The children of a missing suburban mom have been removed from their grandparents’ home and placed into a new foster location while police continue searching for the woman who disappeared three weeks ago.
Brenda Gonzalez Jackson, a mother of six and Iraq war veteran, disappeared on Jan. 3 after she was dropped off at her Park Forest home. Five of her children had been living with their grandparents, but the state has taken the children away.
Maria and Joel Gonzalez had been caring for the kids for months, but DCSF and the Cook County Sheriff took the children Thursday night, the parents told NBC Chicago.
“We are not just foster parents, we are their grandparents,” said Joel Gonzalez. “We are their next of kin.”
The Department of Children and Family Services first took guardianship of the children in August, following a domestic violence report involving their father. Five of the children were placed into the grandparents’ custody while a sixth child went to live with her father, Jackson's first husband, in Texas.
But the agency says the grandparents have since violated a safety plan that keeps the kids away from their father and granted Jackson supervised visits. A court, the public guardian and DCFS say they agree the home in unincorporated Cook County is no longer an appropriate placement.
“I can’t understand,” Maria Gonzalez said. “[DCFS reports] say these kids are in a loving, happy, environment. If you say that in your reports, then why are you taking these kids and putting them with strangers?”
In a statement, DCFS said, “we have concerns about [the grandparents] willingness to accept the severity of the dynamics of this case and the impact this has on their ability to provide a safe home for the children. Therefore we’ll be moving the children to a home that can ensure the safety and well-being of the children long term.”
“We take care of these kids,” Joel Gonzalez said. “We send them to school. The little girl goes to school, she’s student of the month, she’s doing well. The other kids are happy. Now they want to separate them. Put them with totally different strangers.”
The family says they plan to fight the decision.
“We are going to fight it, even if we are going to the Supreme Court,” Maria Gonzalez said. “I don’t care. We are going to fight it.”
Meanwhile, search efforts continue for Jackson. Police say they've received reports of a number of sightings in the Chicago area, but none of them have been confirmed.
Jackson is described as approximately 5-foot tall, weighing 125 pounds, according to investigators. She has star tattoos on both sides of her neck, as well as a heart tattoo on her ring finger and a tattoo that reads “Michael” on her left inner wrist. Jackson also has a scar on her upper chest.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Park Forest Police Department Investigations Division at (708) 748-1309.