Relatives of Antwan’s father said Simmons had been suffering from a severe mental illness for at least a year or two, and had been spotty in her compliance with treatment and medication. Relatives said Simmons also was known to use illegal drugs to self-medicate her illness.
But in recent months, administrators at Broward’s privately run foster care agency, called ChildNet, were eager to return Antwan to his mother’s custody. Despite the strong objections of a court-appointed advocate, Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer agreed with agency case workers and allowed Simmons to have unsupervised visits with her son in preparation for a family reunification.
Antwan’s stay with his mom last weekend marked his first unsupervised weekend visit.
“They handed him back to her knowing she tried to kill him,” said Jackson, 50, who lives in Tallahassee. “That’s what’s tearing our family apart.”
“This person tried to kill him,” Jackson added. “But the fact that they would hand him over to her, to me, that says ‘do as you please.’ ”
Sharon Walker, Antwan’s paternal grandmother, said she spoke with the little boy just last week when both her son and another son attended the boy’s graduation. “He said, ‘I love you, Grandma Sharon. I want to come with you.’ ”
Walker, 47, who moved to Augusta, Ga., last year, said she does not understand why authorities did not search for Antwan Sunday when his mother failed to return him from her weekend visit. The youngster, she said, was supposed to be returned to his caregiver Sunday, not Monday.
“Why did nobody check on him?,” she asked. “Nobody.”
“He was only four years old, and he didn’t do anything,” said Walker. “They knew she was dangerous…They knew she was sick, and they allowed her to have unsupervised visits with my grandbaby.”
Miami Herald writer Gina Cherelus contributed to this report.