Dana Minnabarriet, the grandmother of 2- and 3-year-old children who slept on the floor of an Arkansas Department of Human Service's office last Thursday night, has rented a three-bedroom house in Texarkana, Ark., and furnished it with all the necessities in hopes of getting custody of her grandchildren.
The grandmother of 2- and 3-year-old children who recently slept on the floor of an Arkansas Department of Human Service's office said she doesn't understand why the agency won't give her custody of the youngsters.
The children and their four older siblings were among 17 taken from vehicles as they headed toward the Texas border on Nov. 18, 2008.
Arkansas circuit judges authorized the removals amid allegations that children of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries loyalists were in danger of being abused or neglected.
"How can they possibly be better off sleeping on an office floor than in a loving home with their grandmother?" said Dana Minnabarriet, who left the ministry five years ago. "The two youngest don't really know me. So what? I'm their family and I want them."
Minnabarriet said DHS contacted her daughter, Miriam Krantz, and son-in-law, Bert Krantz, Thursday.
"They wanted them to bring blankets and stuff for the kids because they didn't have any," Minnabarriet said. "They stayed with them until 2 a.m. until they fell asleep. The kids were so scared."
DHS spokeswoman Julie Munsell said she couldn't comment about the specifics of a custody case but said children sleeping on an office floor isn't an acceptable arrangement.
The Krantz' other four children, the oldest of whom is 12, are in foster homes in other parts of the state. For unknown reasons, the two youngest children were allegedly removed from their foster placement Thursday and DHS had no place for them to go, Minnabarriet said.
Minnabarriet said she learned of the state's mass removal of children hours after it occurred. She said she was at DHS' office in Texarkana the next day.
She said she was living in Oklahoma at the time and was initially given the impression all six of her grandchildren would be placed in her custody.
But to date, officials haven't conducted the home study required for such a placement and have shown an unwillingness to consider her, Minnabarriet said.
"I decided to move to Texarkana because I thought that might make a difference," said Minnabarriet, who has rented a three-bedroom house on the Arkansas side of town.
She said she has fixed up rooms she hopes her six grandchildren will soon occupy.
Cheryl Barnes of CPS Watch, a Florida organization that advocates for parents with children involuntarily placed in foster care, said concerns Minnabarriet might not have the financial resources to provide for the kids and her prior association with Alamo Ministries possibly contributed to DHS' reluctance.
Minnabarriet said her other daughter and son are willing to contribute about $1,200 a month to help her care for their nephews and niece.
"The whole family's come together on this," Minnabarriet said. "I love my kids. I'll do anything."
Minnabarriet said she first became associated with the ministry in the 1960s but has lived independently of the church since the 1970s. She said she has never witnessed any of the abuses described by other former members.
"I left five years ago because my son needed me," Minnabarriet said. "When my kids call, I run. Now I'm here because my daughter needs my help. All I know is I'm here for my grandkids."
Bert Krantz, Minnabarriet's son-in-law, is one of two fathers suing DHS in federal court. The suit alleges the parents' civil rights are being violated.
In recent filings, snippets of transcripts of conversations with DHS staffers the Krantzes allegedly recorded create the appearance of an adversarial relationship between the agency and the parents.
The parents are prohibited from speaking publicly about the custody cases by a gag order issued following the release of confidential, videotaped interviews with six girls who were taken from Alamo properties in Fouke in September.
In a letter dated June 25, 2009, on file in the federal civil case and reportedly mailed to caseworker Kay Smallwood, Bert Krantz asks about court-ordered weekly visits with his children and why they weren't being allowed.
"You stated that you, ‘Frankly don't have time to do the visit,'" the letter quoted Smallwood as saying.
In a second conversation the same day, Krantz asked about visitation again.
"We again mentioned the court-ordered visit. You replied, ‘Yes and the court ordered that y'all would find housing and stuff, have you done that, have you done that,'" the letter alleged.
The house Minnabarriet has rented is furnished with bunk beds, play houses and adorned with family photos.
"I have 17 grandchildren. I know all their names, but don't ask me for their birthdays," she mused.
Minnabarriet said she intends to attend upcoming custody hearings concerning her six grandchildren before Circuit Judge Joe Griffin in Miller County.
"I can't answer that question until they get to the courtroom and tell me about it," Griffin said Friday when asked why Minnabarriet's quest for custody has been met with resistance. "That's the first I've heard about it."