Nateyonna v. DFCS

Nateyonna Banks had a short life that ended abruptly in November 2006.   Nateyonna was born while her mother was incarcerated on a cocaine possession charge.  She was the youngest of five children, who had already been removed from her mother’s care.

Because her mother was in jail, Nateyonna’s great-aunt, Carolyn Banks, gladly stepped in to raise her in a warm and loving home.  Because the household was run on less than meager means, Banks approached the state child welfare agency in order to receive financial to help raise Nateyonna.  At that time, the Fulton County Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) workers agreed the child should be placed with Carolyn Banks and that she should receive foster parent compensation.

However, DFCS supervisors overruled that decision and placed Nateyonna with her mother following her release from jail, despite the fact that Nateyonna’s older siblings had been removed from their mothers care due to her mental instability and on-going drug problem. 

Lack of DFCS oversight, lapses in intra-office communication and failure to review medical files led Nateyonna to be turned over to her mother shortly after her second birthday.  After being released from jail, Nateyonna’s mother because increasingly unstable and quickly fell back into her old abusive patterns.  In a fit of rage, Nateyonna’s mother beat her to death on a cold November night.

Mr. Keenan filed suit in Fulton state court, said Fulton's Office of the Child Advocate Attorney failed to fully investigate Nateyonna's mother before returning the child to her care.  Keenan believes that DFCS is understaffed, underfunded and overworked which leads to gaping holes in the legal safety net that protects Georgia’s children. 

While the successful suit brought justice for Nateyonna and her siblings, the systemic problems Georgia’s DFCS offices still exist today.  In 2011 alone, there have been four separate DFCS failures that resulted in a Georgia child’s death.  The Keenan’s Kids Foundation continues to fight the DFCS system in order to ensure that all of Georgia’s children have the proper representation they so desperately need.

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