Update: 12:33 PM PST (Aug. 23, 2021) – Syesha Mercado has been reunited with her infant daughter. On Aug. 20, she uploaded a video to Instagram announcing “AST IS HOME!!!!”. Mercado and her partner Tyron Deener are still fighting for custody of their 18-month-old son Amen’Ra.
Update: 12:17 PM PST (Aug. 20, 2021) – Florida Department of Children and Families issued a statement, added below.
Original Story: Syesha Mercado the third-place finalist on season seven of American Idol has spoken out publicly for help after CPS forcefully removed her children from her and her partner’s custody.
According to USA Today Mercado and Tyron Deneer had their newborn daughter taken during a traffic stop by Manatee County sheriff’s deputies in Florida. During a press conference, Mercado explained how they have already been fighting to regain custody of their older child taken months before.
The couple’s attorney Derrick McBurrows said the children, 15-month-old Amen’Ra and 16-day-old Asset Sba are now with estranged family members with Mercado and Deneer able to visit weekly.
“We don’t want to say where for their safety, but they are not with their parents,” said co-counsel Louis Baptiste. “And not with the person they would choose.”
Their son was removed after the couple took him for a doctor’s visit in February. Mercado was unable to produce breast milk; however, Amen’Ra would not accept any other form of nutrition. The trip to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. resulted in the boy being placed in foster care in March when he was discharged. Mercado and Deneer were removed from the hospital for trespassing.
The 34-year-old shared an Instagram live video of the deputies taking her newborn daughter during a surprise wellness check on Aug. 11. Asset Sba was only 10 days old at the time.
The couple believes lifestyle choices such as being vegan and their race and background have influenced the authorities to wrongfully remove their children from the home.
“The only thing we’ve done as parents is going to get assistance for our son,” said Deneer, an educator and youth service professional working in the Foster system. “We’ve been judged on the way we look, the way we present ourselves. We’ve been criminalized. We had our son and daughter removed from us for lack of understanding.”
He added the Department of Children and Families, Child Protective Services, and other authorities are “judging us, critiquing us. That’s outside their job. They’re supposed to be working hand-in-hand in building families, not destroying families.”
Mercado, a singer-songwriter and creative entrepreneur, shared, “this is my first time being a mom, and I’ve been deprived of holding my babies and feeding my babies. I didn’t get to see Ra say ‘mama’ for the first time, and I didn’t get to see my babies meet for the first time, and I can’t go back and redo that moment.”
Kim Kardashian shared social media support of Mercado’s as she fights to regain custody of her children.
“Everyone please read and spread this story is absolutely heartbreaking,” tweeted Kardashian. “How a mother could go and seek help for her baby that is not wanting to eat, they take the baby into foster care and remove her newborn baby with no reports of abuse.”
Everyone please read and spread this story is absolutely heartbreaking. How a mother could go and seek help for her baby that is not wanting to eat, they take the baby into foster care and remove her newborn baby with no reports of abuse @Syesha https://t.co/OhVndrWKyo pic.twitter.com/2BwUnEgpqM
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) August 14, 2021
A GoFundme campaign launched by Mercado has exceeded the goal of $200,000 with more than twice that amount raised at the time of publishing. The funds are said to be collected for the legal battle to return both children back to their parents.
“We are calling out to our Tribe! We have decided to lift our Voice in defense of our Sun and Daughter, and our ComeUnity. We Demand to be Heard. ‘Bring Ra and Ast Home!’” Mercado wrote on the webpage. “Our legal fees are mounting and will continue to increase as the case comes to the courts. We need finances to prepare with second opinions on our medical documents and other costs in the campaign to ‘Bring Ra and Ast Home!’”
High-profile attorney Benjamin Crump, who has worked with the families of Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Aubrey, and Breonna Taylor, as well as Jasmine Rand, who worked with the Martin family, the family of Michael Brown, and as media strategist for the George Floyd legal team, have signed on to assist Mercado and Deneer.
VIBE has reached out to the Florida Department of Children and Families for comment. The agency responded via email noting it is “restricted by [statute] from speaking about any specific case.” The department’s response was as follows:
“Chapter 39 of the Florida Statutes (F.S.) mandates that any person, including, but not limited to, law enforcement, education professionals, and healthcare professionals, who have experience in identifying signs of abuse, neglect or abandonment of a child, and who knows or has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused, neglected, or abandoned by a parent, legal custodian, caregiver, or other person responsible for the child’s welfare, shall immediately report such knowledge or suspicion to the Florida Abuse Hotline of the Florida Department of Children and Families.
Children are removed from caregivers when present danger for neglect or abuse is detected by highly-trained Child Protective Investigators. The Department of Children and Families’ number one priority is the safety of the child. Our goal is always to reunify families as quickly as possible when all safety concerns are addressed. However, reunification is only possible when parties to a case work collaboratively towards this goal. The Department’s actions are always to ensure the well-being of children. Any additional information would be confidential at this time, per Chapter 39.202, Florida Statutes.”