A Staten Island mother has sued New York City for $900 trillion for emotional and physical trauma after the Administration for Children’s Services removed her children from her custody and put them in foster care back in 2008.
Fausat Ogunbayo, 46, said she and her boys suffered “over three years of terror, horror, grievous harm, time lost, substantial economic hardship and injuries,” according to court documents.
The children, then 12 and 10, relocated to Queens after their mother lost custody, according to the Staten Island Advance. Court papers said the city removed the boys because Ogunbayo was mentally ill and refused treatment.
She reportedly suffered from hallucinations and left her boys at home alone for several hours. The city maintained that ACS received several complaints about Ogunbayo’s alleged mistreatment of her children in 2008. Court documents also show that the mom told doctors her children’s skin was getting darker by the day because of radiation and the FBI was out to get her children.
While mental illness alone cannot cause parents to lose custody of their children, it is unclear whether her mental state was a precipitating factor in the ACS move to take away her boys in the first place.
Ogunbayo did not return ABC News’ request for comment, but the New York City Law Department issued a statement, saying, “We are unable to comment on pending litigation. The amount a plaintiff requests in a lawsuit has no bearing on whether the case has any merit and no relation to actual damages if any.”
The department said they could not share any information regarding Ogunbayo’s mental health. The children remain in ACS custody.
Ogunbayo is representing herself in court and, in her complaint, obtained by the Smoking Gun, she said the city “recklessly disregarded” her “right to family integrity.”
While living with their mother, the children had excellent attendance and grades at school, Ogunbayo maintained. Doctors offered letters to the court, in which they reported the children were of proper height and weight and otherwise healthy while living with their mother. Since they have lived in their foster home, Ogunbayo said, their school attendance has declined and one of her sons was recently arrested for marijuana possession.
To put the $900,000,000,000,000 demand in perspective, the national debt is about $15 trillion.
Experts say issues of mental illness among parents are never black and white, and the city takes great care in treating each family on a case-by-case basis.
“Laws require states to put in place preventive services in an effort to avoid removing children from their families, but if those preventive services are not working as a first-level intervention, they have to be concerned about the safety of the children,” said Alma Carten, associate professor of social work at New York University. “Mentally ill people do have children and there is an issue of social justice and civil rights here that must be acknowledged.”
“We want to protect the child, so we must balance the rights of the children, the safety of the children and the rights of the parents,” continued Carten.”But a lot depends on how willing and able parents are engaged in those services,” said Carten. “If someone refuses to work with these services, and depending on the severity of the case, there can be grounds to take next steps to ensure the safety of the child.”