A dad in Georgia went to pick up his daughter from after-school care one day – only to discover that she was nowhere to be found.
Sean Harris shared his horrifying encounter with Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services, which mistakenly took his daughter from her school instead of another child, on radio Friday.
“You thought this was a normal day, and everything was going to be fine,” Glenn introduced Harris’ story on the show.
Harris detailed the “sheer panic” going through his mind when his daughter never made it to her normal after-school care, while the school wouldn’t answer any questions from her daycare. He called 911 while driving back to her school and then had to fight to find out what happened.
“I just had straight confusion as far as not understanding where she was or how she could have gotten on the wrong bus,” Harris said of the senseless situation.
At first, the school told him she was taken to a different after-school care facility, but eventually Harris got the real story: DFCS officials had mistakenly taken his daughter away for questioning.
This is a rush transcript and may contain errors.
GLENN: From the — from the Atlanta area, Sean Harris, the dad of a 7-year-old girl who he dropped off at school, went to pick her up, and she was gone. Without skipping to the end of the story, let me pick it up to, Sean, you thought this was a normal day and everything was going to be fine, right?
SEAN: Yes, I did.
GLENN: And then you go and pick her up. And what happens?
SEAN: I went to her after-school care to pick her up as always. So about 3:20 in the afternoon. When I got there, they had told me that her bus had just arrived. So they called her on the PA. And I went to the back where I would normally pick her up, in either a classroom or the cafeteria area, if not on the playground. And I could not find her. So I came back to the front, and they acknowledged that they looked at the roll call and realized that, in fact, she was not on that bus.
So they then called her elementary school, at which time they kind of gave the runaround. They wouldn’t ask for any specific questions and continued putting them on hold, at which time they then just hung up on the day care.
So I immediately got in my vehicle and raced over to her school, while calling 911 en route, to have a police officer there to look out for her and to also respond to me when I got there.
GLENN: Okay. So hang on just a second. As you’re going there, all you know at this point is that the school may know something, but they’re not telling, you know, the day care. And you don’t know what’s happening. What is going through your mind on what you think at this point is happening?
SEAN: Sheer panic. So once I got to the school, contacted the vice principal and demanded to know where my child was. They then told me that she was okay and she was en route. So as a concerned parent, I asked, “Where is she, and where has she been?” I was told that she was put on a bus, taken to a different after-school care. And I asked again, “Well, which after-school facility was this?” They couldn’t tell me.
Then after another five minutes or so of frustration, on my part, they then decided we needed to tell him the truth.
And that’s why —
GLENN: Okay. Stop. Stop.
At this point, when you are talking to the school, are you thinking somebody screwed up and put her on another bus, that somehow or another you guys haven’t been watching where my daughter was? Did you — were you getting feelings that something else is going on?
SEAN: No. I — I just had, just straight confusion, as far as not understanding where she was or how she could have gotten on the wrong bus. She’s very familiar with her bus that she takes. She’s been going to that since she’s been two years old, the after-care facility. So she’s very familiar with the proper bus that she needed to catch.
GLENN: So how much time has gone by now between the time that you first find out that your daughter is not at school, not where she’s supposed to be, to I assume the police have arrived now and are there with you?
GLENN: And how much time has transpired until you — until you are given the truth?
SEAN: I would say about 20 minutes.
GLENN: And your daughter, when does she call you?
SEAN: She didn’t call. At that time, when I was speaking to the vice principal, they told me that the Rockdale County DFCS office had picked her up inadvertently, by mistake. There’s another child at the school, with the same name. The first names are spelled differently, however. And there’s a two-year age difference with different birthdays.
So when I instructed the administration of the elementary school to contact that DFCS worker who, in fact, had her, I needed to speak to my daughter. So they contacted the driver that came to pick her up and put my daughter on the phone.
When she got on the phone, I asked if she was okay. And she was visibly — well, audibly shaken. She was crying. I could tell she was panicking. I just tried to comfort her and told her that she would be with me momentarily. And I then asked the driver what their estimated arrival time would be, she stated 20 to 30 minutes, which she had actually taken her to a different county. They subsequently came to the school, at probably about 4:20 at this time.
I merely laid eyes on my daughter, made sure that she was okay, and quickly asked the driver, “What was their protocol for identifying students before they pick them up?” And I asked her, “Did they have a photo or any other identifying measures in which to identify the proper child in which they were going to pick up?” And she just stated that the paper said the name and the birthday. And at no time had anyone ever cross-referenced to see that the spellings were different, as well as a two-year age difference, and different birthdays.
GLENN: Okay. Sean, hang on just a second.
I don’t know about you, but I got — I got a buttload of problems here. And it’s not just that they didn’t check the birth day and they picked up wrong child. I am assuming, Sean, that you have taught your child, you know, don’t get into a car with strangers.
GLENN: What kind of trauma has your daughter gone through? How did they approach her in the first place? Who told her — how did she know she wasn’t being kidnapped by a bad guy?
SEAN: Well, later that evening, when I spoke to her, she was not comfortable with being with the lady from the beginning. And, yes, we definitely taught her, don’t go with strangers. And that was one of my number one concerns.
But, again, when you send your child to school, you’re trusting in the school, and your children also trust in the school, being that you trust the school to keep custody of them. So, of course, she went, reluctantly, of course. But, of course, this is part of the school system that she felt that was — she went along with them with an adult. And when I spoke to her later that evening, I also asked her, what happened when she got there also? She stated that she was just sitting in her room. I asked, were the people nice to her? Were they mean to her? She said no.
They offered her a bottle of water and a small pack of crackers. And she said she cried while she was there. And they were questioning her, asking on the way to the location, the driver was asking, “Has she ever been to DFCS before? Does she know what DFCS is?”
Of course, my child has no idea what DFCS is. So when she got there, she again asked her, “Do you know where you are?” And my daughter said, “No.” They went ahead and took her inside and started asking her questions about her father and what type of vehicle he drives and something about her grandmother.
And they then just waited for a little while. And that’s apparently when they realized they had the wrong child —
GLENN: Oh, my gosh.
SEAN: — and started heading back to the school.
GLENN: Okay. So if you don’t know what DFCS is, this is a Georgian Division of Family and Children Services. These are the protectors of your children.
So what — I hope you have a good woman in your life. Because that would been the one thing that stopped me from going on a rampage, quite honestly, Sean.
How — how — how did you react to this? And what happened in the subsequent days?
SEAN: Of course, I was devastated. At the time, the principal showed up. And we also talked with the school police. And I was in sheer panic. Sheer panic.
And once we sat down and had a conference, we talked about the events that had occurred and how could this have possibly happened. They — at that point, the school system, they responded immediately. They took full responsibility, and I do applaud them for that.
The subsequent morning, I spoke with the superintendent. We’ve had conversations since then, numerous times, as well as the principal.
The next morning — well, that night at home, she cried a lot that night. She was scared. She stated that I never want to go back to that school. And I had to take time to comfort her and just kind of encourage her that everything would be okay the next morning. I personally took her to school the next morning. The school system had a counselor on hand to speak to her.
GLENN: Oh, probably somebody from DFCS, probably?
SEAN: No. No one.
GLENN: Nobody there? Because I know the state likes to, you know, counsel children and make sure that they’re safe. I thought maybe the state would have somebody there to help your child out.
SEAN: No, the state never offered. This was the school system that offered.
Subsequently, the next day, when I contacted DFCS, I was speaking with the director. Her name was Ms. Perot. And she kind of had the demeanor and the attitude of, “Well, you got your kid back, so let’s just move on.”
GLENN: Oh, my gosh.
SEAN: And she promised that I would hear back from her at 1 o’clock that afternoon, which to this point I still have not heard anything back from DFCS.
GLENN: Oh, my gosh. Well, the state just doesn’t have to respond back to you little people, do they?
Do you have a good attorney?
GLENN: You do? Like a really good attorney?
GLENN: Good. And what does your really good attorney say?
SEAN: We’re in communication. So we’re just going to kind of keep it at that point.
STU: You do have a good attorney. Because that’s exactly what you’re supposed to say.
GLENN: That’s exactly what you’re supposed to say.
Okay. So how do you feel about the — sending your children to, you know, school, where they allow this just to happen and — how do you feel about sending them to school? And how do you explain to your child that they’re safe from the government just picking them up, taking them someplace?
SEAN: Well, of course, I’m still concerned. Still have a little apprehension. I’ve never had any problems with the school. This was her third year at the school. Never had any problems. The staff has always been great and professional.
It’s more so the DFCS aspect of not cross-referencing and verifying. It’s rough every day just convincing her that it’s okay to go to school. And at the same time, I have to ensure that nothing happens because her trust is solely in me as far as trusting that it’s okay to return back to school.
So I kind of watch her while she sleeps. I don’t know if she’s having nightmares or not. I guess that will kind of tell in the near future here.
So my number one concern, of course, is for her well-being, her emotional mental stability, how this can affect her in the future.
And most importantly, it never happens again to her or any other student. And just different measures and protocols have to be in place, particularly in identifying children. Because the only identifying factor they had was a name and a birth date. But they should have height, weight. Other identifying measures.
GLENN: You know, Sean, the other part of this — because I dwelled on this — in the 24 hours since I’ve known about this story, I’ve dwelled on, how could they possibly screw this up? How incompetent do you have to be and scar a 7-year-old child? And, oh, well. That’s outrageous.
However, let’s remember that they’re doing this to kids, and some of those kids are abused. Some of them are not abused. And the idea that they can just come in and take your children and not notify anybody is just a total and complete outrage. Just an outrage.
Especially when they’re sloppy.
Sean, I — I appreciate you coming on the program and — and talking about this. I hope that you fight with all your might so this does not happen to other children, that they are not — you know, that — we got to do what we — no, we don’t have to do what we have to do. We have to do the right thing to protect children. But the state — the arrogance of the state to just do this and then not even to call and apologize to you is just eye-bleeding outrageous.
SEAN: Yes. Very disturbing.
GLENN: We will pray for your daughter. We will pray for you. And thank you so much for sharing your story. Anything we can do to help? Is there anything we can do to help?
SEAN: Just stay on top of the story with me. And I just want to get this out so that people can understand what’s happening with this particular agency. And more importantly, the young lady who was supposed to be picked up. Was picked up for a reason obviously. And it could have been that she in fact could have been in an abusive relationship. And by them dropping the ball, she could have been in harm’s way as well, as my daughter was in harm’s way being with a stranger.
SEAN: So the system definitely has to be corrected immediately.
GLENN: Thank you very much, Sean. We will follow the story. You stay in touch with us. Let us know the turns and the twists. And if there’s anything we can do to help, I know this audience would love to help you. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
SEAN: Thank you.
GLENN: Oh, my gosh.
STU: Can you imagine the anger? Not to mention the fear. But I don’t know what the — the series of events there are, but it’s fear and anger are prominent.
GLENN: Ever lost your child for even a few minutes? Ever not known where your child was for even a few minutes?
STU: Thankfully, not yet.
GLENN: Pat? No?
JEFFY: No. They come back.
GLENN: I know I’ve told this story before, but I lost — July 4th thing, I lost Mary for about 20 minutes. It was the most horrific 20 minutes of my life.
PAT: Yeah. I bet.
GLENN: And you just — I mean, you just — you become — you become a bear. A caged animal. And it’s the things that are going through your mind. I can’t imagine. I can’t believe the guy actually was lucid enough to get into a car and drive. Your daughter is missing?
GLENN: You think something is wrong. Oh, my gosh. You’re not — you’re no longer yourself. You are in full-fledged dad or mom protective mode.
GLENN: And to — to have the state — and all of us pretty much yawn. To have the state be able to go in, when you’ve taught your children the whole time, don’t go in with strangers. And to have them just go, “Hey, little girl, is this your name?” Oh. You need to come with me. And get into a car.
Can you imagine how terrifying that is for a kid?
GLENN: Even a kid who has been abused. And maybe even more so.
PAT: And not notify the parent.
GLENN: Oh, my gosh. Oh, my gosh.
PAT: I mean, even if it had been the right kid, you notify the parent of what’s happened, right?
GLENN: Oh, my gosh.
PAT: That’s just — that’s unconscionable.