Florida Fil-Am fighting to get kids back from state custody

Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Sep 12 2015 12:41 PM | Updated as of Sep 12 2015 08:44 PM

KISSIMEE, Florida – A Filipino-American in Florida, whose seven children were taken from him and his wife by the Department of Children and Families (DCF) a year ago, is fighting to get them back.

What Fil-Am Freddie Versoza and his wife Tracey wanted most is to be a family again.

"I love them very much all my heart. I'm crying every night, I want my kids back," said Tracey.

Freddie said, "My wife was looking out by the front door and seen all these kids being hauled away. As they were hauling her, my daughter was begging for her life, she said 'Mommy, please don't let them take me away'."

Last year, the DCF took custody of Selena, Freddie Jr., Johnny, Jackson, Prince, Austin and their newborn, Taylor Lynn – whom Freddie calls his seven angels.

"They come barging in my house saying that do you have any weapons? Do you have any drugs? We need to look into your garage, make sure there are no dead bodies. They're doing it for the interest of the kids...," Freddie said.

Freddie was jobless at that time and a psychological exam showed that Tracey had a learning disability.

According to DCF officials, the kids were removed from their parents to make sure they were provided their basic needs, medical care and housing stability.

"I went to court and they basically said that my wife… the babies won't be safe with my wife because of a medical… she has a full learning disability…she has raised these children since they were born," he said.

Between 2008 and 2014, 477 children died after the DCF elected to leave the kids with "violent, neglectful, mentally ill or drug addicted parents, according to a 2014 Miami Herald report.

The National Council on Disability reported that parents with psychiatric disabilities faced 70 to 80 percent removal rates, while those with intellectual handicaps faced 40 to 80 percent.

"What we have in this house is priceless because you'll never find the kind of love that we've given these children. But when DCF took that away from us, we're basically nothing," Freddie said.

But a year after his family's ordeal, Freddie said he is ready. He is back to work and made some home improvements.

While the DCF has not ruled out the possibility of giving their kids back, the Versozas said they can't wait any longer to be a family again.

Read more on Balitang America