Tennessee DCS takes Georgia parents’ 5 kids after misdemeanor charge

Some lawmakers and advocates want to see the children returned to their parents.
WSMV's Danielle Jackson reports.
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 10:08 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Tennessee lawmakers and advocates are pushing for the Department of Children’s Services to return a Georgia couple’s children after a traffic stop in February led to controversy.

On Feb. 17, the Tennessee Highway Patrol stopped a Dodge Durango on Interstate 24 near Hillsboro Boulevard in Manchester. According to a Coffee County arrest warrant, Deonte Williams was pulled over for having a dark-colored tint and traveling in the left lane while not actively passing. Bianca Clayborne was a passenger inside the vehicle, along with the couple’s five kids. 

The arrest warrant states the trooper could smell marijuana from the vehicle. Williams was arrested after troopers confiscated five grams of marijuana. THP says there was also a weapon in the car.

”That’s an important distinction: a convicted felon cannot be in possession of a weapon,” THP said. The arrest warrant WSMV4 received from Coffee County did not mention any charges related to a convicted felon in this case.

The Department of Children’s Services took the couple’s five children into custody after the arrest, Tennessee Senator London Lamar said, and now there’s a push to get them back.

”I’ve never heard of children being ripped away from their family because of a misdemeanor charge for a simple possession when marijuana is legal in half the states in the country and medical marijuana is legal in 38 states in this country,” Lamar said.

Clayborne received a citation for possession of marijuana, according to the Coffee County citation report. 

“She wasn’t even arrested,” Lamar said. “She was sitting outside of the criminal justice system waiting to get her partner out. And then DCS approached trying to take the children away. So, I never blamed THP patrol for the removal of the children. Their fault is for the arrest, and we don’t know all of the circumstances around the arrest, but we do know, the mother was not in trouble, and they (DCS) had no grounds to remove the children from the mother.”

WSMV 4 talked with THP Friday for answers.

”We did not arrest the mother in this particular case with the intent of leaving the children with her,” THP Col. Matt Perry said. “So that’s where we left it. The mother had custody of the children.”

A month after the traffic stop, Lamar says the children are still in DCS custody. It’s something she doesn’t understand, especially after the recent controversy involving the state agency and the lack of care for kids in the system.

”We have the worst foster care system in the country based on state reports,” Lamar said. “DCS is taking it upon itself to remove children who are not even citizens of this state.”

In statement from DCS, a representative says they cannot share specifics on this case.

“DCS and law enforcement follow protocol for collecting evidence,” DCS representatives said in the statement. “Those findings are then presented to the court. In this instance, the evidence resulted in the court placing children in DCS custody.”

There will be a protest on Monday. You can watch it here.