retaliation for it.

The 8-year-old girl’s stuffed animals and dolls are still there for her. So are the 6-year-old boy’s play tools and toys. They’re ready for the day they might return.

“This is what their rooms looked like the day that they left,” said Erica Porter, foster parent. “We’re not going to change it because we want them back home.”

Erica and Jamison Porter of Watertown were foster parents to the boy and girl – both from St. Lawrence County. The foster children had special needs. The Porters fell in love with them. But then, they say social service caseworkers turned on them.

“It started to become a pattern to us that every time we were very outspoken and kind of did something, they were retaliating against us,” said Porter.

The Porters pushed social workers for visits from the two children’s older brothers. The couple wanted more mental health care for them. The Porters eventually filed for guardianship of all four siblings – over social services’ opposition. Each time, the state’s child abuse hotline would get a call – within days.

“Once is a coincidence. Two becomes a pattern,” said Jamison.

There were four in all. The Porters say the hotline reports are made up. They say from the information they were given on the calls, it’s obvious social workers made them.

On July 31, the Porters complained to the advocacy group CHILD in St. Lawrence County.

CHILD says the Porters’ experience is not unusual. The group says dozens of foster parents have told them about bullying and retaliation at the hands of social workers. CHILD also says foster children are often ripped from good homes.

Nine days after the Porters complained to CHILD, a hotline call was made. Then came an order for emergency removal of the children. The Porters haven’t seen either child since.

St. Lawrence County Social Services did not return a call for comment.

“I can’t sleep knowing that this system is supposed to protect these kids, and it’s the kids that are suffering the most,” said Erica.

The Porters’ pastor, a cop, teachers and others have written them foster parent recommendation letters.

The Porters are both teachers in the Carthage Central School District.

Erica has started a Jefferson County chapter of CHILD.

“If it’s up to me, I won’t stop until they’re home. This is where they belong. This is their home,” she said.

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