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Cerebral Palsy Patient Fights to Keep Sons

January 19, 1988

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ A cerebral palsy patient forced to give up two sons at birth has vowed to fight what she calls a cruel system that separates a mother from her children because of disability and poverty.

Tiffany Callo, 20 and wheelchair bound, gave birth to her second healthy son on Friday, but lost custody of him the next day, just as she lost custody of her first son after his birth last March.

Santa Clara County welfare officials say Callo, who lives on $533 a month from Social Security, is unable to care for the children and can’t afford to pay for help.

But on Monday, Callo promised the fight for the children ″if it’s the last thing I do before I die.″

Her second son, Jesse Robert, was placed with the same foster family as her first, Antonio David, now 10 months old.

She has has not been told where they live but has been allowed to visit the Antonio an hour on Saturdays at a welfare office.

″It’s so unfair, it isn’t right,″ said Callo. ″I love the children. The children are my pride and my joy and my life and I feel like they’re taking a part of my life away.″

She said she’s certain she can care adequately for her children, although she knows she would need considerable help.

″I have a question about a few things, like bathing them and lifting them, because sometimes I have involuntary movements,″ she said. ″That could be dangerous for the babies.″

Callo is separated from her husband, Tony Rios, and a divorce is pending after she accused him of beating her repeatedly with a wooden stick.

Rios, also wheelchair-bound because of rheumatoid arthritis and dwarfism, was arrested on charges of abusing his wife and is in custody at the hospital where his son was born.

Although welfare officials say they are trying to protect the babies, she condemned the system that is keeping her children from her.

″It is a cruel system that is hurting me and my children,″ she said. ″I’d like to go in there one of these times with a couple of crates of dynamite and blow the whole place up,″ she said. ″But the only reason I won’t do that ... is my kids are in there. But that’s what it feels like sometimes. It’s so hard.″

Her attorney, Clay Bedford, who has been battling welfare officials to allow her to keep her first son, plans to file papers in court this week to win custody of both sons before they are put up for adoption.

″I’ll push it to the hilt,″ she said. ″If it’s the last thing I do before I die, I will have these kids in my hands. They are my kids and I will have them one way or another.″

Bedford said he wants the county to pay for full-time help for Callo and her children.

She said she’s been promised by the foster family, if they are able to adopt the boys, she will be able to visit several times a week. ″It’s not what I want. I really want my children back,″ she said.

Her father, Robert Callo, 42, who reared Tiffany alone since she was 3 months old, said, ″It would be nice if they’d just give her a chance to take care of her children, even for a trial period of six months.

″I think it’s very unfair,″ he said. ″They’re condemning her because of her handicap. I’ve never had a problem with her except for her stubbornness.″

Although unemployed because of a back injury, he said he’s been trying to find a home with another house behind it so he can help his daughter while allowing her to live independently.

His daughter said she tried to avoid having a second child by using birth control pills, but her husband’s father found out, became angry and hid the pills.

″He said he wanted me to have a big family,″ she said.

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