USC

Law enforcement ordeal tarnishes grad student’s entry to parenthood

Kayla Love is unable to enjoy being a new mother as she tries to seek justice from DPS and Student Affairs

Protestors march across campus holding signs.

Childbirth is unpredictable. Sometimes the water breaks quickly, just like in the movies, while other times labor is slow and the amniotic fluid leaks for over 48 hours.

For Kayla Love, a doctoral chemistry student, labor was fast and unexpected. “There was no one there, not a midwife or a doula, or anyone we could call to get there fast enough,” Love said.

Without anyone present to help Love through labor, she said that her husband Khari Jones, who had been doing “extensive research” about childbirth, stepped in to deliver their infant daughter in their home.

“That was a very special moment for us to know that he delivered her,” she recalls.

Mother carrying baby.

Jones called the paramedics to check on Love and their newborn daughter. “They checked her out and it was like, ‘Oh, she’s perfectly fine, you know, great job dad,’” Love said.

Love needed medical attention and was transported to the hospital in an ambulance. Not wanting to leave his partner alone, Jones and the baby followed in a separate ambulance.

“That’s how she ended up at the hospital — as a visitor, not as a patient,” Love said.

At the hospital, Love had emergency surgery as she had a retained placenta - she had not delivered the placenta after birth. This complication occurs in 1 - 3% of vaginal deliveries.

While Love was in surgery, Jones waited with their baby. As he inquired about when he could see Love after surgery, doctors stepped in and wanted to have tests run on the baby. Jones assured them that the paramedics had checked the baby out and that he was going to take her to her primary care physician for additional testing.

“I told them I had a bad experience,” Love said “I don’t want my daughter to be seen there.”

Jones said that doctors then had law enforcement step in. “The officers came at me with my daughter in my hand, I had basically moved away from them,” Jones said. “With medical kidnapping, they take your baby from you basically when you exercise your rights.”

Medical kidnapping occurs when a child is removed from the care of their family when parents or guardians refuse or question medical treatment.

Love decided to leave the hospital, after determining her health risks were low enough to sign a “Patient Leaving Health Facility Against Medical System” form. She was also asked to sign a form stating that she would not make personal or business decisions for the next 24 hours.

Later that night, Love said ten or more officers from the Department of Public Safety and the Los Angeles Police Department knocked on their front door with the purpose of checking on the child due to the original doctor’s statement to social workers. After Jones refused to let them in and cited the document that Love needed rest, an officer drew a gun, arrested Jones and handcuffed him in another room.

Love and Jones’ ordeal at the hospital is reminiscent of the recent case of former American Idol contestant Syesha Mercado. Mercado’s ordeal with law enforcement and Child Protective Services brought widespread attention, including that of celebrities, to medical kidnapping.

“As healthcare workers, our staff also must adhere to mandated reporting guidelines, by law, which means that we must report any reasonable suspicion to appropriate Children and Family services so they can investigate,” the LA County Department of Health Services said in a statement to Annenberg Media. “To be very clear: in general, our Hospital staff does not report to law enforcement and the refusal of care, medication and hospitalization does not automatically trigger legal reporting mandates.”

It is also important to note that paramedics are also mandated reporters and when they examined the newborn baby, they found no cause for concern.

However, in this instance based on Love and Jones’ testimony, refusal of care resulted in the hospital reporting suspicion to Child and Family Services. Studies by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have highlighted a racial bias within Child and Family Services - Black children are twice as likely to be placed in foster care than white children. In some instances, even when white children enter the foster care system they are allowed to stay with their families, but Black children are taken away from their families. This is a local problem too, as nearly 25% of children in the Los Angeles County foster care system are Black.

The whole event was traumatic and Love now feels stressed whenever she hears a knock on the door.

“I was very, very stressed... just to hear a knock on the door,” she said. “I have to not think about the situation because if I’m thinking about that situation, it affects my milk flow.”

The family decided to relocate out of USC housing three days later because they did not feel safe, she said.

Love’s request for available student emergency funds was denied, and a hold was placed on her account when she couldn’t pay for housing for the home she left behind. The hold made it so she could not access her graduate stipend funds.

“This made it more challenging to pay for living expenses despite that being the purpose of the graduate stipend,” said Love.

Both Love and Jones had the opportunity to share their story at a recent on-campus protest of about 50 students on Wednesday, December 1st. The ‘Care Not Cops’ protest was put together by a coalition of on campus groups, spearheaded by Black Student Assembly.

“As Black children, we face violence at the very beginning when we enter the world,” said Jaylah Wilson, a second year political science major who attended the protest.

Protesters marched across campus from Ronald Tutor Campus Center to USC Village, chanting “Justice for Kayla Love” and “Black Moms Matter.”

The crowd expressed frustrations with law enforcement and held signs emblazoned with these messages: “Cops off our campus” and “Abolish DPS.”

“We were shocked, disgusted, and angered how an event like this could easily get swept under the rug,” said event organizer Ezi Ogbuli, a senior majoring in global studies.

She said the organizers of the protest hadn’t heard what happened until months after the frightful event took place and were upset with how the university had handled the situation.

A university statement released to Annenberg Media on December 1, addressed the issues that Love raised about her experience with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and the LAPD.

“Those governmental agencies operate totally separately from USC, so we are unable to talk about whatever decisions they made according to their policies and procedures,” the statement read.

The university went on to address Love’s allegations about her current housing and financial situation.

“While we are unable to share any details about her situation or the university’s response due to student privacy laws, the university is deeply concerned when any student experiences any kind of trauma, and we offer both private and confidential support resources, as well as supportive measures, to any of our USC community members who contact us,” the university said in a statement to Annenberg Media.

Love said this incident exacerbated feelings of being unwelcome in USC’s academic setting.

“I am one of the only African-American students in my program and oftentimes, I’m encouraged to leave my program, saying that science may not be for me, or that I have a child,” Love said. “I felt like this only reinforced that we don’t want you here, and we’re not going to offer any support”

But students like Ogbuli still stand in solidarity with Love and her family.

“We want feasible, realistic change and that starts with community,” said Ogbuli.

Love expressed her immense gratitude for the student support at the protest.

“The students are the people who have supported me the most in this situation,” said Love. “I always say the students are the ones who will make the difference, and the students make up the university.”