Destiny King has learned a lot in the last few years. She just turned 17. She’s been in foster care since March 2020. After two years in DCS custody in several different foster homes, she wants out.
It’s not that easy.
Destiny’s Dad is Demetrice “Gerald” King, He raised Destiny since she was a little girl. King played basketball at Oakland High School and was inducted into the Hall of Fame there. He played college basketball. During a year with the NBA development league, he suffered a hamstring injury and only played one year. He runs KingsCrop basketball camps in Rutherford County. King started training Destiny when she was 12.
She played basketball at Cristiana Middle School and Riverdale High School where she had a 3.0 average. “Destiny was really focused on basketball and school,” King said.
According to her Dad, four colleges scouted Destiny as a freshman. But all that is up in the air now. She tore her ACL at practice one day and had the operation. She was getting physical therapy after school while her teammates played ball. She started not showing up to practice to do her rehab. King said she dropped off the team in her sophomore year.
Destiny started getting into fights at school and got caught stealing money in the library. So King and Destiny’s step-mom did what parents do when teenagers start to rebel: they took her phone away. Destiny got a burner phone.
“Then one night she got into an argument with my wife and they were back there scuffling and fighting. It woke me up. I went in there and when I saw it, I said ‘Destiny, give me the phone’. She gave me the phone and then she jumped out the window.” She went to the neighbor’s house.
“The police brought me back. They saw the bruises on me that I got from my stepmom,” Destiny said. Dad is 6 ft. 3 inches tall, 240 pounds. They arrested him for domestic assault.
“The cops take me to jail. DCS takes my daughter. I get out of jail. My daughter is gone. I don’t’ know where she’s at. They won’t let me talk to her. They said I couldn’t talk to her,” he said.
Living with Great Aunt Melissa in the Projects
King took the rap for domestic assault and has since divorced his wife. Normally, misdemeanor assault is a suspended sentence, expunged after an anger management class. He did that. Two years later, King said he still has 8 more months of probation left.
“It’s been two years and I still haven’t seen my daughter. I did all my anger management class, my parenting class, even paid child support. And I’ve been asking to see my daughter and they still won’t let me see her, “ King told the Tribune.
The first thing DCS did after they took Destiny was to try and get her birth mother to take her. She lives in Florida and hasn’t been in Destiny’s life for a decade. The second thing they did was to place her with King’s aunt, Melissa King.
King said DCS had him write down the names of people he didn’t want Destiny to be around. One of them was Melissa King. There were four other girls in the house. Think Cinderella. Destiny was there for a year. She slept on the floor with the dog. She lost weight and eventually ran away.
“Destiny stated having sex, she started drinking. They took her away from everything that me and my wife were trying with her through school and her sports,” King said.
King wrote to Lisa Brookover, the Regional Administrator for the DCS Mid-Cumberland region. “I want to know if during the year 2020 until now if Melissa (King) has taken Destiny to all appointments regarding her ACL knee/legs. Destiny King as well as any child should be treated well emotionally, physically, mentally, and without more traumas. It’s already difficult for any child to go through not being with their parents,” King wrote.
King still thinks basketball is Destiny’s ticket to a good education and a better life. Maybe she could study to become a veterinarian. That was once her dream.
“She loved working with animals. We had her do volunteer work at PAWS at the Murfreesboro animal shelter. She was loving that,“ King said.
Destiny Moves to a Better Neighborhood
King’s entreaties to Brookover paid off and in April 2021, she was taken from her Great Aunt’s house in the projects and placed with another foster family, Brittany and Charles Ward.
“When I got there they put me on medicine and stuff,” Destiny said. They gave her anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication and sleeping pills. She had never taken prescription drugs before. One med upset her stomach, so they put her on another one. And she was falling asleep in school so she stopped taking them altogether.
When parents do drugs, DCS is quick to take their children away. When DCS gets them, foster parents put them on drugs just as quickly. That’s what the Wards did with Destiny, anyway. Go figure. (https://tntribune.com/another-child-dies-in-dcs-foster-care/ )
“Once I started mentioning that I wanted to go back to my Dad everything went bad and people in the house stopped talking to me and being weird. I told my caseworker I no longer wanted to be in the house.”
The Wards had another foster child. She was a teenage mother who the Wards favored, according to Destiny. She said the girl planted contraband in her room and then ratted her out to the Wards. They believed Destiny’s accuser.
One day shortly afterwards, Brittany Ward picked her up early from school. “You’re no longer going to go to this school,” Ward told her.
“That night I didn’t even go home,” Destiny recalled. Mrs. Ward had a friend who picked Destiny up. She lived an hour away. “She was taking me away from everybody I know, taking me away from my school, so I’m processing all that and now I’m at a random house, and it’s like, weird,” she said. Charles Ward later explained to Destiny that was called “disruption”. No, it was punishment and a threat.
The next day Brittany picked her up and drove her back to the Ward’s place. “Then she took my phone and stuff so I couldn’t talk to anybody and that’s when I started having my eating problem, I couldn’t eat,” she said.
“My original weight was 145lbs. I went to a doctor’s appointment a week before Christmas and my weight had dropped to 119lbs,” she said.
Destiny Navigates Towards Home
Destiny told her caseworker, Alex Woods, that she wasn’t going to stay with the Wards any longer and wanted to be placed with her grandmother. Two days later, Destiny, Brittany Ward, and Woods, the caseworker, sat together around a table at the Ward’s house for a Child and Family Team Meeting (CFTM)
Dad and the Guardian at Litem, Ashton Montgomery, joined by telephone. A Guardian ad Litem is a lawyer who represents a child in court. They are supposed to be an advocate for the child, not a DCS surrogate or ally.
“I’m done trying to push him away. I am so lost and confused without him and no medicine can fix this one. The only thing I know that will fix it and get me back motivated with life and feeling like myself 100% is my dad. I miss his talks. He was my best friend before all this. You can ask anyone and I need him,” Destiny told the people at the meeting.
The gist of the CFTM was to move towards reunification, first with Destiny’s Grandma and then back home with Dad. Montgomery objected to that plan. She wanted King to have supervised visitations with Destiny.
After the meeting the Guardian ad Litem, Ashton Montgomery, called Destiny and told her not to get her hopes up.
“In the whole two years of me being in foster care, I’ve only seen her three times and she makes the biggest decisions for me. She’s the main one who decided if I stay at this school or I go to new school,” Destiny said. Think of Montgomery as Lady Tremaine, Cinderella’s wicked stepmother.
Montgomery told Destiny that she wasn’t going back home as soon as she thought she would. “She said my Dad had a lot of stuff on his plan that he had to do and he was nowhere near where he was supposed to be,” Destiny said.
“The only way for you to go back is for you to be doing what you should be doing and that means taking your medicine and doing all this and all that …She was trying to get in my head and make me think that there was no point in me trying to go home,” Destiny said.
“I called my caseworker. She said that the only thing left to do was therapy and family therapy and that was something we could do in a couple of months,” Destiny said.
Montgomery told the caseworker not to look into placing Destiny at her Grandma’s house. “But she went ahead and filed the paperwork anyway,” Destiny told the Tribune.
That was a brave thing for caseworker Alex Woods to do. As we have reported, caseworkers, who don’t stick to the script and actually try and help their clients, are often disciplined. If they persist they are forced to quit or fired. (See https://tntribune.com/chaos-reigns-in-clarksville-dcs-office/)
Destiny’s case could be back in Juvenile Court in mid-March. King says he won’t be surprised if they delay it. “I’m thinking they will postpose it again. They haven’t even started my visitation or done anything,” King said.
The Bigger Picture
Delays are part of the DCS playbook. The longer they keep kids in custody the more money they generate for DCS operations. The Tribune has reported where most of their $1 billion dollar budget comes from.
But $40 million in revenue listed as “other” comes from children’s social security and disability payments, and child support payments from the parents who had their children wrongfully taken. King said the IRS clawed back money from his tax return because he can no longer claim Destiny as a dependent. DCS got that money.
DCS officials will be at a Senate and House Finance Ways and Means Committee hearing on Monday February 14 from 12:00-12:30 PM. Elected officials will have just half an hour to ask questions. DCS will probably use up as much time as they can to tell lawmakers what a good job they’re doing protecting the state’s neediest children from their drug-addicted parents. That’s happening but it’s not what’s really going on.
Destiny’s story is just one of thousands. Maybe someone will ask DCS Commissioner Jennifer Nichols why DCS keeps snatching kids and putting them and their families through hell just to boost their revenues?
King hopes Destiny will rejoin the team and play ball in her senior year. Destiny is talking about becoming a hairdresser. That discussion will have to wait because after two years, King still hasn’t seen his daughter.
When he does, it probably won’t require jumping out of the window to have that conversation. More than once during her last CFTM meeting, Destiny said her Dad was her people and that fosters were not. She told them she wanted to be with her Dad. He’s her family.
Destiny has been placed in eight different homes during her two years in DCS custody.