American Idol Alum Syesha Mercado Is Still In The Midst Of A Heartbreaking Custody Battle With The State
“Through you all, we were able to counteract this unjust system and this corruption, to be able to get our baby back,” Mercado’s partner Tyron Deener said in the post.
On Wednesday August 18, just days after being born, the couple’s daughter Ast was taken from them during a traffic stop which they recorded and shared online. “If this can happen to us, it can happen to you,” Deener said in the clip. “We have no criminal background... We have done nothing wrong.”
Baby Ast’s homecoming is the first victory in a months-long nightmare involving Florida’s Department of Children and Families, which had taken Amen’Ra from the couple under questionable allegations of child neglect. “We’ve been going through this for six months, trying to get Amen'Ra back,” Deener said in their most recent Instagram post.
The decision to have Amen’Ra removed from the couple’s home was initiated by Florida child abuse pediatrician Dr. Sally Smith, who has been linked to several unfounded child abuse allegations and resulting child-parent separations, according to an USA Today Network investigation.
In a GoFundMe page created to help the couple raise funds to fight the case, Mercado detailed the events that led up to Amen’Ra being taken out of their care. It all began when the couple reportedly took the baby boy to a hospital in St. Petersburg to be treated for dehydration as he seemed to be struggling to transition from breast milk to solid foods.
“Our sun [sic] Amen’Ra was forcefully taken from us by CPS, who claim we refused a B12 shot that was a matter of life and death, which is an absolute lie,” Mercado alleges. “We never refused a B12 shot, and at no point was he on the verge of death. Our Sun [sic] was then placed with a foster family without interviewing qualified relatives or friends of our family for placement while they investigate. He was later moved to another caretaker.”
Randy Warren, a spokesperson for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, told PEOPLE Magazine that authorities had received a tip about a child who was “suffering from severe malnutrition,” and that “ultimately the child, by order of a judge, was sheltered and treatment took place.” Warren also said the couple allegedly “refused to cooperate” after which a judge ordered Amen’Ra to be put in the custody of Child Protective Services.
In a virtual press conference last week, Mercado talked about just how difficult and traumatizing it has been to have both of her very young children taken away from her. “I am a first-time mom and I've been deprived of holding my babies, and feeding my babies,” she said. “I didn't get to see my babies meet for the first time. I didn't get to see that and I can't go back and redo that moment.”
During the conference, the couple denied any allegations of maltreatment of their children. "The only thing that we have ever done as parents is make responsible decisions, loving decisions," Deener said. "We have not committed any crime. We have not abused our babies. We have not done anything that is irresponsible as parents."
Mercado and Deener’s experience is just one part of a larger problem within the child welfare system that disproportionately targets Black children and families. According to one study cited by the Center for the Study of Social Policy, 11 per cent of Black children in the U.S will have experienced foster care placement before the age of 18, compared to 4.9 per cent of white children.
After multiple attempts to reach the Florida Department of Health and State Surgeon General Scott A Rivkees, M.D., the department and Dr. Rivkees did not immediately respond to request for comment on his employee Dr. Sally Smith and her record. The story will be updated should Dr. Rivkees provide a comment.