Black family’s five children forcibly taken by child services after minor traffic stop in Tennessee

Tennessee police are seen during a White Lives Matter rally (Getty Images)
Tennessee police are seen during a White Lives Matter rally (Getty Images)

A Georgia couple is fighting to get back the custody of their five children, including a four-month-old baby, after they were forcibly taken by child services following a traffic stop where police allegedly found a gun and marijuana in their possession.

Deonte Williams and Bianca Clayborne were stopped in Tennessee on 17 February for dark tinted windows and “travelling in the left lane while not actively passing”, Tennessee Lookout reported.

Officers searched the couple’s car and found a gun and five grams of marijuana – a misdemeanour under Tennessee state laws.

Mr Williams was arrested and Ms Clayborne, who was told she is free to leave with the children, followed the police car to arrange for her partner’s release in Coffee County Justice Centre.

Almost six hours later, Mr Clayborne received an emergency court order placing her children in state custody of child services.

Her children, a breast-feeding four-month-old, and two, three, five and seven-year-olds were forcibly removed from her side as she waited for Mr Williams, it reported.

The Department of Child Services said in a petition that there was probable cause that the children were “neglected” and there was no “less drastic” alternative to taking the children from their parents.

Attorneys for the couple have described the child service’s actions as “extreme”, “abnormal”, and a violation of the parents’ rights as the five children remain in their custody for almost a month.

They said the couple received shocking treatment because they are Black and would not have faced such action if they had a different background.

“It’s just so shocking to the conscience that in 2023 this is happening,” said Jamaal Boykin, a Nashville attorney representing the family in their custody case.

“I just have to believe if my clients looked different or had a different background, they would have just been given a citation and told you just keep this stuff away from the kids while you’re in this state and they’d be on their way.”

A week after Mr Williams’s arrest, the parents were asked to undergo a drug test by a Coffee County juvenile judge during a hearing.

The first drug test revealed Mr Williams was positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, and Ms Clayborne’s test was negative. A second hair follicle test came positive for methamphetamines, fentanyl, and oxycodone in both parents, who deny using the substances.

An amended petition by child services said the children were not only neglected but they were abused.

The attorney of the family planned to change the results of the hair follicle tests on the suggestion of experts that the test conducted on the couple is known to generate too many false positives.

However, they were told by child services that it will not be possible to challenge the results as the drug court does not hold onto them.

Ms Clayborne told Tennessee Lookout on Monday that she is left traumatized by the events and remains in touch with the children during visits to the foster care and through phone calls.

She said the children cry when they speak to her and hug her, refusing to leave her when she visits.

The family is also on the verge of bankruptcy due to the legal battle and trips to see their children in Tennessee.

Tennessee Senator London Lamar has demanded child services to return the children to the family.

“I’m demanding, publicly, that DCS give this couple their children back,” Ms Lamar said at a press conference. “The Coffee County justice system was completely out of line for taking their children over a misdemeanour charge.”

Ms Clayborne said her kids have asthma and no one at the child services asked for her children’s health or needs.

“My kids – they have asthma and you’re not asking about nothing,” she said. “I breastfeed. They didn’t give me anything. They just ran off with my kids.”

The couple will return to Coffee County Juvenile Court on Monday.