TAMPA - The din of room 168 at the Economy Inn on East Busch Boulevard occasionally drowned out conversation.
Twelve children ranging from teenagers to toddlers to infants spent the past week here, scrambling across the floor, bouncing on beds. With eyes filled with resignation on Wednesday morning, they were hungry and dirty and they wore the same clothes as the day before and the day before that.
, the mom, was asking for help, as the children rambled about the room. She was homeless and hopeless, she said. A relative paid for the motel room for a week, and after that, who knows. Her fiancÚ is in prison. Her 1-year-old is named John The Baptist Brown.
With measured indignation, Adams
said somebody owes her.
By the end of the day, help had arrived.
Nick Cox, regional director of the Florida Department of Children and Families, paid Adams
a visit and, standing outside the motel room with all 12 children present, offered a solution. He said there was room at A Kid's Place in Brandon, a cottage large enough to house a family of 12. Wary of the offer, Adams
The lifelong Tampa resident said she wants justice from the Hillsborough County sheriff's child protection team that took her kids away from her two years ago and from Hillsborough Kids Inc., which got her kids back six months ago.
"What do I do?" she said earlier in the day. "I have no answers. My family has been railroaded. Someone needs to pay.
"Nobody's helping me."
She remained distrustful of the system, she said. It was a system that despite all good intentions landed her in the motel, in this fix, in the first place.
Others would disagree, saying Adams
is the cause of her own problems.
This morning, inside the dingy motel room, Adams
handed out a list of her children's names and ages. Across the top: "Three fathers. One Mother. Fifteen Children."
Ten of the children, she said, were fathered by Garry Brown, currently serving a five-year prison term for dealing cocaine. A sampling of his kids' names: Garry Nesha, Garry Brown Jr., Garry Lethia, Garryiell and Garry Rick.
Cuban sandwiches and packaged noodles were donated during the motel stay. In the room, a microwave sat on top of a mini refrigerator. No stove. One sink, one toilet, one shower. Everyone walked barefoot over a grimy stained green carpet.
The smell of dirty diapers filled the room. Jerome, 11, gave Andrew, 6 months, a bottle. "This is not comfortable," Jerome said.
The baby coughed and spit up on Jerome's hand. He didn't flinch and patted the baby on the back.
"The girls sleep on one bed," Adams
said. "The boys sleep on the other. I just crash on the floor."
The 12 kids are the youngest of 15 altogether, she said. Three have "aged out," meaning they have turned 18 and are on their own, no longer a part of the child welfare system.
"I can have as many as I want to," she said. All her kids, she added, "are gifts from God."
The 37-year-old mother doesn't work. "This is my work," she said gesturing toward the bunch. "I do this all by myself. I don't know what I'm going to do. This is a revolving door going nowhere."
She said her problems began two years ago when Brown was arrested and the money dried up. Right after that her children were taken away and put into foster care over allegations of neglect, she said.
Hillsborough Kids stepped in and took the case, eventually returning the children to her and Brown. Before Christmas, the couple took a two-bedroom apartment off North Boulevard near Columbus Drive.
Hillsborough Kids agreed to pay the $800 a month rent after caseworkers inspected the apartment and, though a bit cramped, said it was OK.
But the landlord, who evicted Adams
in March, thought differently.
Sandy Chiellini said Adams
showed up to sign the lease with Brown and one child. She didn't learn until later that there were 11 other children. There were problems with plumbing, downstairs tenants were flooded. There was noise, and occasional visits from police. Other tenants were complaining. Some left.
She said Adams
' apartment was trashed. Clothes and food were scattered everywhere, screens were broken out. Chiellini began eviction proceedings. Adams
failed to show up for two eviction hearings.
Chiellini said Adams
and her children left last Thursday, taking only the clothes on their backs.
Cox said that opinions about Adams
aside, the children are the main concern. He said clearly she loves the kids and they love her and the department does not want to split the family.
Lodging at A Kid's Place is temporary and department caseworkers will have to figure out how to place the Adams
family in a permanent home. That's down the road, he said. For now, at least they are out of the hotel room.
"My children fear DCF," Adams
told Cox outside the motel room Wednesday afternoon. "I do too."
"I want to make sure right now you and your kids are not living in a hotel room," he responded.
was hesitant. She wanted to know about the long term.
"I need money," she said. "I need transportation. My children need a place to live."
Hillsborough Kids spokesman Elaine Olszewski said her agency has been working with Adams
for months and there is a system of support at work behind the scenes.
Case managers have been in constant contact with Adams
, Olszewski said.
Typically, single moms in similar situations have frequent visits by case workers, who work with charities in the community and coordinate grant money to pay for services.
"It's on a case-by-case basis," she said. "It's not that we would financially support them, but we are connected to community partners that provide assistance."
The goal when children are removed from the home is to get them back with biological parents, she said, and caseworkers try to work to that end.
"Children always are better with their biological parents," she said. "Once we determine they are safe and everything is appropriate, there's a six-month period when they still are technically in the system. We continue to monitor the kids."
She said all the children of school age are enrolled and going to school, although Adams
said they have not attended classes since she took up residence in the hotel. She said she can't get them to school.
"There's a lot of support out there," Olszewski said, "and we kind of direct them. She has the support from the community, churches and family members."
Reporter Keith Morelli can be reached at (813) 259-7760.